The counting of votes for the high-stakes Karnataka assembly elections 2023 is underway as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faces the prospect of a crushing defeat in a state that was its Gateway to South.
It’s clear that issues such as the PFI ban, proposed action against the Bajrang Dal and polarisation issues found little reception in Karnataka. Initially, the saffron party besides boasting of social welfare programmes, employed its usual campaign strategy of trying to polarise the state’s electorate along religious lines.
The party’s attempt to scrap the four per cent Muslim quota and distribute them to two electorally important castes — Vokkaligas and Lingayats, before the Supreme Court stepped in to rebuke and pause the attempt, is one such instance.
The BJP then turned the campaign around trust in the popular Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He arrived in full force, holding over 20 different high-powered rallies in the state.
He held long road shows in Bengaluru in which he rode through the streets of the tech hub in an open-top vehicle decked out in flowers and pictures of himself. The roadshows drew massive crowds, and his popularity was evident.
His supporters showered flower petals on him during the 26km roadshow. Everything was so picture perfect. Sadly, not perfect enough to get enough votes to cross the majority mark.
During campaigning, the Prime Minister tried to put the Congress on the backfoot on the issue of the party equating the Bajrang Dal with the Islamic terror outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) and followed it up by hitting out at the Congress’s demand for banning the film “The Kerala Story.”
Even as Manipur was engulfed in deadly ethnic violence, Modi extended his stay by two more days in a determined bid to ensure that the BJP retains power in the state.
Besides Modi, other BJP leaders were on a campaign blitz across the state in the final days of campaigning. Modi’s lieutenants, BJP President JP Nadda addressed 10 public rallies and 16 roadshows, while Amit Shah attended 16 gatherings and 15 roadshows. While campaigning, both leaders hit out at the Congress on the same issues raised by Modi.
Karnataka voted in a single phase on Wednesday and recorded a 73.19 per cent voter turnout, according to the state’s chief electoral officer.
Many see the Karnataka election offering hints about how PM Narendra Modi may fare in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.