Karnataka campaign blitz ends: How parties went all out to woo voters ahead of May 10 elections

NEW DELHI: The high voltage campaigning for the May 10 assembly elections in Karnataka came to an end on Monday with all three major political parties — BJP, Congress and JD(S) — making a last-ditch effort to woo the voters.
From jam-packed roadshows to massive rallies, from bitter political remarks to celebrity appearances, the weeks-long campaigning took the southern state by storm as parties left no stone unturned to outdo each other.
PM Modi, Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, HD Kumaraswamy — the top guns of all the major political parties went on a campaign blitz across the state in the past few days.
In the intensity of the campaign, there were instances of leaders crossing the line of public discourse and indulging in personal attacks and abuses against each other.

The elections are a battle of prestige for BJP, which is trying hard to break the 38-year-old jinx and retain power in its only southern state.
The Congress, meanwhile, is looking for a much-needed electoral boost ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls by wresting the state from BJP.
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For JD(S), it’s a question of survival as the party is fast losing its support base to both BJP and Congress.
Here’s a look at how each of the three parties tried to impress the voters …
As expected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the star of BJP’s campaign and held as many as 19 rallies and 6 roadshows in the run up to the elections.
The BJP took a centralised approach with its campaigning, highlighting national issues and programmes or achievements of the Union government coupled with just a few from the state.
PM Modi made a major campaign push in the last week since April 29 by holding mega public meetings and roadshows, canvassing votes for BJP candidates across the state with the poll slogan ‘Ee Baariya Nirdhara, Bahumatada BJP Sarkara’ (This Time’s Decision: Majority BJP Government).
Ahead of the announcement of polls on March 29, PM Modi had visited the state seven times since January to unveil several government schemes and projects, and had addressed numerous beneficiary meetings.


High-octane campaigning in Karnataka comes to an end

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According to BJP leaders, PM Modi’s election rallies bolstered its campaign in a big way and would help the party script history in the polls.
Altogether, BJP national leaders held a total of 206 public meetings and 90 roadshows, while its state leaders held 231 public meetings and 48 road shows.
Union home minister Amit Shah also travelled the state extensively to campaign for the party and strategise for the polls.
A number of BJP leaders, including its national president J P Nadda, chief ministers of BJP ruled states like Uttar Pradesh’s Yogi Adiyanath, Assam’s Himanta Biswa Sarma, Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Goa’s Pramod Sawant, as well as Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, S Jaishankar, Smriti Irani, Nitin Gadkari, among others too have travelled in various parts of the state for campaigning.

The party also effectively utilised the services of its top leader in Karnataka B S Yediyurappa to counter the attempt by the Congress to build a perception that it was turning anti-Lingayat.
While the BJP tried to highlight the achievements of both the state and central governments to pitch for another chance for its ‘double-engine’ government (same party government in state and at Centre), the party also openly sought votes in the name of Modi, projecting his image as a global leader and India’s “growing stature” on the world stage.
PM Modi targeted Congress on many occasions during the campaigning, especially the Gandhis whom he referred to as the “royal family”.
The BJP and its leaders, especially the Prime Minister, tried to turn opposition barbs at him like “venomous snake” into campaign issues for the party to capitalise on.
The Congress’s mention of a possible ban on right-wing outfit Bajrang Dal was also used by Modi and the BJP machinery to counter the grand old party by trying to brand it “anti Bajarangbali” and “anti Hindu”.
BJP’s manifesto also created a lot of buzz in the state as the party promises to bring Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state.
Here are the details of BJP’s poll manifesto for Karnataka.
The Congress by-and-large focused on local issues and its campaign also was run by its state leaders initially.
In the later half, central leaders such as AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra pitched in subsequently.
Congress, with stalwarts like former CM Siddaramaiah and state party president DK Shivakumar, is trying hard to wrest power from BJP to strengthen its credentials as the main opposition player ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
By winning Karnataka, it also wants to give a momentum of sorts to its workers to take on the battle-ready election machinery of the BJP later this year in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
For Congress, the election result can indicate the efficacy of Rahul Gandhi’s mega all-India footmarch that concluded in December. It will also be personally important for party president Kharge, who is a key leader from the state.
Congress’s campaign initially centered around its state leaders like Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar. Later, Kharge gave it momentum and thereby prepared the pitch for the party’s top leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi to join in.

The brother-sister duo extensively travelled across the state, challenging the BJP’s campaign machinery led by Modi, countering and challenging him on various issues, most importantly on the issue of corruption, while promising to provide a better alternative for Karnataka. Their mother and former AICC president Sonia Gandhi addressed a party rally in Hubballi on Saturday.
Congress has held 99 public meetings and 33 road shows by its top state and central leaders.
The Congress’s main aim to attack the BJP government in this election was over corruption/scams and the charge of 40 per cent commission, coupled with the Adani issue.
While extensively highlighting its five key poll ‘guarantees’, the party tried to inform the people about its charge against the BJP government of having “failed in fulfilling 90 per cent of its promises” made in its 2018 manifesto.
At a time when it seemed like all was going well, Congress itself waded into controversies with Siddaramaiah’s statement that “there’s already a Lingayat CM who is the most corrupt”, which the BJP turned into an “insult” to the entire Lingayat community; Mallikarjun Kharge comparing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “a venomous snake”; then his son and Chittapur MLA Priyank Kharge calling Modi a “nalayak beta” (incompetent son).
It found itself in another controversy on the final days of the camoaigning over Sonia Gandhi’s use of the term “sovereignty” for Karnataka during the state poll campaign.
The BJP on Monday moved the Election Commission seeking action against the Congress leader and also demanded an FIR against her.
Amid these back-to-back controversies, the Congress manifesto’s promise of possibly banning the right-wing Bajrang Dal caused some anxiety as it threatened to hurt the optics, as BJP aggressively picked up the issue to portray the grand old party as being against lord Hanuman and the sentiments of Hindus.
Here are the details of Congress’s poll manifesto for Karnataka.
JD(S) too ran a highly localised campaign, anchored solely by its leader H D Kumaraswamy, with party patriarch Deve Gowda too joining in later despite his advanced age and related ailments.
The party is struggling to revive itself in the state which is dominated by BJP and Congress. In 2018, it played the role of kingmaker after stitching together a post-poll alliance with Congress.
It remains to be seen whether JD(S) finds itself in a similar position after May 13.
For the Deve Gowda-led party though, the main challenge is to maintain its political relevance at a time when it is plagued by desertions and internal rifts.

It is also fighting with the image of being a “family party”. Gowda’s son Kumaraswamy, has in a way single-handedly managed the JD(S) campaign across the state, with his aging father taking the back seat.
Kumaraswamy has by-and-large focused his campaign on a five-fold programme called ‘Pancharatna’ that the JD(S) plans to implement on coming to power. It includes quality education, health care, housing, farmer welfare and employment.
Though the 89-year-old Deve Gowda initially stayed away from campaigning due to age related ailments, he has been travelling and campaigning for JD(S) candidates in the past couple of weeks, especially in the party bastion of Old Mysuru region, making an emotional pitch, and countering the Congress’s and BJP’s attacks against his party.
Allegations by both national parties that the JD(S) was the ‘B team’ of the other, and that JD(S) was hoping to win just 35-40 seats to play a crucial role in government formation in case of a hung verdict were among the criticisms faced by Kumaraswamy in this campaign.
The former chief minister, however, has heavily banked on the topics of regional pride and Kannadiga identity in his campaigning, along with issues related to welfare of farmers and the poor to attract voters.
Here are the details of JD(S)’s poll manifesto for Karnataka.
(With inputs from PTI)

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