Karnataka: Congress loses its swagger

The Congress party started feeling the tremors — and significantly quite high at that on the political scale — even before the blast took place. Events over the past week and unfolding even now have shown that the Congress party has lost that swagger in its steps just over two weeks away from the polling date.

Wednesday’s bomb blast on the eve of elections to the state legislative assembly has shaken not only the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but other parties too — including the main opposition Congress party that is seeking to ride to power on a wave of perceived anti-incumbency.

The Congress party started feeling the tremors — and significantly quite high at that on the political scale — even before the blast took place.

Events over the past week and unfolding even now have shown that the Congress party has lost that swagger in its steps just over two weeks away from the polling date.

The first was when the Congress party dumped its own vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s norms for distribution of party tickets for the May 5 polls.

Firstly, the Congress party gave tickets to “defectors” from the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular) against Rahul’s express statement that “leaders from other parties parachute in just before the elections and fly away after getting defeated”.

Secondly, Rahul’s diktat that no person with a criminal background should be given the ticket was also unceremoniously thrown out of the window.

Third, Rahul had also said that those who had faced defeat in two previous elections will not be given the ticket; this has also been flouted.

Fourth is the question of fielding of the kin of Congress leaders. That too has been ignored. (Well, did not Rahul know that DNA matters?)

The Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee has no convincing answers.

Congress party symbol

Congress party symbol

The party has also resorted to dirty tricks. A case in point is the surreptitious release of a sleaze CD involving a twice-elected sitting BJP MLA from Udupi assembly. The popular MLA opted out of the race since there was no time for him to clear his name before the polling date.

In the same Udupi constituency, in the scenic west coastal region of the state, the Congress fielded a candidate who had lost twice earlier.

Not only that, the candidate, Pramod Madhwaraj, now faces charges of violating the Model Code of Conduct. He, along with the chief of a district cooperative bank, is alleged to have offered gold coins to Self Help Groups that get him the largest chunk of votes from their respective areas. The cases are registered against anti-corruption rules under the Representation of People’s Act and the Indian Penal Code.

In Bangalore, a Kannada film producer-cum-local Congress corporator who got the ticket for the assembly, reportedly threatened an election official. N Muniratna, the party’s nominee from Rajarajeshwari Nagar, was detained on Thursday and later let out on bail.

Muniratna already started behaving as if he had been elected as a minister when he threatened the constituency’s returning officer K Jyothi and her staff.

K Muniratna

K Muniratna

Muniratna and his goons asked the RO to check and cross-check his documents just before noon and later came back in the evening demanding to know who the other candidates who had filed their papers were and their details (read more here).  “If you ask anything later, then remember the bomb blast in Malleswaram?” he reportedly told the personnel on duty.

Muniratna now faces upto two years in jail under charges under Sections 506 and 353 (intimidation and threat to a public servant to prevent him/her from discharging their official duties).

The Congress also faces a massive revolt in many constituencies over the selection of candidates with many rebels in the fray. Even where there are no rebel candidates, like in Mangalore South, many workers have decided to stay away from campaigning if not worse, ensuring the defeat of the official candidates.

That Wednesday’s blast shook the Congress party to the core came to the forefront when leader of the opposition S Siddaramaiah made some insensitive remarks. Siddaramaih, who was confident that he would be made the chief minister in case the Congress came to power, drew a parallel to the 2008 blasts outside a court in Hubli in north Karnataka when the BJP came to power and said: “It is quite possible that the BJP encouraged these blasts to gain in the elections”.

Similar insensitive comments also came from a senior Congress leader in New Delhi, Shakeel Ahmed, who was later rightly ticked of by other leaders in the party.

But at the lower levels too, the confidence that was oozing among party workers, has dimmed. Already, they are increasingly doubtful about their party’s chances, but on the record they admit that it is not going to be easy any longer.

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