Projecting ‘Karnataka Model’, Rahul Gandhi Eyes 2019 Elections
Rahul Gandhi during his trip to the state has projected Karnataka model as an alternative for the Gujarat Model.
Rahul Gandhi during his trip to the state has projected Karnataka model as an alternative for the Gujarat Model.(Photo courtesy: Karnataka Congress) 

Projecting ‘Karnataka Model’, Rahul Gandhi Eyes 2019 Elections

The fate of the Congress’ last big bastion will be decided in a couple of months. However, a confident AICC president, Rahul Gandhi, during his visit to poll-bound Karnataka pitched for the return of the Congress in the Centre in the general election of 2019. And to this ambitious plan of his, Karnataka is crucial.

The job of winning the state back was left to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, while Gandhi focussed on pitching the ‘Karnataka model of governance’ as an alternative to Modi’s ‘Gujarat Model’.

This distinction of roles was clear in the speeches. While Rahul Gandhi trained his guns at New Delhi, Siddaramaiah appealed for another term, citing the good work his government has done.

The words of senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, during one of the rallies, summed up the Congress’ strategy well – “If we win in Karnataka, we will win in the Centre.”

‘Introduced as the Future PM’

Photos from Rahul Gandhi’s north Karnataka rally. 
Photos from Rahul Gandhi’s north Karnataka rally. 
(Photo courtesy: Karnataka Congress)

At public rallies in the towns and villages of Hyderabad-Karnataka region, Gandhi was invariably given long introductions, and one common theme among them was the description of him as the “future prime minister of India”.

And he spoke like one.

He promised waiving of farmers’ loans and changing the GST structure, among other changes he would bring about “when the Congress comes to power in the Centre”.

During a rally in Koppal, he said that Modi should start working hard because his time at the Centre is about to come to an end. Even though the rally was for the Karnataka Assembly elections, the pitch was clearly for 2019.

“The High Command has a lot of confidence in the state leadership and Siddaramaiah remains a popular chief minister. So what is wrong with Rahul ji using Karnataka’s success as a platform to launch his 2019 campaign?” asked a senior Congress leader who accompanied Gandhi on his rally.

The Narrative Against Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L); Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L); Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
(Photo: Altered by The Quint)

Even though Rahul Gandhi’s campaign in Gujarat focused predominantly on local issues, in Karnataka there was little mention of the BJP’s state leadership or the even the local issues.

The attacks were aimed at New Delhi. His analogies projecting PM Modi as a leader blaming the past for his inability to deliver promises was a hit among the crowd.

The crowd erupted in cheer as he said, ‘Modi is a prime minister who drives a car looking at the rear-view mirror’ and ‘Modi is cricketer who bats while looking the wicket-keeper’.

These were followed by references to demonetisation and GST. Even though it was thought that they were no longer election issues ahead of Karnataka polls, Gandhi has managed to keep them relevant.

The Karnataka Model

Photos from Rahul Gandhi’s north Karnataka rally.
Photos from Rahul Gandhi’s north Karnataka rally.
(Photo courtesy: Karnataka Congress)

Once the “failures” of Modi government were established, Gandhi proposed his alternative, and Karnataka was at the centre of it. “Modi ji, you should learn from Siddaramaiah government,” was a line constant in his speeches.

A carefully drafted narrative of Siddaramaiah’s Karnataka model being effective, unlike Modi’s government, was the backbone of Gandhi’s campaign in the state.

While the Modi government refused to waive farmers’ loans, Siddaramaiah government did so; Siddaramaiah government spent more than half of Modi government’s expenditure on SC/ST community in Karnataka alone; and Siddaramaiah launched all schemes he announced, successfully, unlike Modi. He listed out his reasons to back his narrative.

Even though the Karnataka model is being projected as an alternative to Modi government, winning Karnataka would be the most important task for the Congress party.

Gandhi is confident of the incumbent government winning the poll, but failure would take the Congress to a position from where recovering would be tough. The party workers now have the responsibility of not only saving the party in the state, but at the Centre as well.

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