Karnataka polls: How Congress lost the plot in Siddaramaiah's personal battle

Campaigning across Karnataka became rudderless and lost the steam in second phase as he stayed put in Mysuru. 

Published: 17th May 2018 04:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th May 2018 04:50 AM   |  A+A-

Caretaker Chief Minister Siddaramaiah leaving after a meeting at Congress office in Bengaluru on Wednesday | Vinod Kumar T

Express News Service

MYSURU: The Congress, which started off well in the initial rounds of campaign led by AICC president Rahul Gandhi and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, failed to keep up the momentum to check Narendra Modi and his team’s aggressive campaign. It had even fared well in some pre-poll surveys and trends had given it an edge, sending jitters among BJP and RSS leaders. But the party failed to capitalise on it.

The second and last phases of campaigning almost became rudderless as caretaker Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, instead of making good use of the 15 days time available to tour the state, stayed put in Chamundeshwari constituency to win his personal battle against his arch rival G T Devegowda.Although Siddaramaiah had covered 122 constituencies before the elections and then toured 50 more constituencies after the announcement of calendar of events, he was more concerned about winning in Chamundeshwari. His decision to also fight the polls from Badami seat kept him busy in these seats.

The party initially made co-ordinated efforts with team Rahul along with Mallikarjun Kharge, G Parameshwara , Siddaramaiah, D K Shivakumar and party in charge of Karnataka, K Venugopal, to take on the BJP, but lost the momentum during the final days when it mattered most. Siddaramaiah, who has the ability to lure voters with his charisma, unfortunately stuck to Mysuru, leaving Rahul Gandhi alone to campaign with a few veterans. Parameshawara, who had lost the previous election and wanted badly to win this time, also camped in Koratagere rather than joining Rahul in second and third phase of campaign.

Party insiders feel that Congress would have done better and touched the three-digit mark if Siddaramaiah had chosen to contest from a safe seat while touring the state and also announced beforehand that he was open to a Dalit becoming Chief Minister. This would have swung votes by about 3-4 per cent, they say. His wrong calculation about contesting from Chamundeshwari and campaigning for about 20 days in his home turf gave BJP an edge with Narendra Modi and Amit Shah addressing more than 40 rallies and taking out roads shows.

The BJP changed gears and brought in Chief Ministers Yogi Adithyanath, Shivaraj Singh Chouhan, Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Prakash Javadekar, Smrithi Irani, Piyush Goal and others, who managed to utilise the media space. While Rahul Gandhi campaigned and held road shows, the party did not bring in young turks like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot and Shashi Tharoor who could have stepped up the attack on BJP. The only consolation was bringing in Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior leaders P Chidambaram, Sunil Kumar Shinde and few others to address the media rather than to campaign and address street corner meetings.

Congress candidates even allege that the polls was mismanaged by the in-charge leaders as they did not get resources and support to take on BJP which was going all out. The party high command should have directed Siddaramaiah to contest from a safe seat to lead the party from the front, campaigning in all 224 seats to bring back the power as done by the late Chief Minister D Devaraj Urs. These lapses and his egoistic fight in Chamundeshwari spelt doom for other candidates who relied on Siddaramaih to counter the Modi-Shah-BSY combination, they said.

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