‘Image-Conscious’ Modi Stays Away From Karnataka Bypolls Campaign

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be part of the BJP’s campaign for the upcoming by-elections in Karnataka. Apart from PM Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and other senior central leaders too won’t campaign in the state – that’s what the BJP’s star campaigner list, released on Sunday, 18 November, says.

Even though a by-election, the polls on 5 December has the potential to bring down the BJP government in the state. As the BJP’s sweep in general election in April was credited to the ‘Modi factor’, his absence during the bypoll could hurt the party’s prospects.

The saffron party’s official explanation is that PM Modi doesn’t campaign for bypolls.

Also Read: 16 Disqualified Karnataka MLAs Join BJP; 13 Get Tickets for Bypoll

Sources in the BJP, however, said that the ‘image conscious prime minister did not want to associate himself with the poaching of MLAs’, which led to the BJP coming to power in the state. 

From Denial to Boasting About Poaching

Disqualified MLA Anand Singh joining the BJP. 

The recent change in the narrative over the poaching too is said to be a reason behind Modi’s decision. The BJP and the disqualified MLAs had denied any poaching during the early days of the political crisis. They had claimed that the 17 MLAs came out of their parties because they were unhappy with the Congress-JD(S) alliance.

However, after the Supreme Court verdict that allowed these disqualified MLAs to contest election, this narrative has changed.

Former Congress minister Ramesh Jarkiholi, on 15 November, announced to a gathering that he was the one who approached the BJP with the plans to topple government.

"“It was me. I first met Yediyurappa and told him I want to topple the coalition government. Initially, he suspected my motives, but I promised to keep my word. That’s how it all began” " - Ramesh Jarkiholi, to a crowd of BJP supporters in Belagavi.

Also Read: Karnataka Disqualified MLAs Talk Openly on How BJP Poached Them

He further added that the plan was approved by Amit Shah during a meeting in Hyderabad.

Similarly, another disqualified MLA and former JD(S) state president, AH Vishwanath, said he was approached by the BJP to resign. He had earlier claimed that he was quitting the party out of dissatisfaction over its functioning.

"“Yediyurappa invited me to join the BJP. He asked if more people like me could join the BJP to bring it to power” " - AH Vishwanath, to reporters at the BJP office in Mysuru.Opportunity for Yediyurppa

File photo of Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa. 

Even though his party’s chances in the by-elections could be affected, the absence of Modi and Shah is a blessing for Chief Minister Yediyurappa. Since the BJP’s landslide victory in the general elections, Yediyurappa has been sidelined in the party, with the RSS faction in the BJP taking prominent roles in the party.

With Modi not campaigning in the state, Yediyurappa will get a chance to prove he is a mass leader who can change the party’s fortunes in the state.

For Yediyurappa, the challenge would be the seats in north Karnataka.

While Yediyurappa has a large following of the Lingayat community here, his government’s poor performance in handling the flood situation had led to anti-incumbency in this region.

However, if Yediyurappa is able to get victories for the party in north Karnataka, riding on his popularity as a Lingayat strongman, he could revive his image in the party. At the same time, a defeat could give more ammunition for those who wants to bring him down.

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