Karnataka Polls: Yatras Galore as BJP, Cong, JDS Hit the Road for Campaigning

Karnataka Elections 2023

It’s the season of yatras in poll-bound Karnataka as the paths of three major political parties crisscross, quite literally, in their feverish preparations for the upcoming assembly elections. The BJP, Congress and JDS leaders are expected to be on wheels most of the time, trying to garner support for their parties so much so that even the state budget session – scheduled to begin today – is expected to see a poor turnout.

All three parties have launched their own yatras and claim to be confident of winning over 100 seats in the 224-member assembly. The ruling BJP has set its target on 150-plus seats, while the Congress announced that their surveys showed they will win over 130 seats this time. Regional party JDS, led by former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, has also set its target on 123 seats even though the highest number of seats secured by the party was 58 in 2004.

BJP, the rath yatra specialists

Intensifying its election pitch, the BJP has planned a series of yatras, two of which have already been completed – Jana Sankalpa Yatra (October 2022) and the Vijay Sankalp Yatra (January 2023). For the Jana Sankalpa Yatra, Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai and parliamentary board member BS Yediyurappa fanned across Karnataka as they built on their election pitch.

The ruling party also held the nine-day Vijay Sankalp Yatra, a booth-level campaign aimed at reaching out to households detailing the BJP’s good governance over the last four years.

The BJP recently announced the launch of four mega ‘rath yatras’ designed to counter the Praja Dhwani Bus Yatra by the Congress and the Pancharatna Yatra by the JDS.

Leaders of the BJP told News18 that the decision to hold ‘rath yatras’ was made during the BJP national executive meeting held in Delhi last month, and to ensure that the momentum of support for the party continues in the southern state. The BJP is hopeful of coming to power with a single majority this time.

“We (BJP) formed the government for the first time in south India in 2008. The wave was in our favour. Since then, we have grown from strength to strength. Today, we are in power but we have the capability of sitting in power and delivering good governance without any support of any other party. It is just a matter of days and the people of Karnataka will vote in our favour, we are confident,” said a senior BJP leader who did not wish to be named.

Starting February 26, the four rath yatras are expected to end on March 23. The teams that will coordinate the yatras will be guided by Bommai, state president Nalin Kumar Kateel, former CM BS Yediyurappa, and state incharge Arun Singh. These yatras will also see Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior national leaders taking part in key constituencies. State vice-president and Yediyurappa’s son BY Vijayendra has also been given a key role of heading the committee that organises conventions of different morchas in all the 224 assembly constituencies.

Yatra to show unity in state Congress ranks

The opposition Congress has launched its bus yatra named ‘Praja Dhwani’ (people’s voice) to highlight the “administrative collapse” under the BJP. Split into two phases, the first leg of this campaign on wheels was launched from Belagavi’s Veer Soudha, the place where Mahatma Gandhi presided over the 1924 session of the Indian National Congress on January 11. Over the next 18 days, senior Congress leaders, including leader of opposition Siddaramaiah, campaigned across 22 districts with the yatra finally concluding in Bidar on January 29.

The second leg of the yatra was launched on February 3, and will see both Siddaramaiah and state Congress president DK Shivakumar put up a united front and cover Karnataka’s districts from north to south. Though there have been reports of a deepening rift between the two leaders, the party has advised them to work unitedly to bring the Congress to power again. Split into two teams, one is expected to campaign across 14 districts of North Karnataka, while the other will cover 14 districts of South Karnataka – all over a period of 30 days.

Yatra good head start for JDS

The JDS has had a good head start in its election campaign with its ‘Pancharatna Yatra’, which was launched in December. Kumaraswamy, who has been CM of three coalition governments – twice with the Congress and once with the BJP – is hoping to garner maximum support by propagating his fivefold plan – ‘paanch ratnas’. He has promised to implement people-friendly welfare schemes in the areas of education, health, housing, farmer welfare, and employment.

Busy with this yatra, Kumaraswamy did not attend the entire winter session held in Belagavi in December and is not expected to attend this budget session as well. This is due to the third leg of the yatra, which was launched on February 8, and the former CM has been on the road since.

Political analyst Sandeep Shastri said political yatras helped a party galvanise workers and supporters while also displaying strength on the ground. He observed that while enthusing supporters, political parties are also using the 24-hour media coverage as another platform to broaden their presence across the state.

“Whether the presence of those at the yatras is converted into votes in favour of a party is yet to be proven,” he told News18.

On the question of parties launching yatra for a yatra, Shastri said a party was forced to launch a yatra so as not to be seen as lagging behind but this was nothing but “competitive support projection”.

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