Whether or not the Congress party has decided who will lead its campaign in the Karnataka Assembly election, BJP leaders seem to be clear who they are going up against.
On the stage set up for “Janaspandana” to highlight their achievements in three years as a ruling party, leaders of Karnataka unit of BJP invoked but one name multiple times — Siddaramaiah.
From BJP veteran and parliamentary board member BS Yediyurappa to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, BJP leaders took on Congress legislature party chief Siddaramaiah almost as if they were setting the stage for a “BJP versus Siddaramaiah” battle in the upcoming Assembly election.
“Siddaramaiah is already jumping the gun to assume he will be chief minister even before elections are here. I have promised to not allow Congress to come back to power as long as Narendra Modi is prime minister,” Yediyurappa said in his short speech.
This was the third time he as referring to Siddaramaiah in that brief while. The only other leader of the Congress he invoked was Rahul Gandhi.
Focus on Siddaramaiah
“He (Siddaramaiah) proudly takes credit for ‘Anna Bhagya’, but the rice comes from the Union government,” Bommai claimed in his speech. Moments before, Minister for Major Irrigation Govind Karjol had gone after Siddaramaiah in similar fashion.
Whether BJP leaders invoked Siddaramaiah repeatedly as an acknowledgment of his position as a strong Opposition leader, or merely as a means to reignite another tug-of-war between Siddaramaiah and KPCC President DK Shivakumar remains to be seen.
BJP calls for victories in weak seats
After two postponements and one name change, the BJP finally held Janaspandana — an event to mark its achievements and Bommai’s first year as chief minister — on Saturday, 10 September.
In keeping with its central leadership’s plans to strengthen the party in constituencies that it has no presence in, BJP chose Doddaballapur as the venue for the event.
The event was also a show of strength by Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar, a close aide of Bommai’s. BJP deemed the event a success with Sudhakar managing to gather two lakh people in a region where the party has only two out of 18 Assembly seats.
Although the crowds paled in comparison with the estimated 10 lakh at Siddaramaiah’s 75th birthday celebrations in Davangere last month, the turnout was a success story, BJP claimed.
“In a region where BJP is weak — Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Bengaluru Rural and Tumakuru — you have gathered huge numbers. Now is the time for you to elect not two but 10 MLAs of the BJP from here,” BJP’s National General Secretary CT Ravi told the cheering crowds.
Even as the event was intended to highlight achievements of the BJP government, only two flagship schemes found mention in the midst of many “to-be-done” announcements.
“We have increased pension under Sandhya Suraksha. We have extended Vidhya Nidhi for children of farmers, weavers, labourers and fishermen,” Bommai said, adding that his government intended to introduce or relaunch more schemes like milk banks for dairy farmers, the Yashaswini scheme for farmers, or setting up industrial hubs in districts.
Job for Praveen Nettaru’s kin
While condolences were paid to late minister Umesh Katti at the Janaspandana event, Bommai made no mention in his speech of Praveen Nettaru, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha worker whose murder in Dakshin Kannada had seen angry BJP workers attacking the party and government.
Almost as an afterthought, right before Union Minister Smriti Irani’s speech, Bommai returned to make an announcement.
“At this time, we pay our respects to Praveen Nettaru and Umesh Katti. I would like to announce that I am offering a job in my office to one member of Praveen Nettaru’s family,” Bommai declared.
While Congress bashing took centre-stage at an event meant to mark the achievements of the BJP government in Karnataka, Union Minister Smriti Irani listed out Central government-sponsored schemes and allocations to Karnataka.
“When Congress government was at the Centre, they allocated only ₹2,000 crore via the Finance Commission to Karnataka in 2009 and 2010. Under the BJP at the Centre, ₹5,000 crore was allocated to Karnataka via the Finance Commission. We don’t discriminate against Karnataka like the Congress,” Irani insisted.