The Karnataka Congress is on a roll. Riding high on the success of two huge events — former chief minister Siddaramaiah’s 75th birthday celebrations and the Tiranga Yatra led by state party chief DK Shivakumar — the party has turned up the heat on the election campaign front.
On 29 August, the state Congress launched its latest campaign against the BJP. With “Nim Hatra Idya Uttara?” (Do You Have the Answer?) as its catchphrase, the campaign demands answers from the BJP using the saffron party’s own manifesto as ammo.
Capitalising on allegations of “40% commission” against the BJP government, the Congress seems to have decided to let the numbers do the talking in its campaign.
“Nothing sticks like numbers,” Priyank Kharge, chairman of the KPCC Communications Cell told South First, elaborating on the campaign.
“Congress government fulfilled 158 out of the 165 promises we made in our manifesto. That is a great strike rate. The BJP made 600 promises in its 2018 manifesto and hasn’t fulfilled even 10 percent of them. We are simply posing common voters’ questions to the government,” Kharge added.
The Congress is bent upon registering its slogan — “40% commission government failing on 90% of poll promises” — in public memory as the Assembly elections draw closer.
The “‘Nim Hatra Idya Uttara?” is no simple, straightforward campaign. The Congress is improvising on the BJP’s own handbook of public messaging.
There is also a song, oozing sarcasm and demanding answers.
“ನಾ ಖಾವೂಂಗ ನಾ ಖಾನೆದೂಂಗ” ಎಂದು ಬಾಯಲ್ಲಿ “ರಾಮನಾಮ” ಹಾಡುತ್ತಾ ಕೃತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ “40% ಕಮಿಷನ್ ನಾಮ” ಹಾಕುತ್ತಾ ಮತದಾರನಿಗೆ ಮೋಸ ಮಾಡಿದ್ದೇ ಬಿಜೆಪಿಯ ಸಾಧನೆ.
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) August 29, 2022
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) August 29, 2022
There is data — culled from BJP’s own manifesto, the BJP government’s own schemes, the BJP’s own promises — which is compared to their rate of implementation.
More importantly, there are coordinated efforts to sustain a statewide social media campaign spearheaded by social media handles of prominent leaders, District Congress Committees, IT wing volunteers, and professionals from poll strategist and member of Congress’ Task Force Sunil Kanugolu’s political consultancy firm.
The campaign brings everyone together in a coordinated digital assault on the BJP — a game the saffron party has been an undisputed leader in.
With the BJP in Karnataka yet to launch its election campaign, the Congress is clearly seizing the opportunity.
“Earlier, the BJP would set the narrative and we would respond; but that has changed. Whether it was the ‘BJP Brashtotsava’ or the ‘Puppet CM’ campaign, our in-house social media cell volunteers have been successful in setting the narrative,” Kharge said, adding that this time around, the new campaign is a joint venture between in-house volunteers and outside professionals.
As part of the new campaign, the party will pose one question every day from the BJP’s own manifesto until elections in Karnataka.
On Tuesday, it was the turn of the promised farm loan waiver. Posters on the question were shared by all prominent social media handles of the Congress party and its leaders.
.@BJP4Karnataka promised farmers to waive loans upto ₹1 lakh from nationalised banks & cooperatives.
Forget waiving loan, BJP has burdened Annadatas with more debt.
Will BJP ever waive the crop loans as promised?
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) August 30, 2022
The new campaign also includes videos showing citizens raising questions about BJP’s unfulfilled promises.
ರಾಜ್ಯದ ಜನತೆಗೆ ನೀಡಿದ 600 ಭರವಸೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ 90% ಭರವಸೆಗಳನ್ನು ಈಡೇರಿಸುವಲ್ಲಿ ಬಿಜೆಪಿ ಸರ್ಕಾರ ವಿಫಲವಾಗಿದೆ.
ಭ್ರಷ್ಟಾಚಾರದ ಕೂಪದಲ್ಲಿ ಮುಳುಗಿ, ಜನರ ಹಿತವನ್ನು ಸಂಪೂರ್ಣ ನಿರ್ಲಕ್ಷಿದ @BJP4Karnataka
ಸರ್ಕಾರವನ್ನು ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕರು ಬಹಿರಂಗವಾಗಿ ಪ್ರಶ್ನಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದಾರೆ.
— Karnataka Congress (@INCKarnataka) August 29, 2022
The video’s concept, though different, is an improvisation on BJP’s Lok Sabha campaign videos from 2014. Like this one:
Ever since DK Shivakumar took over as president of Karnataka Congress, the BJP had been repeatedly raking up his relationship with former chief minister Siddaramaiah to insist that the grand old party was a divided house.
The warring factions within the Congress and public statements on who should be chief ministerial candidate did little to shake off that perception. However, after Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar met with Rahul Gandhi in July this year, things seem to have fallen in place for the party in Karnataka.
The public display of camaraderie between Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah at the latter’s 75th birthday celebrations, albeit for optics, has readied the party for a united fight, party insiders say.
The functioning of the Karnataka Congress is today far smoother than party units in states like Telangana, or even at the national level, where leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad are deserting the party.
“The Congress seems to have gotten its alliance politics together. The trend of leaders like G Parameshwara, Veerappa Moily or BK Hariprasad using the Delhi leadership to counter the state leadership seems to have ended. A lot of leaders dependent on the central leadership have been forced to take a backseat,” Prof Narendar Pani, a political analyst, told South First.
“DK Shivakumar, too, seems to have come to terms with the fact that he can be extremely powerful, but if he pushes too hard to be number one, then there might not be a situation where he is number one.”
While individual leaders as well as the party as a whole have been getting professional support — whether it is DesignBoxed working for DK Shivakumar, or Sunil Kanugolu’s team — Priyank Kharge believes the in-house communications team of the Congress too has evolved.
“We have become more professional when it comes to delivery, accountability, and creativity. Professionals are helping us, too, no doubt. We are focusing on driving home our point with data as you would like to consume it, in small bits of information,” he added.