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K'taka: Polls and local issues

Ktaka: Polls and local issues
Preparations for the Karnataka Assembly elections have entered the final and decisive phase with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself taking charge of the BJP campaign. Modi is scheduled to address 15 to 21 public meetings in the state. Together with other star campaigners BJP president Amit Shah and the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, BJP has planned more than 65 public rallies in the last 10 days of the campaigning. In the run-up to polls, Congress and BJP which are the main contenders for power in the state have totally relied on personality politics. The issues identified with the state politics are completely missing from their public speeches. Keeping an eye on the national politics, both Congress President and Modi have focused on criticising each other. While BJP is harping on the family politics being practised by Congress, Congress attacks Modi for his failure as the Prime Minister of the country. Gandhi in his public speeches has raised the issue of Rafale deal, PNB scam, and Nirav Modi.
As far as the issues related to the state are concerned, Congress raised the issue of BJP tickets having been given to tainted leaders. Congress has alleged that BJP has given party tickets to eight of Reddy brothers. BJP also leaves no opportunity to criticise Congress on the issue of corruption, saying that the party has a long history of corruption. In the 225-seat Assembly elections are scheduled for May 12 and the campaigning will come to an end on May 10. Exit polls have indicated a fractured mandate and that makes the case for the third party in the fray. Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda-led Janata Dal (Secular) seems to hold to key to the formation of the government in the state. In case both BJP and Congress fall short of reaching the magic figure of majority, the role of JD (S) will become important. On his part, Modi has praised Gowda in a recent public meeting and it is widely believed that BJP will move closer to JD(S) in case it is not able to form the government on its own. Though the Congress president in one of his public meetings has criticised Gowda, it has its mayor in Bengaluru with the support of JD(S). Both Congress and BJP are telling the voters not to waste their votes by voting for the JD(S) which is going to be a distant third in the final seat tally. But both the parties are shying away from criticising the party beyond a point. Both are in fact going soft on JD(S) and by doing so they want to keep the options open for a post-poll alliance. On their part, the JD(S) has said that it expects to win a majority on its own and it does not want to be a kingmaker. Rather, it wants to be the king itself.
The BJP camp has got enthused and emboldened by the entry of Modi as the chief campaigner. It talks of a BJP storm sweeping the state. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in one of his public meetings has promised to waive the farm loans up to Rs one lakh. Farmers suicide is a key issue in the elections and as per different reports, 3,800 farmers have committed suicide in the last five years of the Congress rule in the state. But neither BJP nor Congress is raising the issue seriously. Another key issue of river water sharing involving Mahadayi and Cauvery rivers has also received scant attention from the star campaigners Modi and Rahul Gandhi.
After the elections results of Karnataka, the stage will be set for general elections in 2019. There are Assembly elections due to be held in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh later this year but if BJP wins or is able to form the government in Karnataka, it will be able to counter the anti-incumbency factor in these states to some extent. In recent bye-elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Congress candidates have defeated their BJP counterparts. Congress is expected to give a tough fight to BJP in all the three states. It is in the light of these future elections that both BJP and Congress have stuck to national issues in the Karnataka elections. While it suits Congress not to talk of local and regional issues in the Karnataka elections as it ensures that its failure in the state is not talked at length, BJP by not talking about local issues is keeping its focus squarely on national issues that it believes will help in creating a momentum for the general elections in 2019.
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