BENGALURU: BJP national president Amit Shah, who arrived in Bengaluru on a three-day visit, has set the agenda for the Karnataka BJP leadership to counter ‘Congress’ polarisation politics’. Rattled by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s offensive over the issues of --- Veerashaiva-Lingayat religion, separate state flag, aggressive pro-Kannada campaign and Kalasa-Banduri dispute --- Shah has asked the state BJP leadership to formulate an action plan to counter Congress.
Shah, who is betting big on Karnataka to realise his plans of expanding the party’s footprint in southern states, has a tough challenge at hand with the state leadership beset with factionalism and Siddaramaiah’s aggressive moves to demolish BJP’s Veerashaiva-Lingayat vote bank.
Shah, who chaired back-to-back meetings of the state BJP core committee, state office-bearers, divisional organising secretaries, presidents and organising secretaries of various Morchas and interactions with party MLAs and MPs, sees these four issues as having huge potential to affect the party’s prospects in the 2018 assembly election.
While the party is still in a state of shock at Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s vocal support for according a separate religion status for Veerashaiva-Lingayats, BJP has been pushed on the defensive over the Kalasa-Banduri water dispute too as the Congress government has been on the offensive over lack of any initiative from the Modi government for a negotiated settlement.
BJP’s stand against a separate state flag and muted reaction to the anti-Hindi campaign against Bengaluru Metro is also being used by Congress to invoke a spirit of ‘sons of the soil’ in its (Cong) favour. When these issues figured at the core committee meeting, sources said the state leaders advocated the need for a positive intervention from the party’s national leadership to resolve the Kalasa-Banduri issue between Karnataka and Goa. The party has preferred to adopt a wait-and-watch approach towards the Veerashaiva-Lingayat issue as the community forms the core voter base of the party.
The state leadership is expected to draft an action plan to counter Congress over these issues, which would then be scrutinised by the national leadership.
Shah’s hectic schedule in the city with a line-up of about 25 meetings reflects the party’s priority for Karnataka, where BJP is appearing to be losing its momentum in the face of Siddaramaiah’s tactical offensive with issues that raise questions about BJP’s commitment to state’s interests and aspirations of Kannadigas.
Shah, who is on a national tour as part of expanding the party’s organisational base in every state with an eye on 2019 Lok Sabha election, has reportedly set an ambitious target of 120 seats from southern and eastern states, where the party is struggling to emerge as a political force. Shah has set a target of winning 25 out of the 28 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The party presently has 17 Lok Sabha MPs from the state.
BJP sees the developments in Tamil Nadu as ideal for the party to score significant electoral gains. It is working on specific plans to widen its base in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The party sees itself as well positioned to emerge as a big force in Odisha and the developments in West Bengal too is being seen as conducive for BJP to emerge as a major force in the coming days.
Tactical offensive on 4 core issues puts BJP on backfoot
Veerashaiva-Lingayat religion: Siddaramaiah’s vocal support for according religion status for the community, BJP’s core voter base
Pro-Kannada campaign: Anti-Hindi campaign being used by Congress to invoke a spirit of ‘sons of the soil’
Kalasa-Banduri dispute: Congress government blames Modi government for lack of any initiative for a negotiated settlement
Separate state flag: CM scores with this move