Development or Hindutva: Will PM Modi Shift Gear for K’taka Polls?

For Gujarat polls, the PM switched from talking about vikas to a conspiracy against him. Will history repeat itself?

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Video Editor: Sandeep Suman

Among the four crucial assembly elections this year, Karnataka’s fate will be sealed in less than two months from now.

What’s at stake for the Congress is whether they can keep up with the momentum gained during the assembly elections in Gujarat and Punjab, and bypolls in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Congress desperately needs to clinch Karnataka votes to steady their pace in the run up to the 2019 general elections.

Even for the BJP, Karnataka is crucial. The BJP wants to wrest power in the only southern state where the party has a fair presence. Establishing their foothold in a non-Hindi heartland state and snatching Congress’ only big bastion is crucial to the BJP.

Some political experts have suggested that a BJP win in Karnataka could send a positive message to the Narendra Modi government to advance the general election.

Both parties have begun actively campaigning in the state. While Congress President Rahul Gandhi began his campaign in the water-starved belt of North Karnataka, BJP’s star campaigner, Narendra Modi, focussed on the state’s urban centres.

Modi has addressed two rallies in Karnataka so far. In his first rally in Bengaluru on 4 February, Modi addressed law and order, farmer distress, and a new government under BS Yeddyurappa.

But 15 days later when he addressed a rally in Mysuru, he had filtered his focus to development – roads, homes, jobs and infrastructure.

Even though communal polarisation has helped Karnataka BJP consolidate support in Coastal Karnataka, Prime Minister Modi has kept his focus on development.

However, Prime Minister Modi is known for changing gear effortlessly in his speeches, giving the narrative a new shape almost instantaneously.

At the most crucial juncture of the Gujarat campaign, Modi switched from talking about Dalits and development to Pakistan, ISI and a Congress conspiracy against him. This became a decisive moment in the Gujarat election that possibly turned the nail-biting election in the BJP’s favour.

The Congress government in Karnataka has so far managed to fight incumbency with its development works and popular policies. So, the big question is how soon before the prime minister dons the Hindutva cap and talks communal politics in Karnataka?

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