The BJP's embarrassment after the illegal mining scam blew up in 2012 led to BS Yeddyurappa resigning from the post of Chief Minister. The Congress in Karnataka had capitalised on the people’s anger against corruption and Siddaramaiah had carried out a padayatra from Bengaluru to Ballari, which set the tone for the 2013 Assembly elections.
With the 2018 polls slated to be held within the next couple of months, the BJP has already launched padayatras which were held simultaneously in Bengaluru and the coastal region. While the padayatra in Bengaluru on Saturday aims to highlight the deteriorating civic infrastructure in the city, the one in coastal Karnataka addresses issues to do with the death of Hindu activists and cow slaughter.
On March 3, the BJP carried out a ‘Bengaluru Rakshisi’ (save Bengaluru) padayatra, which began at Bengaluru’s KR Puram area. The party is planning to cover all 28 Assembly constituencies in Bengaluru in a fortnight.
BJP State President BS Yeddyurappa, Padmanabhanagar MLA Ashoka, MP Mohan, Mahadevapura MLA Aravind Limbavalli and several other leaders were present at the padayatra.
“Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is dividing people on linguistic lines and on the basis of religion and he has no moral right to be the CM. In the name of development like white topping, building flyovers, and bridges, they are indulging in massive corruption. The only work done by the Congress in the last 5 years has been inauguration of projects but never the completion of any of work,” R Ashok alleged.
Ananth Kumar, Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, who also attended the padayatra, urged KR Puram residents to vote for the BJP candidate Nandiesha Reddy.
“Vote for Nandiesha Reddy. The sitting MLA Byrathi Basavaraj is corrupt. The present MLA of KR Puram has given protection to goondas who went to the extent of burning the BBMP office. KR Puram has become a hub for ganja sale, goondaism and crime in the city. Areas like KR Puram, Mahadevapura are facing issues like drinking water, road and severe traffic problems. The current government has failed to resolve any of these issues. It was only under the previous Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu that more than 110 villages in the outskirts of Bengaluru got water,” Ananth Kumar added.
Meanwhile in Uttara Kannada district’s Ankola, another BJP padayatra was launched on Saturday with Union Minister of State for Skill Development Anant Kumar Hegde, Minister for Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar and Dakshina Kannada MP Nalin Kumar Kateel.
Udupi-Chikkamagaluru MP Shobha Karnadlaje, Mysuru-Kodagu MP Pratap Simha began another padayatra from Kushalnagar in Kodagu district.
The padayatra also had a tableau representing cow slaughter and the deaths of Hindu activists. The padayatra in coastal Karnataka – titled Jana Surksha Yatra -- will began in Ankola, and culminate on March 5 in Suratkal, where BJP activist Deepak Rao was brutally murdered. Meanwhile, the padayatra which began in Kushalnagar will reach Udupi on March 6. Yogi Adityanath is expected to address rallies in this region, once the yatra is complete.
“There have been 23 deaths of Hindu activists in Karnataka in the last five years and Siddaramaiah has not done anything to stop it. The law and order has deteriorated in the state. It is time to call out the government’s mistakes,” Shobha Karandlaje claimed.
According to BJP insiders, the party has decided to concentrate on region-specific issues as the topic of development has not gathered a lot of support.
“It has been decided that attacking civic issues and abuse of power by Congress MLAs will be the strategy in Bengaluru. When the Nalapad issue came to light, it was like the Congress had handed over the weapon with which we could campaign effectively. In coastal districts, it will be the outrage against the killing of Hindu activists. The BJP has successfully managed to dominate these areas because of this very issue. In Lingayat dominant areas, the strategy is to say that Siddaramaiah is trying to divide people on the basis of religion. We will take the name of Basavanna and also bring in the element of the government trying to take control of temples in Brahmin dominant areas,” a BJP leader said.