What will Karnataka Assembly elections, scheduled for April-May 2023, be fought over? In three major election tours snaking through the state currently, lies a route map of the tough contest between three prominent parties – Bharatiya Janata Party, Indian National Congress and Janata Dal (Secular).
Here’s a look at what the big yatras (tours) in Karnataka stand for, the key constituencies which they cover and the outlook of each of the parties gearing up for the big 2023 poll battle.
The Three Yatras of BJP
In the run-up to the Assembly elections, the BJP, which it the ruling party in Karnataka, has employed a three-pronged tour plan which includes Jana Sankalpa Yatra, Rath Yatra, and Vijay Sankalp Yatra. While the first kicked off in October 2022, much ahead of elections, Rath Yatra started on 24 February and Vijay Sankalp Yatra started on 1 March.
The Jana Sankalpa Yatra was led by prominent leaders of the BJP including former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and current Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, the Rath Yatra, with 130 chariots, was flagged by Bommai. On Vijay Sankalp Yatra was flagged off by Home Minister Amit Shah and it is believed to be the biggest campaign event of the party.
According to sources in the BJP, the party’s approach was simple: “We wanted to start of focusing on reaching out to the people, then cater to our core voters, and conclude with the clarion call for victory,” a senior BJP leader told The Quint. Meaning, the party has been trying to campaign among its strongholds and weak areas simultaneously.
Which constituencies did the BJP focus on? While party sources said that they have received good response from all the constituencies toured so far, the key focus areas have been constituencies in Coastal Karnataka, South, and North Karnataka, a party leader said. “
In Coastal Karnataka we have received overwhelming response. In the South too there is good support on ground as Bengaluru has been our focus area,” he added. In North Karnataka, where Bommai is currently camped, the party hopes to uproot the JD(S), a senior leader in the know said.
What are the key promises of the BJP? While the BJP is yet to come up with a comprehensive list of promises except broad plans to support farmers with irrigation and electricity, the party has been announcing election sops at the local level. For instance, in Belagavi Bommai promised to invest heavily in education for Dalit and Adivasi school students. In Koppal, the party has promised 100 food processing centres.
Will the party be able to tide over the anti-incumbency wave alluded to by the Opposition?
Congress’ Praja Dhwani Yatra
The biggest political event for the Congress, in recent times, has been the Bharat Jodo Yatra which was led by Rahul Gandhi. The party is mimicking the success of this yatra in the state, by following it up with Praja Dhwani Yatra.
This tour is being led by former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in North Karnataka and by DK Shivakumar in South Karnataka. Once the first leg of their tours end, Shivakumar will tour the north and Siddaramaiah the south. “The yatras are important for the party. But we are following this up with widespread awareness building about our poll promises. We have got over whelming response even in the bastions of BJP and JD(S),” Priyank Kharge, chairman, communications of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC).
So far, Congress’s promises include 200 units of free electricity to every household in the state, Rs 2,000 for each woman homemaker in the state, and 10 kg rice every month to each Below Poverty Line (BPL) family in the state. “We are distributing the cards guaranteeing our promises to people as the yatras move through the state,” Kharge said.
Which constituencies will the Congress focus on? “All the 224 constituencies are important for us. But the poll battle seems to be promising in Hassan, which is the bastion of JD(S). We have done tremendously well in the districts where the BJP has had its sway, like in Mysuru, Mangaluru North, and Udupi,” said Kharge.
The party is primarily harping on the anti-incumbency wave against the BJP and has been focusing on governmental corruption as demonstrated by their ‘40 Percent Sarkara’ campaign that accused the BJP leaders of taking bribes.
Will the Congress be able to secure more than 120 seats in the Karnataka Assembly?
JD(S)’ Pancharatna Yatra
According to the JD(S), the party has already held 236 gatherings and covered 90 constituencies as part of the party’s leader HD Kumaraswamy’s Pancharatna Yatra. “While we have got good responses from all constituencies, but we have also got tremendous responses from Hassan, Chikkmagalur, Tumkur, Mysuru, Mandya, and Raichur,” Tanveer Ahmed, national spokesperson of JD(S). While the BJP and Congress started their campaigns in 2022, JD(S) has covered the longest distance, JD(S) said.
The party has announced five of its major promises including, 30-bed hospital for each of the gram panchayats, English medium education from kindergarten to Class XII for students of all gram panchayats, investment in irrigation for farmers’ welfare, infrastructure development connecting major cities to rural areas, and job creation in special economic zones spread across Karnataka.
“We hope that the party will be able to cater to the grassroots and the urban public,” said Ahmed.
The party is expected to cash in on the fact that JD(S) is the only regional party in the fray in Karnataka and foreground the shortcomings of both the BJP and the Congress. The party has not reached a pre-poll alliance with the Congress, with which it had joined hands after Assembly results were declared in 2018.
Will the JD(S) eat into Congress’ votes with their widespread campaign?
With the yatras adding to the election din and reaching a crescendo by April, a tough fight for Karnataka is definitely on.