In the last few months, Karnataka was caught in numerous emotive and communal issues. Many even wondered if that would escalate further in the run-up to the 2023 polls. While it is too early to predict how things will pan out in the next few months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attempted to bring back a positive and developmental narrative into the political discourse in the state.
The PM spoke the language that Bengaluru wanted to hear, set a 40-month deadline for completing the Bengaluru Sub Urban Rail project, and emphasized ‘Brand Bengaluru’s importance. With the election tempo slowly gaining momentum, the public meeting looked like the first of many such big rallies by top leaders. The PM made a pitch for the double-engine Sarkar to ensure a smooth ride on the development path while taking potshots at the opposition for delaying key projects.
The timing of the PM’s development push is crucial. It comes at a time when issues like Hijab, Halal, restrictions on the use of loudspeakers, school textbooks revision row, irregularities in police sub-inspectors recruitment, contractors allegations of 40 per cent commission and other issues have almost shadowed Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai’s efforts to portray development as his government’s top agenda.
The CM often says that they will go before the people in elections with a report on the government’s performance. But caught between fringe groups pushing their agenda and the aggressive opposition fighting hard to regain its lost ground, the government seems to be in a firefighting mode to deal with the controversies.
While the Opposition will make all efforts to put the administration on the defensive, the last few months of the tenure will be more crucial for the government to implement all budget proposals, fast-track development works and keep controversies at bay.
Bengaluru's infrastructure, which is struggling to keep pace with the city’s growth, seems to be one of the pain points for the government. Pothole-ridden roads, water-logging in low-lying areas and on roads, and peak-hour traffic congestion should be addressed as a priority. The government needs to have a long-term vision for Bengaluru, which is considered the engine of India’s economic growth. The lack of a long-term vision by successive governments is telling.
Those in the government need to showcase their acumen and dynamism to address immediate challenges and put in place a long-term vision for the development of the city as well as the state. On the political front, the government and the ruling party should build on the positive narrative set by the PM and give further momentum to it.
Staying the course on the development agenda and taking everyone along is as crucial for BJP as it is for Congress, which is often daubed as a faction-ridden party. After its good show in the Rajya Sabha polls, in which it managed to win three out of four seats, the ruling party’s performance in the Legislative Council elections from the Graduates and Teachers Constituencies was not very encouraging. It was a signal that emotive issues failed to strike a chord with educated voters.
The BJP managed to retain two out of the total four seats. The real concern is that it failed to retain a seat in the Lingayat stronghold of North Karnataka and did not succeed in its efforts to strengthen its hold in Old Mysuru. The principal opposition party Congress made significant gains in both the seats, despite its share of challenges.
The party will be hoping to ride on its newfound confidence in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) polls and the assembly elections. The BJP in Karnataka needs to learn a lesson from the flimsy tar that came off Bengaluru roads as soon PM Modi left the city. They should not replay that by removing themselves from the development narrative.