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‘Guarantee’d fight as Congress takes on Modi-Gowda combo

Broadly speaking, Karnataka is witnessing a fight between the Congress’ guarantees and ‘Modi Ki Guarantee’.
Last Updated : 14 April 2024, 00:03 IST
Last Updated : 14 April 2024, 00:03 IST

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Bengalur: Having decisively won the Assembly election last year, the Congress has thrown down the gauntlet to the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka where the saffron party has had the upper hand since 2004. 

Broadly speaking, Karnataka is witnessing a fight between the Congress’ guarantees and ‘Modi Ki Guarantee’. 

The Congress feels that this national election is its best chance to register a double-digit score in Karnataka, a state where the party is helming its most stable government in the country. 

In 1999, the party bagged 18 out of 28 seats in the state. Since 2004, however, it is the BJP that has ruled the roost in Lok Sabha polls with Congress having to settle for a single-digit tally. In 2019, the BJP won 25 out of 28 seats, leaving Congress with just one seat. So, reaching double digits this time will be a huge gain for Congress. 

The optimism of Congress stems from the implementation of five guarantee schemes, which have benefited over one crore households. Such is the potential Congress sees in converting guarantee beneficiaries into votes that top party leaders, mainly Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy DK Shivakumar, are repeatedly insisting that there is no wave in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

The saffron party is wooing voters in Karnataka with Modi's popularity, India's rising global image, its claims on economic growth and Hindutva.

The Congress, besides telling voters that they have been given five guarantee schemes, is hammering on the issue of unemployment, crony capitalism and injustice to Karnataka on tax devolution while pushing its welfare plank to reap dividends from the economically-disadvantaged section of society. 

But the challenge is not lost on the Congress as it is up against the BJP and JD(S), a potentially potent alliance on whose back the saffron party wants to repeat its 2019 performance. 

The BJP-JD(S) alliance can, on paper at least, bring together two dominant caste groups in Karnataka — the Lingayats and Vokkaligas. But it is crucial for both parties to ensure a smooth transfer of votes. 

Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, a tall Vokkaliga leader, has hit the streets aged 90. This is a battle for survival for the JD(S), which is contesting three seats as part of the alliance. 

The outcome of the Lok Sabha election in Karnataka can reshape and redefine not only politics, but also political careers. 

Karnataka is the home state of AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge. Also, a fresh bout of one-upmanship between Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar may erupt depending on how many seats Congress wins. 

Similarly, the stakes are high for BJP veteran BS Yediyurappa and his son BY Vijayendra, the party’s president in Karnataka. A good result will solidify Yediyurappa’s already-imposing stature in the party while making Vijayendra’s future secure. 

To beat anti-incumbency on the ground, the BJP has replaced at least nine sitting MPs. This, and the choice of fresh faces, has created internal problems for the saffron party. Dissidence prevails in Congress, too, but not as widespread as BJP's. Clearly, the saffron party will have to slog harder if it wants to sweep the state like it did in 2019. 

For all the confidence Congress is parading, no minister was willing to contest the polls. Ultimately, six children of ministers were given the tickets. It remains to be seen how voters receive these youngsters, most of them being political novices.  

"The BJP-JD(S) alliance and Congress are both marred by internal differences. Whoever is able to put an end to internal differences has the chance of winning the most number of seats,” political analyst Sandeep Shastri says. He adds that the BJP-JD(S) alliance is looking to “offset” the damage caused by internal bickering by riding on PM Modi’s popularity. “But that alone will not be sufficient," he says. "The BJP will have to put in extra work.”

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Published 14 April 2024, 00:03 IST

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