BJP's seats going north while Congress' going south: Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Radhika Ramaseshan
Rajeev Chandrasekhar is not fazed by the pre-poll surveys that have projected an inconclusive verdict in Karnataka, with the Congress expected to emerge as the single largest party. “About the surveys, there are two things. The Congress is not forming a government, the Congress is going down from 130 to 85 and the BJP is going up from 44 to 90. Clearly, the movement is towards supporting the BJP. We have 15 more days to go, we have Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign. The trend is for the BJP going north and the Congress going south. If you look at the trend line and extrapolate, the BJP can only exceed 110 (the numbers it secured in 2008 when it first came to power in Karnataka),” claimed Chandrasekhar.

He emphasized that until the last day of campaigning, the BJP will continue telling its workers to “work hard” and the voters to “give a decisive mandate” for his party. “That’s very important, having a central and state government of the BJP. Breaking the jinx, if I can call it, will be beneficial to Karnataka and particularly its people,” he said.  

Chandrasekhar recently joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), although he had identified himself with certain issues the BJP flagged over the years, and got re-elected to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka. The BJP tasked him to be its principal communications strategist in the ongoing electioneering and collect and collate inputs for the manifesto on Bengaluru which is slated to be unveiled on May 1.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar
Chandrasekhar, who called himself a “champion of causes” and an entrepreneur, was clear about the message(s) he wanted to purvey down the line, not just in the state capital but across Karnataka. He told BS, “It is essential to place the facts of the last five years of the Siddharamaiah government in front of people and do so in a manner that does not allow the deliberate Cambridge Analytica-inspired distractions of judges’ impeachment, Hindu terror and Justice Loya to take over. Our communications strategy is clear and simple, to tell the voters what a disastrous track record Siddharamaiah has had. The burning Bellandur lake (in Bengaluru), farmers’ suicide, garbage, Rs 350 billions were spent on Bengaluru over the past five years and yet there’s not a sign to show for it. The fact is debt has doubled from 2013 to 2014 but we don’t see any new infrastructure that was created. You borrow 1.3 trillion more, the Centre has additionally granted 1.2 lakh crore. We have to place these facts to justify our request for a change in government.”

What about the BJP’s hot heads and motor mouths inclined to raising communally divisive subjects, without help from the Congress, that take away from the “development” narrative? Chandrasekhar said, “If you follow what the PM said to our MPs and MLAs, we are doing so much good work, for people to say things out of context and irresponsibly, that seems to distract people from our real work and hard work. He has cautioned my colleagues, speak only when you are required to, especially in today’s age of digital media when we speak to a larger audience. He has set the tone for what our leaders and karyakartas (workers) will speak on the ground. Stay focused on Siddharamaiah’s malgovernance.”

He believed the impending election was a “referendum” on the Siddharamaiah dispensation and the Congress and was, therefore, different from the 2013 and 2008 polls. “I have been a resident of Bengaluru for 40 years and the last five years have been the worst in Karnataka’s history. That fact is embedded not just in me or the BJP but across the board, Kannadigas feel this government has spent recklessly without bringing a positive impact on people’s lives. Roads have huge potholes, there’s a public health crisis because garbage is rotting in every neighbourhood, whether rich, poor or middle class, except in front of ministers’ homes. It’s not a fight between two individuals. It’s a fight between Siddharamaiah’s government and performance and Modi and (BS) Yeddyurappa’s BJP that proposes an alternate model for Bangalore and Karnataka that’s people-oriented, farmer-oriented, sustainable and corruption-free,” said Chandrasekhar.

Asked how the BJP will reconcile urban and some might say “elite” issues with those exercising the hearts and minds of the rural voters, Chandrasekhar invoked notions from Modi and said, “In the BJP under Modi, the development architecture is not about islands of development. It’s not about development for particular communities, a religion or a region but generally an effort to bring development across the board in the state.”

In creating a development model in Karnataka, Chandrasekhar was clear that Bengaluru was the pivot. “Bengaluru is priority number one for the way the BJP wants to fix things in Karnataka. It’s not just about the city because whether it is farming and other economic activities in the villages, Bengaluru is very important. It’s important if Karnataka is to remain relevant.”

He demurred with the idea that the IT sector was Bengaluru’s underpinning. “Every day I interact with small groups of residents. They come from IT but there are also retired government officials and veterans. Bengaluru is about the young and old, Kannadigas and non-Kannadigas and its voter mix is a combination of all this,” said Chandrasekhar, adding that the Congress’s Bangalore Development minister is a builder who “thinks of his next projects and not about the next generation of Bangaloreans.”