By S Gopinath Reddy

JD (S) chief and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda came in for a surprise praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Deve Gowda is among the tallest leaders of the country. You are insulting him,” Modi said at a campaign rally in Udupi.

Deve Gowda was heard saying that he too was advised against resigning from Lok Sabha post 2014 elections.

Overtly, these two developments look simple but covertly they are highly measured with the election date fast approaching amid volatile campaign by three major political parties— Congress, BJP and the JD (S).

The Congress has been alleging that JD (S) is acting as B Team of the BJP with a tacit understanding right from selection of candidates to campaigning. Though Deve Gowda said he would disown his son Kumaraswamy should he ever strike a deal with the BJP post elections in the event of hung Assembly, Congress is not prepared to buy it.

Analysts closely watching the political situation in Karnataka argue that the Prime Minister praised Deve Gowda with an eye on Vokkaliga voters, who are game changers in at least 70 of the 89 seats in South Karnataka. The JD (S) has weak candidates in about 20 seats in the region and the BJP hopes to garner their support by extending an olive branch to the JD (S). Besides, it also hopes to polarize Vokkaliga votes against Congress party.

However, a section of leaders in the BJP are skeptical about the calculated move of the Prime Minister. They fear that it might result in polarization of Muslim and other minority votes in favour of Congress and the JD (S) might lose its Muslim base in majority of the seats. Karnataka has about 75 Muslim and other minority voters. This is the collateral damage the JD (S) might find it difficult to handle.

The BJP is also trying to woo about 15 per cent fence sitters, who usually decide in the last minute which party to vote. The door-to-door campaign by the RSS cadres, whirlwind tour of Modi and Amit Shah combine is basically to garner the support of neutral voters.

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi is claiming that he is not for “BJP mukth Bharat” countering the Congress mukth Bharat slogan of BJP. The 47-year-old Congress chief says that he will fight BJP and defeat it. The winds are changing. The initial indication was in Gujarat, now Karnataka. The pattern will continue in Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. He took a direct dig at the Prime Minister saying that Modi speaks the language of hatred. The Congress chief said that Modi had failed to fulfill three important promises—jobs, corruption and farmers. This will haunt the BJP in 2019, said Rahul who has been addressing series of meetings in the election bound state.

On his part, the Prime Minister in his meetings launched a scathing attack on Congress party and Rahul Gandhi questioning their commitment towards farmers and patriots.

As the political heat picked up pace along with the rising temperatures, the Prime Minister at a meeting in Kalaburgi said that people of Karnataka will bear hot summer but will show the door to the Congress government in the state.

As this was on, a purported survey conducted by RSS did not paint a rosy picture for the BJP. Sources indicate that BJP was projected to win about 70 seats while Congress might end up winning 115 to 120 seats, crossing the magic figure of 112. The JD (S) is tipped to get about 25 to 30 seats. However, BJP camp dismissed that no such survey was conducted by the RSS and the Congress party is spreading fake news.