Five days ago in Bengaluru, a young Dalit BJP karyakarta named Santosh was stabbed to death by Wasim, son of a local Congress leader. As is the ‘secular’ habit of the Congress government, the Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy gave a clean chit to the murderer and ruled out the intent to murder as the weapon was only a screwdriver. This was the 23rd murder of a Hindu activist after the Congress government came to power.
The reaction of the opposition to the murders, crime, corruption, deaths of officers and crumbling infrastructure was seen by people as less than satisfactory.
Meanwhile, the Central BJP leadership had assigned the task of touring the state and holding public meetings in every Assembly constituency, to state leaders with President B.S.Yeddyurappa at the helm. The goal was to call for much-required political change in the state. After a grueling 90-day Parivartana Yatra that would cover 6000 kms, it was to culminate in the Parivartana Rally in Bengaluru on 4th February. It was planned that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi would address the rally and sound the poll bugle for the upcoming elections.
The strength of the BJP has been its cadre. Leaders rise from the cadre here, as opposed to most other parties where dynasties & nepotism do not allow good leaders to emerge. Narendra Modi is the pride and role-model of every karyakarta because he has risen from the very bottom to become one of the most respected leaders in the world by the dint of his hard work and dedication in the service of the nation.
With frequent murders of Hindus activists, the energy among karyakartas was at an all-time low. The promise of the PM’s arrival in the state revived the hopes of not just the cadre and leaders but also that of people across the state, all of whom are desperate for change.
The enthusiasm was palpable with even the media starting to report the details of the preparations a week before the event. Teams of karyakartas were formed to manage traffic, vehicle parking, food & drinking water arrangements, stage, seating for the public & media, social media, transport etc.
In its first sign of nervousness, the state government propped up activists demanding a solution to the Mahadayi dispute to call for a bandh on rally day, a Sunday ! The High Court ruled the bandh as unconstitutional and it was withdrawn.
In another sign of nervousness, the Congress government sponsored a program a week ago to celebrate the birthday of Gauri Lankesh, the journalist who was murdered in Bengaluru. Speakers at the event included the now infamous Bharat-tere-tukde-honge gang- Jignesh Mewani, Kanhaiyya Kumar, Prakash Raj, Umar Khalid who took the opportunity to attack Modi instead of offering tribute to their beloved comrade, Gauri. The strategy was to sow the seed of hate against Modi just before his rally.
Their plan failed because 5 lakh people turned up at the rally and crores of people watched the PM’s speech on television and on social media.
The preparations for this rally began 2 weeks ago. Karyakartas and leaders arrived from every constituency on Sunday. For transport, 5000 buses, trains and other vehicles were arranged. To manage the traffic, volunteers spread out as far as Nelamangala, which is at a distance of 45 kms from the venue. Arrangements were made for lunch and dinner parcels for 2 lakh people. Caps were handed to people entering the venue, for protection from the sun. Drinking water and butter milk were available for everybody.
People from all walks of life attended the rally. The eagerness to witness the program was such that a polio-afflicted man walked 6 kms from the Hebbal flyover to the venue when the traffic there halted. The government resorted to dirty tricks when it became apparent that the program would be a huge success. Several areas in the city reported power outage and people could not watch the speech. Some karyakartas alleged that fewer policemen than expected were deployed at the venue. Several vehicles heading to the venue were stopped. Only after a leader, who was managing the traffic alongside karyakartas, reproached the police they permitted the vehicles to proceed. Such leaders, who strategise in war rooms to win elections, demonstrate how to work on the ground also. They silently propel lakhs of karyakartas by example to work for the party and nation.
The Congress government has been using every trick in the book to hide its failures. When rains lashed the state a few months ago, the crumbling roads & infrastructure led to several deaths. To distract people from the issue, the investigation team was made to announce that it had identified Gauri’s killers. Whenever a Hindu karyakarta was murdered, the government came forward to defend the murderer(s) who hailed from the ‘minority’ community. It has withdrawn cases against criminals of the PFI, which is an Islamist terror organization. The government has shielded Ministers accused in the death of officers and in corruption cases.
The recent “Sadhana Samavesha” programs held by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah across the state on the pretext of highlighting welfare schemes have been really Congress party programs which were financed by the state and used as a platform to attack political opponents. The steel bridge flyover project was dropped after a public backlash against misuse of public funds and damage to the environment. The agriculture sector is in distress and 3,500 farmers have committed suicide in this regime but the allocated Central funds have not been disbursed by the state.
With such a track record, it is expected that the Congress government will be defensive to the campaign of a Prime Minister who has ensured transformational reforms, development programs and a corruption-free government at the Centre. Therefore, it was not surprising to see Congress workers protesting at the rally venue by selling pakodas. This was in response to Modi ji’s speech where he said that “even selling pakodas is a job”. Little do they realize that they are insulting every small entrepreneur and also Swami Vivekananda who said -
‘Let a new India arise from the grocer’s shop, from beside the oven of the fritter-seller. Let her emanate from the factory, from the marts and from the markets. Let her emerge from the groves and forests, from the hills and mountains’
Unlike Sonia Gandhi who reads her speeches or Rahul Gandhi who gets distracted, the PM spoke at the rally in both Hindi and Kannada without looking at a piece of paper. The Congress has been using issues in a divisive manner for its political ends. With the PM speaking in Kannada and reverentially remembering the heroes of Karnataka, the Congress appears to have lost the language card too. It must be remembered that BJP leader Sushma Swaraj learnt Kannada when she stood for elections from Bellary. Such is the respect BJP has for language and culture.
The Prime Minister, in his speech spoke about the Centre’s fund allocations to Karnataka, the various social security schemes like Jan Dhan, Ujjwala Yojana, suburban rail project, road & rail infrastructure projects, health care & Ayushman Bharat, airports, irrigation projects, soil health cards, increased MSP, agriculture markets, rural infrastructure, Mudra loans, Make In India, Startup India, Skill India, housing for all, Triple Talaq Bill etc.
He also highlighted the corruption in the Siddaramaiah government by calling it a 10% commission sarkar, its lethargy in taking up projects & completing targets under Swacch Bharat, Smart City Mission etc.
The rally confirmed that the Modi wave is intact and in fact, stronger than ever. The PM’s speech has revived hopes in the people of the state. For the karyakartas, just the presence of Narendra Modi here was enough to reinvigorate them. The organizing of the massive rally and the speech of leaders especially that of the PM, is akin to a training session in management, for karyakartas and for leaders to emulate in their constituencies.
It is every karyakarta’s ardent wish to hear Modi ji’s speech live. But many karyakartas were busy with tasks and were happy to be useful elsewhere. Such is the cadre’s discipline and dedication to duty. When I spoke to a karyakarta after the event, he told me that he and most others had not eaten anything the whole day as they were busy with their responsibilities. But when they saw Modi ji arriving, their energy was completely replenished and they are most certain it will not lessen until the elections are done and dusted. The sounding of the poll bugle by Modi ji has rejuvenated both karyakartas and leaders in the BJP. They seem determined towards their goal of “Congress Mukt Karnataka”.
Even as the PM completed his speech, the Congress party began its unsavory attacks on social media and offered meek counters in press conferences. With barely 2 months for Assembly elections, this government has little time to correct its blunders even if it wants to. If anything, the Congress will unleash ugly forces to retain the only big state it governs. But its divisiveness and desperation is becoming all too evident to the people of the state. As the PM rightly said, Congress is standing at the exit gate of Karnataka.
(All opinions expressed by the author are personal)