In the final, hectic leg of campaigning ahead of the May 10 assembly polls, the BJP and the Congress are leaving no stone unturned to emerge victorious in Karnataka. While the BJP packed in multiple rallies by its top leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress has roped in its stalwart Sonia Gandhi to address a rally in Hubbali on Saturday.
The high-stakes Karnataka polls is a prestige issue for the Congress, which is also evident from the fact that the Hubbali rally will be Sonia's first poll rally in four years. The former Congress chief last addressed a rally during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Sonia will be accompanied by her son and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who has been relentlessly campaigning in the south state along with his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Rahul has so far addressed 17 rallies and roadshows in Karnataka, while Priyanka has addressed 19. On May 8, the last day of campaigning, Rahul is expected to hold a press meet.
The Congress's campaign is expected to pick up momentum with Sonia's presence. In Hubbali-Dharwad Central, the Congress has fielded Jagdish Shettar, former Karnataka CM who quit the BJP after he was denied a ticket. With Shetttar, a prominent Lingayat leader on their team, the Congress hopes to cash in on the community's votes. The BJP has fielded Mahesh Tenginkai in this segment.
With all hopes pinned on Karnataka, the Congress needs a victory to stay relevant as the opposition join together to tackle the BJP ahead of the 2024 general elections. Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, who hails from the state, has also been campaigning extensively as the party seeks to wrest power from the BJP.
The Congress campaign took an unexpected hit when the party, in its manifesto, proposed banning the Bajrang Dal if it came to power. As the BJP wasted no time in turning it into a poll issue and targetting the Congress, the party went into damage control mode. Karnataka party chief D.K. Shivakumar took up a temple run and promised to build more Hanuman temples and renovate existing ones, while senior leader Veerappa Moily turmed defensive and said there was no such decision.
Modi's rally today
PM Modi, who has already squeezed in six rallies and two roadshows over the last week, will hold another roadshow in Bengaluru on Saturday. The roadshow would pass through the city's 17 Assembly constituencies. The Prime Minister will cover a distance of 10.1 km from 11 am to 1 pm, and 26.5 km from 4 pm to 10 pm, BJP leaders said.
Modi has been stressing on the BJP's 'double-engine' sarkar and highlighting the government's strengths, while also targetting the Congress. At the Tumakuru rally on Friday, Modi predicted a thumping victory for the BJP in Karnataka.