India: Karnataka: BJP banks on Modi for success

  • In the hilly region of Karnataka, called ‘Malenadu’, the upcoming assembly elections are increasingly being seen as a Modi versus Siddaramaiah battle.
  • While Congress and JDS have already announced their candidates, BJP has yet to name its. But the party’s network is drumming up support, perhaps because they believe it’s going to be more about Prime Minister Narendra Modi than about the individual candidate that the party picks.
  • The Malenaadu region, accounting for about 15 constituencies, is an old Congress bastion that elected Indira Gandhi to the Lok Sabha in 1978 after she lost her home constituency Rae Bareilly. It is now part of the Udupi-Chikmagalur Lok Sabha constituency represented by BJP’s Shobha Karandlaje, a close aide of the party’s chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa.
  • Many credit her “upset” win over Congress’ Jayaprakash Hegde, to Modi. With internal surveys not showing a clear majority for the party, BJP has turned to Modi to bail them out by “carpetbombing” the state with his rallies, a senior party leader told ET.
  • “From 29 Apr 18, Modi will come five times to Karnataka and address 15 to 17 rallies. It worked for us in Gujarat. We formed governments everywhere because of him,” said the leader who works behind the scenes.
  • BJP chief Amit Shah had strategised a strong grassroots network in the state, but it’s facing a determined JDS and a Congress revitalised by CM Siddaramaiah’s “approachable” and “pro-poor” image.
  • Analyst Harish Ramaswamy, who has been touring the Bombay-Karnataka (north-western) region, where the BJP hopes to gain maximum mileage, said Modi’s rallies might make a difference if he played his cards right on issues like the “divisive” Lingayat minority religion cleared by the Congress government.

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