The BJP has not projected a chief minister face for the 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections — a first for the party in the state in decades. That, however, hasn’t stopped the emergence of a parallel campaign backing Basavaraj Bommai’s return to the helm in Karnataka.
The campaign — with the slogan “Mathomme BJP, Mathomme Bommai”, which translates to “BJP Once More, Bommai Once More” — is slowly but surely gaining traction.
The campaign posters and videos hail decisions by the Basavaraj Bommai government. Some are also congratulatory in nature.
With the aim of propping up Bommai’s personal brand and standing, the campaign comes weeks after South First reported how the BJP’s central leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was consciously distancing the party from the incumbent chief minister and government in an attempt to offset anti-incumbency.
Related: Disown, distance, distract: BJP’s Bommai conundrum
Not an ‘official’ campaign
Not only does the pro-Bommai campaign run afoul of the BJP’s decision to not project a chief ministerial face, it contradicts BJP’s “collective leadership” push.
Not surprisingly, the party is quick to point out that the campaign is not being driven by the BJP, but is a private effort centered only around Basavaraj Bommai.
“This campaign is not being run by the BJP. Such slogans haven’t been approved by the party. This is mischievous,” a senior BJP functionary told South First, pointing to how the ‘Mathomme Bommai’ posters do not adhere to the templates for the saffron party’s official campaign material or official social media handles.
The only possibility, he stressed, was that it was a private campaign.
With only photos of Basavaraj Bommai firmly placed alongside Prime Minister Modi, the “Mathomme BJP, Mathomme Bommai” is part of a multi-platform social media campaign that is now also finding its way into the mainstream media by way of novel social media advertisements as branded content on prominent news media handles — something even the official campaign of the BJP is yet to explore.
#DHBrandspot | Demand of decades fulfilled by BJP
Karnataka govt increases the Lingayat reservation from 5% to 7% and reservation for Vokkaliga community from 4% to 6%.#BasavarajBommai #Karnataka #BJP #SponsoredContent @NammaCM_Bommai pic.twitter.com/NnZKHXnVvU
— Deccan Herald (@DeccanHerald) March 29, 2023
Related: AT Ramaswamy joining is a boost for the BJP in Hassan
It’s all about Bommai
The official election campaign material of the BJP for the Karnataka elections, scheduled for 10 May, projects Modi alongside prominent party leaders like former chief minister BS Yediyurappa, party state chief Nalin Kumar Kateel and Chief Minister Bommai.
The “Mathomme Bommai” campaign posters, on the other hand, project only Basavaraj Bommai, or his photos alongside Narendra Modi.
A click on the posters of “Mathomme Bommai” placed as advertisements on news and content websites re-directs to a YouTube channel “Namma CM Bommai” that is filled with content centered around Chief Minister Bommai, his speeches, his interactions, news reports and, more importantly, packaged content on the achievements of his government.
The channel details show that it was set up only on 18 October, 2022. The channel also provides insights into other social media platforms with the same name.
The Facebook page has around 93,000 followers while the Twitter handle, that came into existence in December 2022 runs hashtags like #CommomManCM, #SimpleCM, #MathommeBommai and, more interestingly, #BommaiAndreBharavase (Bommai Means Assurance), a slogan taken from the BJP’s official campaign for the coming elections — #BJPYeBharavase.
Related: Since January, Modi visited Karnataka 7 times to ‘boost BJP prospects’
The first tweet with “Mathomme Bommai” — pitching for Bommai to return as chief minister — was, however, posted as recently as 10 March — just days after Modi’s visit to Shivamogga and Belagavi on 27 February where he neither invoked Basavaraj Bommai’s name or his government in his speeches.
Senior leaders in the BJP suspect that the campaign is focused on propping up Bommai as an agreeable candidate if the results of the elections are not decisively in favour of the saffron party, and it may need “outside help”.