Modi blitzkrieg 'forced' worried Cong to hold Sonia rally

Modi blitzkrieg 'forced' worried Cong to hold Sonia rally

What prompted UPA chairperson and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi to hit the campaign trail in the scorching heat of Vijayapura in Karnataka after being away from electioneering for almost two years?

According to Congress strategists, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's whirlwind campaign across the state from May 1 appeared to have chipped away the edge Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had gained in the state.

With Congress president Rahul Gandhi's election programme already chalked out, party leaders decided to inject a surprise element in by introducing Sonia into the campaign in North Karnataka, the strong hold of the Lingayat community which is considered as supporter of the BJP.

Also, a section in the Congress feels that the party had overplayed the Lingayat card by pitching for a separate religion tag for the community. These leaders believe that the state government move could alienate Lingayat voters and benefit the BJP.

Modi's final push for the Karnataka – addressing three to four rallies every day – has got the Congress election managers worried, which was the main reason for Sonia's rally in Vijayapura.

There was also a view that the Congress campaign in the region had hit a plateau despite Rahul's three visits to the region – the latest being on May 4.

Besides, Modi also addressed a rally in the district on Tuesday, not very far from where Sonia addressed the gathering.

Congress strategists also had the Gandhi family's special connect with Karnataka in mind while planning the rally. While Indira Gandhi got back to her winning ways by contesting the Lok Sabha bypoll from Chickmaglur post-Emergency in 1978, Sonia had chosen Bellary as the second seat when she decided to make the electoral debut in 1999 Lok Sabha elections.

In 2013, the Congress had notched up 34 out of the 51 seats that fall in the Mumbai-Karnataka region spread across Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Gadag, Haveri, Belagavi and Dharwad districts while the BJP had managed to win only 16.

A number of surveys carried out by different pollsters have shown the Congress loosening its hold on the region.

The RSS is also active in the region, which has a sizable Marathi-speaking population, which had prompted the Congress to field leaders from Maharashtra – Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan into campaigning.

Water Resources minister M B Patil told DH in Vijayapura that Sonia had inaugurated the Kittur Rani Chennamma University in Vijayapura three years ago. Thus, the party chose Vijayapura as the venue for her rally keeping the sentimental value in mind.