• Will Modi’s Speeches Turn the Tide in Karnataka?

    Yogesh S

    May 10, 2018

    With the state assembly elections in the Southern state of Karnataka drawing closer, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been touring in the state. So far, he has addressed the campaigning rallies in Shivamogga, Hubli, Chitradurga, Bagalkot, Raichur, Bengaluru and many other districts in the state. Party President Amit Shah and chief ministerial candidate of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) BS Yeddyurappa, have been campaigning for the party across the state. BJP hopes that the “charismatic” oration of the PM would help the party in bag a full majority. However, speeches of the PM in pure Hindi don’t seem to be making an impact. What is the PM saying in his speeches? And what do people think of these speeches?

    During the Bengaluru rally, certain Baby Sarah of Mandya, met the PM on the stage. Baby Sarah, is the daughter of Abdul Elias and Sameera Jan. The BJP member introducing Sarah, shared her story with the audience. Sarah had scored 84 per cent in her B.Com final year, and was planning to pursue MBA. Coming from a poor family, Sarah was not in a position to pay Rs 3 lakh for the course. She approached Canara Bank for a loan, but was denied the amount. Not knowing what to do, Sarah wrote a letter to the PM and she ended up getting the loan from the same bank. The speaker announced that Sarah is now working with IBM.

    This is the strategy BJP uses to appeal to the voters in the state. The story of Sarah – a Muslim girl – was probably seen to be the best way to veil the communal face of the BJP and Narendra Modi. Secondly, the story presented the PM as someone who is approachable by a common man. However, the approach of the PM towards the plight of common man was seen, when a rally organised by Karnataka for Employment, called ‘vote for jobs’ was disrupted. The participants of the rally marched all night from Mysore to Santemaralli to meet the PM who was present in Santermaralli on May 1. The campaigners wanted to question Modi government’s amendments to the labour laws, and to ask for jobs that he had promised during 2014 elections. The activists and members were detained and were not allowed to proceed with their plans.

    Meanwhile, the PM chose to continue his attack on the Congress and Siddaramaiah's government, calling it a corrupt government. This is an irony, since BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Yeddyurappa had resigned from the CM office, following charges of corruption. While defending Yeddyurappa and the involvement of the Reddy brothers in the elections, the PM might have caused much damage to the party in these elections.

    Lokniti and Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) conducted a pre-poll survey in Karnataka from April 27 to May 3, 2018. The survey is a result of interviews of 4929 voters from 224 locations and 56 assembly constituencies. According to the survey, Congress is leading in this election. The survey also says that 44 per cent of people think that BJP is more corrupt as opposed to 41 per cent who think Congress is more corrupt. The same survey also says that 79 per cent surveyed persons have benefited from the Anna Bhagya scheme, which provides free rice and subsidised food grains. Fifty-five per cent have benefited from the Ksheera Bhagya scheme, which provides flavoured milk to school kids. Forty-five per cent have benefitted from the Akshara Dasoha scheme (mid-day meals), 25 per cent from the Cycle Bhagya scheme that provides cycles for school kids in rural and hilly areas, 21 per cent by Indira Canteens that provides subsidised meals, and 20 per cent by the Krishi Bhagya scheme that provides financial assistance to the farmers. According to the CSDS-Lokniti survey, 41 per cent of people like Siddaramaiah better, as opposed to 29 per cent who like Yeddyurappa.

    KP Suresh, a columnist and an activist based in Mysuru, said that people in the state were not happy with the Yeddyurappa-led BJP government of 2008. Yeddyurappa’s government was “a nightmare’’ to farmers, downtrodden and the poor in the state, Suresh noted.

    Prakash Raj, an actor-turned-activist, addressing the concluding ceremony of a 93-day-long rally of Karnataka for saving the constitution, remembered the political apathy that the state was in from 2006 to 2013. He said, “All thanks to JD(S) and BJP, we saw three chief ministers in four years. We will not let anything like that happen in the state again.”

    Ravi (name changed) a shopkeeper in Bengaluru, was reading that day’s local newspaper and was not very happy with the cover page of the paper. The saffron cover page with the pictures of Amit Shah, Narendra Modi, and Yeddyurappa was urging the readers to vote for BJP. Ravi said, “Kallru ella kallru. (Thieves, all are thieves.) Evre alla, ellarunu congress agli yavane agli. (Not only these two, but all. Congress or whoever it is.)”  

    Riyaz (name changed) is an auto driver in Bantwala, a small town near Mangalore. He said that he attended the KFSC convention in the town the previous week, only because his friends had told him that Prakash Raj would be present for the event. Referring to Anant Kumar Hegde I particular, and RSS and BJP, Riyaz said, “They just create trouble. People are okay here; not much of trouble, but they says things in public which create trouble and riots break out.”

    When asked specifically about the BJP government in the state in 2008, both Ravi and Riyaz remembered it as a period of corruption. Ravi asked, “Why is Yeddyurappa coming back again? And also the Bellary mining people?” Riyaz remembered that many churches were attacked and prices were very high then.

    The PM, while addressing a campaign rally in Shivamogga, had accused the Congress of defaming Yeddyurappa. The PM’s defence was that Yeddyurappa and Reddy brothers are acquitted by the court and are clean. This is far from being true. The case of Bellary mining scam is still pending. It is the CBI court that has acquitted Yeddyurappa, and the case is yet to face the Supreme Court. Prakash Raj countered the PM’s defence and said, “People of Karnataka know everything about Yeddyurappa, and still remember his government, and will vote accordingly.”

    Rati Rao of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Mysore, remembered the 2008 Yeddyurappa’s government as an open ground for fringe elements like Bajrang Dal, Sri Rama Sene and others to generate communal violence in the state.


    Yogesh S is part of the editorial collective of the Indian Writers' Forum.

    First published in Newsclick.

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