Bengaluru: In the last phase of campaigning for Karnataka bypolls, the BJP appears to have pulled off a masterstroke over the divided Congress party by organising a series of joint campaigns of Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and his predecessor BS Yediyurappa.
On Friday, Bommai and Yediyurappa held three public meetings and also visited the local Lingayat mutt to seek the seer’s blessings, sending a loud message that everything is well between the two leaders.
Whereas, the Congress is battling the public perception of a divided party where Siddaramaiah and KPCC President DK Shivakumar are at loggerheads, projecting themselves as chief ministerial candidate. This is despite both leaders campaigning together for the bypolls.
The conversation between Congress leaders VS Ugrappa and MA Saleem linking state Congress Committee chief DK Shivakumar to an irrigation scam amid a high-pitched election campaign in a leaked video came as a shocker for the party which has been working overtime to win both Sindagi and Hanagal byelections.
The conversation gave enough ammunition to the BJP, who claimed it was the Siddaramaiah faction that had leaked the video.
They added that it was a ploy by Siddaramaiah to neutralise the plans of Shivakumar-faction to send the former chief minister to play a role in national politics, instead of playing any role in the state.
Not to forget, both Ugrappa and Saleem, are close aides of Siddaramaiah.
In the leaked video, one can hear Saleem calling Shivakumar “a drunkard” and eulogising Siddaramaiah over his firm voice while addressing people.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s intervention saw both the leaders burying the hatchet for a brief period, but it came out in the open after Sonia Gandhi summoned Siddaramaiah to Delhi and reportedly offered him a national role.
Both leaders have been at loggerheads on many issues, including projecting themselves as the chief ministerial candidate.
Taking advantage of the fissures in the Congress party ahead of the bypolls, the BJP has apparently changed its strategy of holding separate rallies by Bommai and Yediyurappa.
For the first time, Bommai and Yediyurappa, on Friday, campaigned jointly for the bypolls.
Yediyurappa had said he would campaign with Bommai if the party wanted it, but Congress took this lightly at the outset, but were soon surprised to see them campaigning together in Hanagal on Friday.
This took the steam out of the Congress’ strategy that was aimed at showing BJP as a divided party by fueling speculation that Bommai and Yediyurappa were not on good terms. The joint campaigning has sent out a loud and clear message to voters.
Bommai went on to laud Yediyurappa saying that he became chief minister with the blessings of his mentor. In reply, Yediyurappa said he may not be the chief minister but he has come to Hanagal to ensure Bommai’s victory.
He said it is a prestige battle for Bommai and he has to win at any cost since Hanagal falls in his home district and declared that he would undertake a statewide tour soon after the bye-elections to strengthen BJP.
Bommai described Yediyurappa as “Raja Huli” (Lion King), who has not lost a fan following even after “sacrificing” the chief minister’s post.