With 10 days to go for the all-important election in the south Indian state of Karnataka, the battle is intensifying. Sensing that the Bharatiya Janata Party is on the backfoot, the Congress party has stepped up its attack on the issue of corruption. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi appealed to the people to bring down the “40% commission government” to 40 seats in the upcoming polls.
For the incumbent BJP, corruption scandals of the state government are its Achilles heel which may trip them. The party has faced serious allegations over the years that pushed them off its moral high ground on corruption.
Bribery allegations against BJP
The contractors association’s allegation of a 40 per cent commission for contracts, a BJP MLA’s arrest in a bribery case, and Lingayat religious leader Dingaleshwara Swami’s allegation of a 30 per cent commission demanded from mutts to release funds: all have cast a shadow on the party’s prospects.
Indeed, it was quite a telling moment when federal Home Minister Amit Shah told a rally, “we (BJP) will give such a government that it will rid Karnataka of corruption and make it a number one state in South India within five years”.
Interestingly, the BJP at the centre is trying to turn the tables on the Opposition on the same issue for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Prime Minister Modi recently laid out the template for his election campaign accusing the Opposition of corruption. “All corrupt faces are coming together on one platform … because the BJP is waging war against corruption”, he thundered.
The BJP has also released a video titled “Congress Means Corruption” that begins with “Congress has looted Rs 48,20,69,00,00,000 (4.82 trillion) from the public in 70 years of its rule.” BJP leaders say they have to remind voters about the corruption scandals that hit the UPA government. Except they can’t explain why they face similar scandals in Karnataka.
BJP themes for Lok Sabha poll campaign
The BJP’s Lok Sabha campaign will centre around the two themes of corruption and dynasty to take on the Opposition. This offensive on corruption also comes when the BJP faces the heat on the Adani issue. The government and the stock market regulator SEBI have said and done nothing since the Hindenburg allegations surfaced in January. Rahul Gandhi has alleged his disqualification from Parliament resulted from raising the issue strongly. And the entire second half of Parliament’s budget session was wiped out over this.
But on the dynasty issue too, the BJP seems to have amnesia when it comes to Karnataka. Several tickets have been given to dynasts, including former chief minister Yediyurappa’s son Vijayendra. Yediyurappa’s elder son, Raghavendra, is already a BJP MP.
The Congress claims 34 of the 212 BJP candidates are linked to “nepotism” and “parivarwaad”. In many instances, tickets have been given to more than one family member, violating one of the BJP’s rules of ‘one family, one ticket’.
Ultimately, electoral compulsions have forced the BJP’s hand on the dynasty in Karnataka. As the countdown begins for 2024, it will be interesting to see if the BJP can sustain the heat on corruption and dynasty against the Opposition. Or whether its balloon will be punctured.