As B’Luru Reels From Floods, BJP Hopes to Cash in on Public Anger
BJP has used the rain damage and floods to score political points.
A day after four people were killed and several parts of Bengaluru were flooded, senior BJP leaders hit the streets, taking stock of the situation.
The ruling Congress has been largely absent on the ground ever since the heavy rains began, and the opposition BJP used this opportunity to score political points from the rain damage and floods.
With assembly elections a few months away, Congress began its political campaign by demanding a separate state flag, pushing Kannada first policies, and offering religious status for the Lingayat community.
It appeared like the ruling Congress had an upper hand in the state, with the BJP failing to find issues to attack the ruling party. But that was until the city of Bengaluru began reeling from the floods.
BJP Leaders on the Ground
On Sunday, Senior BJP leaders were out on the streets, taking stock of the situation following the heavy downpour. While state BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa visited Banashankari, Sarvagnanagar and other locations, Union Minister U Ananth Kumar inspected parts of south Bengaluru.
BJP leaders have made at least two such inspections since the city’s rain woes began.
However, no ministers from the Congress government were present on the ground during the weekend to review the situation. According to a report, KJ George, Minister for Bengaluru Development, who was attending a wedding on Sunday, gave the inspection a pass.
Not So Rosy for Congress
Although Congress managed to gain an edge in Bengaluru’s urban votes in the last election, the tide could shift towards the ruling party ahead of the 2018 polls. From the controversial plan to construct a steel flyover in the city to the recent failure in preventing the urban floods, the Siddaramaiah-led government has come under severe criticism.
Having realised Congress' Achilles heel, the BJP is wasting no time in going on the offensive.
Losing Face in City
When the state government announced the construction of a steel flyover at a cost of Rs 2,100 crore, citizen groups mobilised against the government. Although several political figures joined the protest, the original protest was a spontaneous people’s movement. The Karnataka government had to finally drop the project, owing to the pressure.
Since then, Bengaloreans have been critical of the government for not showing results, despite money being pumped into various projects.
In the midst of this criticism, the Congress government chose to extend the deadline for pubs and restaurants timings from 11pm to 1am in 2016. It was seen as an attempt to appeal to the young urban crowd. But the government’s failure to put pressure on the Centre, when liquors vends were shut down following the Supreme Court order on national highways, drowned out the urban youth's initial euphoria over the pub deadline.
Bengaluru Amounts for 12% of Seats
Bengaluru urban has 28 assembly constituencies, which amounts to more than 12 percent of the total seats in the Assembly. In 2013, Congress won 13 out of the 28 seats, while BJP managed victory in 12 seats.
Despite the Congress riding on these issues, the BJP failed to open its campaign in the state. During his visit in August, BJP chief Amit Shah gave a dressing down to the state leadership. However, none of the campaigns were a success.
Deflated BJP Campaigns
BJP’s first campaign was against Karnataka Energy Minister DK Shivakumar, who was raided by the I-T department. The issue soon died down after the Anti-Corruption Bureau, which comes under the Chief Minister, slapped corruption charges against Yeddyurappa.
Last week, BJP announced a motorcycle rally to Mangaluru, to protest the killings of BJP and RSS leaders in the state. The Congress government denied permission to the motorcycle rally and police tactically thawed the plan. While the government allowed the BJP to conduct a march in Mangaluru, the rally failed to make any political ripples.
Even though their first two campaigns have lost steam, BJP is scoring brownie points by simply being on the ground. The fact that Congress leaders have been missing in action, only works to BJP’s advantage.
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