Who is afraid of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath in Karnataka? The Congress isn't. But the BJP should be.
In the last one month, Adityanath has made two noisy visits to Karnataka, accusing the Congress government of being anti-Hindu and reminding people that the state was the abode of Lord Hanuman. He is sure to descend on Karnataka, again and again, to campaign for the BJP in the Assembly elections to be held in the next three months. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. PTI
Adityanath was a "star campaigner" in last month’s Assembly elections in Gujarat where he addressed 35 rallies. If the BJP is to be believed, he transported audiences there into such a phantasmagorical world that they voted for the party without question. He is sure to be a "star campaigner" in Karnataka as well and wave his magic wand.
But therein lies the problem. In Karnataka, his campaign may have the opposite effect.
Karnataka's voters aren't ready and willing to fall for Adityanath's Hindutva claptrap. A little understanding of the history of elections in Karnataka and a peek into the mind of the state's average voter would make it amply clear that Karnataka is not Gujarat. It's difficult to believe that BJP president Amit Shah, who is to elections what Einstein was to physics, is unaware of this.
Shah can't possibly forget that the BJP lost badly in places visited by Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat and a "star campaigner" in Karnataka during the state's previous Assembly elections in 2013. But just a year later, during the Lok Sabha elections, when he made four visits and addressed a dozen rallies, the BJP won 17 of the state's 28 Lok Sabha seats. There is a lesson for the BJP to learn from this.
In 2013, voters wanted to throw out the state's BJP government because of corruption scams involving its chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, as also infighting, political instability, moral policing by its cadres, and several other reasons. Even Modi was of no help though he was popular among a section of the voters in Karnataka by then. At that point, most voters saw no sense in returning BJP to power. But a year later, it made enough sense for them to have Modi as the prime minister.
This dual voting — voters choosing one party at the Centre and another at the state government level — is very typical of Karnataka. So, if the BJP is unlucky enough to lose the upcoming Assembly election, it can hope to do well in the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Yogi is not Modi
As for the Assembly election campaign, the BJP leaders must know that Yogi Adityanath is not Narendra Modi. Unlike Adityanath, Modi talks about jobs, roads and water. That's the reason why he drew huge, cheering crowds in Karnataka in 2013, though the party lost the election. And that's the reason why he bagged most of the parliamentary seats in the state the next year.
Even now, a mention of Modi's name draws satisfied smiles from most people in Karnataka, though the novelty of having him as prime minister has dimmed and his government's performance has fallen woefully short of expectations. He is still the man they trust more than any other leader.
Some BJP insiders hint at a hidden strategy behind deploying Adityanath in Gujarat and Karnataka. They imagine that Adityanath's Hindutva complements Modi's development pitch, to supply a potent combination that can sweep voters off their feet even before they know it. But it's doubtful whether this cocktail will get Karnataka voters on a high.
The BJP seems to overestimate the role Hindutva could play in Karnataka. Hindutva was only one part of the BJP's growth story in the state.
The rise and fall of BJP in Karnataka Year of election Assemb ly seats won (Total: 224) Vote share %
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