Congress banks on Karnataka to reverse trail of election setbacks

After defeats in the four recent assembly elections, the Congress is looking at Karnataka to provide a bright spot as it has a strong local leadership and organisational base in the state

Rahul Gandhi has asked senior state leaders Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar to set aside their differences

The Congress, which has been in protest mode against the policies of the state government in Karnataka, seems to have put the ruling government on the backfoot. For the last six months, the Congress has been protesting against an alleged 40 per cent commission in sanctioning developmental works, growing corruption, and police sub-inspector recruitment scam. The resignation of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister KS Eshwarappa recently speaks volumes about Congress’s aggressive agitation against the ruling BJP.

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During his recent visit to Karnataka, All-India Congress Committee (AICC) leader Rahul Gandhi advised opposition leader Siddaramaiah and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President DK Shivakumar to set aside their differences. He categorically told the state party leaders to fight the 2023 assembly elections under collective leadership and ensure to ensure that the party wins 150 plus seats.

Since Rahul’s visits, AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka Randeep Singh Surjewala has been coming frequently to Karnataka and has begun the exercise of identifying winnable candidates by holding meetings with KPCC leaders. Surjewala has reportedly asked Shivakumar to identify candidates six months ahead of the elections.

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Assembly elections in Karnataka are to be held by May 2023.

The last hope for Congress

The shocking defeat of the party in the recently held four state Assembly elections have raised fears of the Congress losing the tag of a national party if the slide is not checked. The Congress, therefore, is focusing on Karnataka, where it has a strong organisational base and local leadership.

During the 1970s too, the grand old party was rejected in the North in elections after the Emergency was lifted. In the 1977 general elections, Congress was decimated in North India. Ousted prime minister Indira Gandhi chose Karnataka for her political rebirth. She contested the Lok Sabha by-election in 1978 from the then Chikamagaluru Lok Sabha constituency in Karnataka. She won by 70,000 votes. The victory was seen as a turning point in her political career.

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Much later, her daughter-in-law, Sonia Gandhi, contested from Bellary Lok Sabha seat in the 1999 general elections and won against BJP candidate Sushma Swaraj by 56,000 votes.

Along with undivided Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka was a strong base of the Congress. The party lost its organisational strength in Andhra Pradesh after the division of the state. Now, in the South, Karnataka is the only hope for the grand old party. The AICC is therefore giving special attention to Karnataka.

“Expectation from the AICC is high in Karnataka. Whenever the party has faced electoral reverses, Karnataka has given it a lift,” says KPCC working president R Dhruvanarayana.

Building a cadre-based unit

For the assembly elections, the state party chief is trying to make Karnataka Congress a cadre-based unit on the lines of the Kerala Congress. This appears to be paying some dividends. In the recently held panchayat elections, legislative council elections, and by-elections to four assembly constituencies, the party gave a tough fight to the ruling BJP.

The party increased its seats in the panchayat polls and this had a bearing on elections to the Upper House, where Congress and BJP won 11 seats each. Interestingly, the vote percentage of the opposition party was higher than BJP. Normally in by-elections, the ruling party is in an advantageous position. But the Congress bagged an equal number of seats.

“Highlighting the misdeeds and corruptions of the BJP government gave us results in the elections,” Dhruvanarayana pointed out.

Moreover, the membership drive has yielded good results for Congress with 75 lakh registrations from Karnataka alone out of three crore new members across the country.

Poll agenda 

The Congress is likely to focus on “corruption of the present government and anti-people policies” in the coming elections.

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“We will take forward two main agendas, one is corruption, another is price rise. We are already on the job to expose the misdeeds of the BJP government. It is the most corrupt government. Every day we are exposing one or the other scam of the government. More scams will come out in future,” said DK Shivakumar.

To counter the ongoing divisive politics of right-wing groups, the party has planned to roll out a yatra for communal harmony. The ‘Samarasyya Yatra’ will be held at the village, taluk, and district levels in the first week of May. It will highlight the message of social reformers. The tableaux of social reformers will be taken out during the yatra and their birth anniversaries will be celebrated by the party.

Meanwhile, Surjewala will take up the party office-bearers meeting on April 27 and 28 to discuss poll preparations where he will also distribute constituency-wise responsibilities to the party general secretaries and office-bearers.

 

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