With assembly polls in Karnataka only months away, and amid the pressure to deliver and bring BJP back to power in the state, it has been a race against time for Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who completes one year in office on Thursday.
As he looks to lead the party in the assembly polls, due before May next year, and break the decades-old jinx of no party in government retaining power in the state (since 1985), Bommai now has merely eight to nine months left to repackage and sell his administration’s development narrative to voters.
To highlight his government’s achievements and to bring back its development agenda to the fore, the ruling BJP is organizing a mega rally at Doddaballapura, some 40 km from here, on July 28, the date on which exactly one year ago Bommai took over the mantle of power from the BJP’s seasoned oarsman and his ”political mentor” B S Yediyurappa.
The mega event named ‘Janotsava’ (festival of people) which will see the mobilization of lakhs of beneficiaries of state government’s schemes, is likely to be attended by BJP national President J P Nadda, and it is aimed to send out a message of development, as the party has set a target of winning 150 seats in the polls next year.
According to party sources, projecting the development agenda is crucial for the party ahead of polls in the state, as the communal narrative has partly overshadowed its works, amid flare-ups in divisive issues.
Bommai too had recently said that the BJP in Karnataka will go before the people for the 2023 assembly elections with positive politics and its report card on good governance.
Communal issues linked to anti-conversion legislation, hijab and halal controversy, the row over the ban on Muslim traders during temple fairs, and the use of loudspeakers at religious places, made headlines during the last one year under this administration putting the government on the back foot.
According to a party functionary, communal issues have overshadowed the developmental works of this government, and there is a need to bring it to the fore and tell to the people about ”our good work”, as only emotive ones don’t get votes in elections.
He said there is a need to highlight the Bommai government’s push for reforms and welfare schemes such as a scholarship program for the children of farmers, weavers, and fishermen, Amrith schemes, and relaunching of the Yashaswini scheme among others.
Karnataka has remained the preferred investment destination in the country, with the highest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows, said another party leader, noting that ”achievements in investments, job creation, skill development, support to new age technology and skills and its advantages, need to be told effectively.” Allegations of corruption have made the Bommai government go on the defensive.
State contractors’ association, writing to the Prime Minister complaining that they have to pay a 40 percent commission to Ministers and legislators, rocked the government. This was followed by the resignation of senior BJP leader K S Eshwarappa as Minister following the suicide of contractor Santosh Patil alleging demand for a 40 percent cut by his supporters.
Also, allegations of Bitcoin scam, and PSI recruitment scam, which saw AGDP rank official being arrested, have put the government in the dock, as it also faced the ire from a section of educationists, thinkers, and writers regarding revision of school textbooks and allegations of ”saffronisation of education” as per RSS agenda.
Against the general feeling that existed when he took over, Bommai in a way has managed to make it clear that he can run the government coming out of the shadows of his predecessor Yediyurappa, by navigating the choppy waters of politics within the BJP, striking a balance between ”old and new guard, natives and migrants” in the party.
Though there was some amount of unease among senior state leaders following the announcement by Union Home Minister Amit Shah last September that the party would face the next election under Bommai’s leadership, the Chief Minister has been able to manage his position without any rebellion, despite facing some electoral defeats in his home district, as he enjoys strong backing from the high command.
However, discontent has been simmering within the party, and the Chief Minister has been under intense pressure for some time now, over expansion and rejigs of Cabinet not taking place, to make way for the fresh faces, ahead of elections.
Though there were reports of Cabinet expansion by filling in five vacant posts or some kind of a rejig by dropping a few and inducting an equal number of new faces, and talks that- Gujarat like complete top to bottom overhaul of the state ministry- may take place, nothing has happened so far, and many aspirants feel it is too late now with polls fast approaching.