S Gopinath Reddy

In a state where a minor swing of votes can translate into a big difference, the all-out campaigning came to an end this evening. The electioneering by the Congress and the BJP was unprecedented. The BJP and the Congress have, for obvious reasons, catapulted Karnataka Assembly elections to a new high.

For the record, the 224-Assembly seat Karnataka will go to polls on May 12. Elections will be held for 223 seats with the Election Commission countermanding polling for Jayanagar seat following the death of a BJP candidate Vijaykumar a few days ago.

While BJP painted it as an election to elect “naamdar or kaamdar”, Congress asked the electorate to choose between “clean politics or dirty politics”. While the BJP accused the Congress of plaguing with 6Cs (Congress culture, communalism, cartelism, casteism, crime and corruption), the Congress retorted saying that the BJP government at the Centre failed the people completely during the last four years.

With the stakes pegged at an all time high, the campaigning had touched its low on several occasions.

Big names in both the parties have campaigned like never before and Kannadigas were apparently surprised the way the electioneering unfolded during the last one month. Strategies, counter strategies, allegations, counter allegations, mocking, taunting, ridiculing and humiliating in public meetings, rallies and sabre-rattling on social media did draw the attention of the voters.

BJP had drafted all its resources for a must win election. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was BJP’s star campaigner with his over two dozen massive public meetings and rallies. The seasoned campaigner pulled all the tricks out of his hat and launched a blistering attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi. He did not spare Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah either calling his government “10 per cent”, a direct jibe of corruption. More often, he had ripped into the ruling Congress party in Karnataka and tried to invoke from nationalism to future of Karnataka. “These elections are not about victory or defeat… these elections are about future of Karnataka,” was the famous slogan of the Prime Minister , which seem to have gone down well with the masses. Narendra Modi even touched upon local issues like water to farmers, farmers’ suicides, pathetic traffic in Bengaluru and a host of other issues.

On his part, BJP president Amit Shah donned a dual role of campaigning for the candidates and evolving and implementing strategy at the ground level. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, several union ministers, party general secretaries and other senior leaders were given designated roles so as to reach out to all the voters. BJP seem to have rolled out its strategy to tilt the balance in its favour. The RSS too mobilized about 50,000 of its cadres to launch door-to-door campaign. Social media was used to the hilt and things sometimes touched a low.

Though Rahul Gandhi covered the complete state with his whirlwind tours, Siddaramaiah came out as the star campaigner of the Congress party. Rahul Gandhi mocked the BJP for fielding seven of infamous Reddy clan in the elections, termed the elections as “mafia vs people”. He did not allow any opportunity to go begging when it came to attacking the Prime Minister. Congress mainly depended on street corner meetings to reach out to as many as people as possible and this seemed to have worked in favour of the Congress party. Toeing soft Hindutva line as Congress did in Gujarat elections, Rahul Gandhi ensured visits to temples and matts in his election schedule. His direct criticism on Amit Shah on several occasions indicated that Congress is equally determined to decimate BJP in the elections.

However, it was Siddaramaiah who stole the show with the support of highly professional and well organized social media team. For every criticism of the BJP, Siddaramaiah had an instant reply.

In the melee, the only inaudible figure was presumptive Chief Minister of BJP Yedyurappa. He was cut to size by the party leadership even before the nominations were filed. His son Vijayendra was denied ticket.

If the numerous pre-poll surveys are to be believed, JD (S) is likely to play the role of a king maker in the event of a hung Assembly. Though JD (S) state president Kumaraswamy claims that his party will win the elections, the chances appear to be slim. JD (S) supremo and former Prime Minister Deve Gowda threatened to disown his son Kumaraswamy, should he sail with the BJP post elections, BJP appeared to be cozy with the JD (S).

Both Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi claimed that they will win Karnataka hands down even as curtains came down on the high octane campaigning. The 4 crore odd voters will cast their ballot on May 12 and the results will be out on May 15.

If the saffron flag flutters on Vidhan Soudha, then it will not only be the 21st state in BJP’s kitty but will also boost the morale of the party to move ahead for 2019. If Congress wins, then the realignment of parties will take a concrete shape in the next few months and Rahul Gandhi will move aggressively to stitch new alliances for 2019.