Battle of words escalates in Karnataka as election campaign hits peak

The election rhetoric of the incumbent BJP and its rival Congress has boiled down to the “double engine” versus “trouble engine” narrative.

Published : May 08, 2023 16:19 IST - 4 MINS READ

A BJP flag for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s road show near Ramakrishna Ashram circle in Bengaluru ahead of the Karnataka Assembly election.

A BJP flag for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s road show near Ramakrishna Ashram circle in Bengaluru ahead of the Karnataka Assembly election. | Photo Credit: BHAGYA PRAKASH K

The war of words between the leaders of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party has extended beyond campaign platforms to newspaper and social media advertisements as both parties seek to undermine each other during the closing stages of the Assembly elections in Karnataka.

The BJP has adopted the phrase “double engine sarkara” (government), emphasising the advantage of having the same party in power at both the Centre and State levels. This headline featured prominently in all of the party’s advertisements across major print media outlets on May 8. The party argues that consistent party governance ensures the development of the state. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, a native of Karnataka and leading the Congress campaign, coined a rhyming phrase in response: “trouble engine government”. Notably, industrialist Gautam Adani, who faced accusations from former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, was absent from the advertisement campaigns.

On May 7, Kharge expressed his views in a tweet, stating, “Defeat the Price Rise imposed by the ‘Trouble engine govt.’ Stop the loot of 40% Commission Sarkara. Elect Congress, elect progress.” The Congress party launched an extensive ad campaign across major print, television, and social media platforms. One of their advertisements depicted two steam engines working against each other, symbolising the conflicting directions in which Karnataka is being pulled. The headline accompanying the image was “Trouble engine”.

Congress highlights price rise

The front pages of newspapers showcased advertisements by the Congress party, shedding light on the recent surge in prices. The party presented a comparative analysis of commodity rates during its previous governance and the current scenario:

CommodityPrice range
LPG gasRs. 413 to Rs. 1105
PetrolRs. 68 to Rs. 102
DieselRs. 55 to Rs. 88
Cooking oilRs. 60 to Rs. 210
RiceRs. 30 to Rs. 70

A focal point of the campaign was the significant increase in LPG prices. Adjacent to this information, the party delineated the price hike in various other items, expanding on the concerns faced by citizens. The advertisement concluded with a powerful slogan: “Double-Engine wrecks family budgets. Double-Engine is double droha. Choose wisely.”

Below this, the Congress listed its five major promises: Rs.2,000 per month for women, 200 units of free power, a substantial rise in unemployment allowance, 10 kg of rice per person per month, and free bus service for women. Notably, this advertisement coincided with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bangalore roadshow, adding a layer of significance to its timing.

Another Congress advertisement focused on what the party referred to as the “corruption rate cared 2019-2023”. It unveiled the rates of various posts and commissions related to government schemes and projects. The party claimed that the current government had allegedly siphoned off over Rs.1,50,000 crores from the people of Karnataka in the past four years, implying dire consequences if such actions persist. The Congress party received a notice from the Election Commission of India, demanding “empirical evidence” to substantiate their allegation of the BJP government’s involvement in 40 per cent commission. In response, the Congress accused the Election Commission of bias, asserting that the opposition was held to a higher standard of conduct compared to the BJP, which seemingly operated under different rules.

The BJP strikes back

On May 8, the BJP retaliated with prominent newspaper advertisements, drawing a comparison between the Congress party’s “vote bank politics” openly advocating for the separation of Karnataka from India and the BJP’s “Double engine sarkara” committed to a strong, secure, and united India.

According to the BJP advertisement, if the Congress were to come into power, they would repeal the anti-cow slaughter law, withdraw the anti-conversion law, establish Tipu University, observe Tipu Jayanthi, ban Bajrang Dal, revoke reservations for SC/ST, OBC, and allocate them to a single community, withdraw cases against terror organisations like PFI, as they had done by dropping charges against 1,600 PFI members.

On the other hand, if given another opportunity, the BJP pledged to achieve real social justice by providing reservations for SC/ST, OBC, and economically weaker sections, outlaw terrorist organisations such as PFI, implement a uniform civil code in Karnataka, ensure gender justice and equal rights for all, develop tourism circuits in Banavasi, Parashurama, Kaveri, and Ganagapura, and restore ancient cultural sites of Karnataka. Additionally, the BJP promised to provide Rs.25,000 to economically disadvantaged families for undertaking religious pilgrimages to Tirupati, Ayodhya, Kashi, Rameswaram, Kolhapur, Sabarimala, and Kedarnath.

The BJP advertisement concluded with a statement asserting that if the Congress had effectively served Karnataka over the past 65 years, there would be no need for deception, guarantees, and vote bank politics. It portrayed the Congress as a party in reverse gear, while highlighting Narendra Modi and the BJP’s commitment to building a better future for all at an accelerated pace and on a grand scale.

Significantly, the advertisement failed to mention any achievements of the Karnataka BJP government, a point that was criticised by Congress candidates and leaders during their final campaign day.

On May 10, the state will hold a single-phase poll, with the counting of votes scheduled for May 13. It is expected that the majority of the results will be announced on the same day.

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