LS polls: Congress & BJP brace for another mega battle in Karnataka in less than a year

The BJP swept the previous Lok Sabha elections bagging 25 seats, while an independent backed by it also won.

Bengaluru: The Congress and BJP are bracing for another mega electoral battle in less than a year in Karnataka as they lock horns in the high-stakes Lok Sabha elections.

Elections will be held in two phases on April 26 and May 7.

Karnataka is the most important state for the BJP in south India as it’s only here that it had held power in the past.

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The Congress won a mere one seat out of the total 28 in the State in the 2019 general elections.

Having scored a thumping victory in the Assembly elections, which witnessed a triangular fight between the Congress, BJP and JD(S) in May last year, the ruling party is determined to put up a strong show and has set an ambitious target for winning 15 to 20 seats in the Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP swept the previous Lok Sabha elections bagging 25 seats, while an independent backed by it also won.

The JD(S), headed by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, emerged victorious in one constituency.

The Congress and the JD(S) were running a coalition government back then and had fought the election together.

The JD(S) put up a poor show in the Assembly elections winning just 19 seats in the 224-member Assembly, while the Congress bagged 135 and the then ruling BJP 66 seats.

The regional outfit joined the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in September last year and is fighting the Lok Sabha elections in alliance with the BJP.

“We are 100 percent confident that we will win a minimum of 25 seats”, former Chief Minister and member of BJP’s Parliamentary Board, B S Yediyurappa said recently. “We are putting in all our efforts.”

The coming polls are also seen as a “litmus test” for his son B Y Vijayendra, who was appointed President of the party’s state unit in November last year.

Ensuring a BJP sweep is key to consolidating his position and silencing critics who have questioned his selection for the post.

Even as the ruling Congress and the BJP are yet to come out with their full list of candidates for the polls in the State, there is a fair idea about the campaign issues in their armoury.

The recent bomb blast at a popular eatery here and the raising of “pro-Pakistan” slogans in the corridors of ‘Vidhana Soudha’ have given fresh ammunition to the BJP to attack the Congress government.

The Congress would seek to ride on the popularity of its “guarantee schemes” and make the BJP-led NDA government’s “step-motherly” attitude towards the State a major poll plank, party sources said.

Political analysts said water scarcity in many parts of the State is also likely to emerge as a key campaign talking point with the Congress and BJP bound to indulge in trading blame.

The Congress on March eight released its first list of seven candidates, while the BJP came out with 20 nominees on Wednesday.

Congress sources said the government’s guarantees — Shakti’, Gruha Lakshmi’, Gruha Jyoti’, Yuva Nidhi’ and Anna Bhagya’ — has caught the imagination of the people and party would harp on them in the run-up to the elections.

The party has been alleging that the central government has been indifferent towards Karnataka in giving the State its due share in funds and has not provided assistance it had requested to tackle drought in many parts of the State.

“We gave the first memorandum to the Centre on October 20, 2023 to release Rs 18,172 crore for drought mitigation but till now the Centre did not give even a penny,” Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said recently.

Siddaramaiah, Karnataka Ministers, Congress MLAs and MPs on February seven staged a demonstration in Delhi against the “injustice” to the State in releasing funds and giving its share of Central grants.

The party is also expected to highlight in a big way the remarks made by BJP MP Anantkumar Hegde on amending the Constitution.”Let this general election revolve around this issue,”, Siddaramaiah said recently.

BJP President J P Nadda set the tone for the party’s campaign while addressing booth level party workers at Chikkodi in Belagavi district earlier this month.

He accused the Congress and its party government in Karnataka of being soft on terrorists as he referred to the chanting of ‘Pakistan zindabad’ slogans during the victory celebrations of Congress candidate Syed Naseer Hussain in Rajya Sabha elections here on February 27, and the March one low-intensity bomb blast at ‘The Rameshwaram Cafe’.

“For Congress, the Karnataka government has become ‘ATM government’. They will collect money from here and fill the bags of their party in Delhi, and do more corruption here,” Nadda had said.

The runup to the election is likely to see a showdown between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Modi ka guarantee” and Chief Minister Siddaramiah-led Congress government’s guarantees.

Also, the Congress’ performance in this election is being seen as a key test of sorts for its state unit chief Shivakumar, who has made no secret of his ambition to become Chief Minister, amid speculations of change in guard mid-way of the Assembly term.

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