It’s now Karnataka chalo for upbeat BJP leaders

The conclusion of the Assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have turned the spotlight on Karnataka for the Bharatiya Janata Party, with party leaders finding the campaign in the hill State more useful as a template than Gujarat.

Speaking to The Hindu, party general secretary P. Muralidhar Rao said while victory in both States Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat was a huge boost to the morale of the party, it was the former that was more akin to the situation in Karnataka.

“Both the victories are important and will give energy to the party cadre, but here we are facing the Congress that holds power in the State; it is their record on governance, graft and delivery that we will challenge as the party did in Himachal Pradesh,” he said.

Mr. Rao rejected accusations that the BJP would use communal polarisation and Hindutva as its main plank , with Union Minister Ananth Hegde’s provocative speeches already making headlines in the State, rather than bread and butter issues.

“On the contrary, I would say that it is the Congress that does segmentary vote bank politics rather than keep focus on the issues and we have just been reacting to these issues, yet we are the ones being accused. For example, the emphasis on Tipu Jayanti by the Siddharamaiah government has to be explained — is he an important leader in the Congress’ pantheon?” Mr. Rao said.

The BJP leader then raised the issue of the Congress’ alleged silence of Sardar Patel. “Why isn’t Karnataka Congress talking about Sardar Patel instead — large chunks of the State, Hyderabad Karnataka, was added to the State after Patel ensured the accession of the erstwhile Hyderabad State into the Indian Union,” he said.

“Our workers are being killed in North and South Karnataka, should we keep quiet and not ask the government to take action?” Mr. Rao asked.

Air miles between Delhi and Bengaluru are already being clocked with Mr. Rao visiting the State, and Union Ministers Piyush Goyal and Prakash Javadekar also put in charge of the State and planning trips.

A big issue facing the BJP, however, is internal factional feuds, which senior leaders say was acute a couple of months ago but is being “handled.”

“B.S. Yeddyurappa is the declared chief ministerial face and more or less the party will — or will have to — fall in line. With party president Amit Shah now free of Gujarat, we expect these troubles to be over,” said a source.

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