Party insiders say that BJP will focus on its development plank, rather than caste, this time – as was evident in Modi’s rally in Mysuru on Monday.

Modi in Mysuru Can the BJP break into this Congress bastion in the 2018 polls
news Politics Monday, February 19, 2018 - 19:03

With the Karnataka Assembly elections fast approaching, the BJP is pulling out all stops to win in Old Mysuru area. Widely acknowledged as a Congress stronghold, the BJP has never been able to penetrate the vote bank in this area, mostly due to the large presence of Ahinda voters.

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who inaugurated the Humsafar Express from Mysuru to Jaipur, also addressed a rally at Mysuru’s Maharaja Grounds, where he urged people to vote for the BJP this time around.

The Prime Minister promised to make Mysuru a prominent tourist destination, which would drive economic growth.

“Jaipur is a tourist destination and so is Mysuru, but if people have to go from Jaipur to Mysuru, they have to make numerous stops. This project was started when (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee was the Prime Minister and it has been completed only now. This shows what the Congress government did for so many years in between. With this project, the auto drivers, taxi drivers, the flower sellers outside the numerous temples will be able to earn more as it will bring in more tourists,” Modi said.

He also announced two new infrastructure projects to further the tourist agenda. The Prime Minister stated that the Centre would allot Rs 6,400 crore for the construction of a six-lane National Highway from Bengaluru to Mysuru. The project will take place in two phases – from Bengaluru to Nidaghatta and Nidaghatta to Mysuru city. He also announced the construction of a multi-storeyed satellite railway station in Nagarahalli at an estimated cost of Rs 800 crore.

“Older governments used to mislead people. They were also lucky that people didn't bother them. There was nobody to ask them anything. Inside Parliament, when the Railway Budgets were presented then they only aimed at pleasing parliamentarians. When we came to power, we asked how many old projects were completed and we found there were 1,500 projects were stranded,” the Prime Minister added.

He said that the ruling Congress government in Karnataka was all set to destroy the state and would “keep destroying it”.

“I want to tell the CM (Siddaramaiah) that his party has been in power for so many years after Independence. What have they done in terms of development? There are still 4 crore people in this country who do not have access to electricity. The ruling government in Karnataka is misleading people and dividing people. Karnataka and Mysuru need speed and it cannot wait. There is a government at the Centre that promotes every state,” he said.

Modi took a dig at the ruling government by calling it a “government of 10% commission”, while adding that the Congress was only interested only in safeguarding their seats and not the people of the state.

“I had said in Bengaluru that this is a 10% government. They got very angry. They called me and messaged me and expressed their anger. They said this is not 10%, it is more than that. I can understand the anger of Karnataka. The youth have awoken and can't tolerate this. Do you want commission or mission? I have come to promise you that BJP will work with a mission,” Prime Minister Modi added.

Will BJP finally break through the Congress stronghold?

Speaking to TNM, a veteran BJP leader said that the saffron party is desperately trying to break into the Congress’ vote bank in Old Mysuru region, which is why the Prime Minister was called for a rally here.

“The BJP does not have a strong face in this region and Yeddyurappa will never be able to gather the support required because he represents the Lingayat community. Besides, to be fair, Siddaramaiah has contributed quite a bit towards the development of the region he calls home and our surveys too point out that people here still have faith in him. Hence, the BJP needs a strong face; one which everyone will recognize and Modi is the right person for this. Even in the Parivarthana Yatras across the state, it is always the achievements of the Centre which were highlighted,” the BJP leader added.

Party insiders say that despite several attempts to poach Congress leaders in the region, no one had responded favourably. 

On Monday, the former Zilla Panchayat President from Chamarajanagar, Ramachandra, defected from Congress to the BJP. Congress insiders say that Ramachandra was unhappy about the party refusing him a ticket in Heggadadevanakote region.

"Ramachandra's exit will not make much difference. His influence is very limited. The BJP had approached several of our strongmen, but they refused because the numbers show that people in the Old Mysuru region support the Congress. Even JD(S) has considerable pull here. BJP leaders keep saying we have not developed the region. But Yeddyurappa has no accomplishments to showcase and they are relying on central schemes to attract voters. Nobody in Karnataka cares if Modi or Amit Shah deliver speeches. They care about their lives and what happens in their region. The Congress has delivered on the promises it made and they know it," a Congress leader said.

Sources in the BJP revealed that the party's grassroots-level support in the region is not as strong as that of the Congress or JD(S). They attribute this to the support both parties have drawn from the Ahinda vote bank and the farmers of the region due to the contributions made by the leaders in the past towards the Cauvery movement.

"Deve Gowda is known for helping farmers in the Cauvery Water Sharing Dispute with Tamil Nadu. Both Congress and JD(S) are known as pro-farmer parties in this region. The Chamarajanagar, Hassan, Kolar, Chikkaballapura, Mandya, Mysuru, Ramanagara, Chitradurga, Davangere and Tumakuru districts have been fortresses of the Congress simply because every Chief Minister from the party successfully managed to develop the region. BJP's entry was late and, by then, Congress had already established their base," the veteran BJP leader added.

BJP sources say that the caste factor is one of the major reasons why the party has found it difficult to break through. 

"The Congress has the Ahinda and the minorities; the JD(S) has Vokkaligas and minorities. The remaining vote share has never been able to ensure a win for the BJP. Hence, the campaign strategy is to address development rather than caste," a BJP insider added.

Insiders in the saffron party are apprehensive about a victory in these districts of the Old Mysuru region, which is why the party's strategists have planned yatras where Modi and Amit Shah will be present.

"We have to see what the final survey will say before we decide on the candidate list for the polls. Currently, the fight for Old Mysuru is a tough one," the leader said.