Changing tack: BJP on the offensive; Congress goes local

A perceptible change in the BJP’s strategy seems to have been prompted by the apprehension that the government’s counter was weak and anti-incumbency could slowly gain ground.

Published: 19th September 2022 04:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th September 2022 04:04 AM   |  A+A-

BJP Flag, Congress Flag

Representational image of BJP and Congress flags. (File Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

Offence is the best form of defence. That appears to be the BJP’s strategy to counter Congress’ all-out efforts to set a narrative for the 2023 Assembly polls with corruption under the BJP’s watch as its major poll plank.

There seems to be new-found aggression in the BJP camp in the last few weeks, coinciding with former chief minister BS Yediyurappa’s elevation to the party’s top decision-making body, the parliamentary board. Facing a flurry of allegations, including the 40 per cent commission charge by the contractors’ association and backlash from its workers, the BJP and the government looked to be on the defensive.

They mostly spoke of going to the polls with a report card on the government’s performance and harped on differences among the top Congress leaders, while the opposition went hammer and tongs targeting the government over corruption. A perceptible change in the BJP’s strategy seems to have been prompted by the apprehension that the government’s counter was weak and anti-incumbency could slowly gain ground.

The change in tack was evident at the “Janaspandana” rally to celebrate the completion of three years of the BJP government, including one year under Basavaraj Bommai’s leadership. The party blew the poll bugle by announcing that it will expose alleged irregularities during the Congress rule in the state, from 2013 to 2018. After the rally, the first of the five such big events planned in the next few months, the ruling dispensation appears to be digging out skeletons and talking about alleged irregularities during the Congress government.

Unlike a few months ago, now more ministers and leaders are coming out roaring in defence of the CM. And in the ongoing legislative session, the BJP ensured that the Congress’ motion to discuss irregularities in the police sub-inspector recruitment scam is converted into a discussion on all scams, including those during the previous Congress government’s. The Assembly is likely to witness a heated exchange during the debate slated this week. The party’s aggressive approach was also visible when it got the contentious Anti-Conversion Bill passed in the Legislative Council amid intense opposition from the Congress. The bill was passed after a debate that witnessed heated exchanges between the opposition and treasury benches.

By taking an aggressive approach to the alleged corruption during the Congress rule, the BJP may blunt the Opposition attack to some extent. But the big question is... will it work with the voters? Is it too late for the party that was in power for three years to just talk about the corruption in the previous government, instead of ordering a probe soon after coming to power?

No doubt, action has to be taken against any wrongdoing even if it comes to light after many years, but when it comes to fighting corruption by strengthening the Lokayukta, there is hardly any difference between the two big parties. The credit for weakening the Lokayukta headed by a retired judge by forming the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) helmed by a police officer goes to the Congress government. 

The BJP did nothing to fulfil its election promise of disbanding the ACB. It was abolished recently after the High Court order.

Recent floods in Bengaluru added to the woes of the BJP. No matter who allowed encroachments and who turned a blind eye all these years, the ire will be directed more against those in power. Bengaluru with 28 Assembly segments is very important for the BJP as well as the Congress. The ruling party had not done particularly well in the 2018 polls when it won 11 seats, three less than Congress. Equations changed post political defections that helped BJP come to power in 2019. But now with corruption being one of the major poll issues, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will be looking to draw a section of urban voters disillusioned with the BJP. That may not help the AAP win seats, but can damage the BJP in closely contested elections.

Meanwhile, the Congress is also changing its approach. The party that finds itself in a blind alley in national politics is adopting a strategy to target the BJP’s local leadership and not focus too much on criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi as that can prove to be counter-productive. As part of that strategy, the Congress is going full throttle firing corruption salvos against the ruling dispensation and has even launched a helpline and website for people to register complaints if they face any demand for bribes.

Now, with former AICC chief Rahul Gandhi’s “Bharat Jodo” yatra set to enter the state on September 30 and cover over 500 km in 21 days, the Congress will sharpen its attack on the Bommai government. And the same intensity is expected to be seen in the BJP’s rallies to be held around the same time. Corruption continues to be a major talking point in the run-up to the elections, but people also expect those in power to talk about what they have done and those in opposition to explain what they have to offer.

Ramu Patil 
Associate Editor ramu@

India Matters


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