Bengaluru, March 19: A day in the party offices of the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal (Secular) in Bengaluru is not long enough to lay bare their secret strategies for the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections, but more than enough to see what they are headed for.
The Assembly elections in the southern state is the next big political battle that parties, especially the Congress and the BJP, are going to fight after the Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland elections, and bypolls in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The election in Karnataka will be soon followed by the Assembly polls in Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Sandwiched between these major political clashes, the Karnataka elections is surely going to set the momentum for all future political events in the country leading to the mother of all battles in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. At a time when regional parties have once again become the focal point of all political conversations, especially after the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) decided to quit the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre, the two main national parties, the BJP and the Congress, are definitely staring at an uncertain future. The Karnataka polls are likely to clarify at least a few doubts about who is in which group.
When OneIndia on Saturday decided to visit party headquarters of the political parties in Bengaluru, a few things were very clear. The ruling Congress is having some "noisy" times, the BJP is "tight-lipped" about its strategies and the JD(S) is "quietly" doing its job.
At the Congress Bhavan in Queens Road, a beeline of party workers and ticket aspirants were seen waiting outside to meet their leaders. "This has been the scene every day," quipped a security guard stationed at the entrance of the office.
The crowd at one stage became too large that it spilled onto the main road leading to a traffic jam. A middle-aged man, who identified himself as Kishore H, told OneIndia that he came all the way from Magadi. He had a letter in his hand. "My house is crumbling, I want the ruling Congress to help build me a new house." When asked how long he has been waiting, "I came pretty early around 6 am. The office opened only at 10.30 am. I have been waiting. Hope I get to meet some influential leader before the day ends," said Kishore, who has been jobless for a few years now.
Around 1 pm when Shafi Ulla, general secretary and spokesperson of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), came out to meet the people, Kishore was not lucky enough to hand him the letter. Ulla quickly met a few other visitors, who had prior appointment, and left immediately to finish his "important official works". "We are listening to all, one at a time," he said, before quickly disappearing inside the office.
After a controversial tweet by former Union law minister and Chikballapur MP M Veerappa Moily alleged that contractors close to the state's public works minister were dictating who should get Congress tickets, party workers are tight-lipped about the plans and strategies for the polls. There are also rumours that ticket aspirants are being charged humongous amount of money by the Congress. "These are all rumours. Only the best will get the tickets," said another senior KPCC leader.
The elections to the 224-member Karnataka Assembly are likely to take place between the last week of April and the first week of May. In the last elections held in May 2013, the Congress won 122, the BJP 40, the JD(S) 40 and the rest by others. The incumbent Congress is under tremendous pressure to repeat its 2013 victory as the BJP is eyeing to increase its tally from 22 to 23 states where it is in power.
At the BJP's multi-storeyed office in Malleshwaram, big vans and posters with pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and chief ministerial candidate of the party BS Yeddyurappa greet visitors. Once inside, people walking and talking at the parking space refuse to interact much with visitors. A policeman stationed in the gate told this reporter that if anyone has any message for the party they can post it online. "A meeting of Union minister Prakash Javadekar is underway," a party worker informed.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Javadekar, who is in charge of the party's preparations for the polls in Karnataka, said that the BJP will launch "Mushti Dhanya Sangraha Abhiyana" for the welfare of farmers in the state from March 21. In the door-to-door campaign, party workers will collect a handful of grains from farmers, while assuring them of policy decisions that will ensure their welfare, in return.
BJP's Mahila Morcha president Bharati Shetty told OneIndia that it has been quite hectic for the party. When asked how many women candidates will get tickets to contest the elections, she smiled and said, "We are trying our best to give as many tickets as possible to efficient women leaders." Regarding her own plans to contest elections, Shetty said, "If the party gives me ticket, I will fight the elections."
Just a few kilometres away from all the activities witnessed at the BJP office, at the JD(S) office in Seshadripuram it was unusually quiet. With hardly any visitors, a few party workers were busy filling up information in a big notebook. R Prakash, president of Bengaluru Mahanagara of the JD(S), said the office has a calm atmosphere as the party leader and former CM of Karnataka HD Kumaraswamy is busy touring the state.
"Everything is going fine with the party. We are confident of the party's victory," said Prakash. The confidence is the result of the party's alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Kumarswamy had claimed that earlier the Congress tried to stitch an alliance with the JD(S) for the polls, but it has refused to honour the request.
All the pre-poll alliances and promises made by the parties are likely to change in case no party or alliance gets a majority, quipped another JD(S) leader, as he enjoyed his meal of Mudde Saaru (Ragi balls with rasam) at the Namma Appaji canteen, named after the party's patriarch and former PM HD Deve Gowda, located next to the party office in the city.
|Karnataka Assembly Election dates|
|Date of notification||April 17|
|Last date to file nominations||April 24|
|Last date to withdraw nominations||April 27|
|Date of polling||May 12|
|Date of counting||May 15|