Inspired by the manner in which the BJP’s prime minister designate Narenda Modi built his brand, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is looking at upping his communications and considering even a social media foray where he lacks a presence at present.
Siddaramaiah, who is on a slightly shaky wicket after the Congress only managed to hold its ground in the state in the Lok Sabha polls, is considering a Twitter account and greater communication with the public through various media after seeing the Modi story, sources in the state government said.
The Karnataka chief minister, who at present has an email id that is operated largely by his personal staff, has since the Lok Sabha election results made inquiries on starting to communicate through Twitter and other sources like many tech-savvy politicians including Modi, the sources said.
At a co-ordination committee meeting of the state Congress – held a day ahead of the Lok Sabha election results – the AICC observer for Karnataka Digviijaya Singh, who is himself active on Twitter, had suggested that the Congress in Karnataka must talk more about its achievements and programmes through the mass media.
With the Congress suffering huge losses around the country in recent times, Karnataka remains one of the last large states, apart from Maharashtra, where the party is in power. The AICC is banking on the effective working of the state government over the next four years to shore up its own credentials.
Following the Lok Sabha election results on May 16, Siddaramaiah and state Congress president travelled to Delhi on May 17 to give the party high command a report on how it had fared in the polls. The chief minister had conveyed that the vote base of the Congress in Karnataka was intact despite the party winning only nine of the 28 seats in the state as opposed to the BJP’s 17 seats.
The chief minister had pointed out in the meeting with the Congress central leadership that in Karnataka, the party had seen an increase in the voting percentages in comparison to both the Assemly elections in 2013 – where the party won 121 seats of the 224 seats – and the 2009 parliament polls where the party had won six of the 28 seats.
“The Congress has won 40.8 per cent of the vote share in Karnataka compared to the 2013 Assembly vote share of 36 per cent and the 2009 vote share of 37.75 per cent. This is an indication that the party’s vote base is intact,” sources said.
The BJP’s vote share in Karnataka jumped by two percent from 41 to 43 per cent from the 2009 Lok Sabha polls where it won 19 of the 28 seats while the JDS saw its vote share in the Lok Sabha polls dip from 13.57 to 11 securing the party two seats compared to three in 2009. The BJP’s vote share in Karnataka more than doubled from the 20 per cent it won in the 2013 assembly polls.
Despite ensuring that the Congress did not lose ground in Karnataka, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is under pressure within the Congress on account of the losses suffered by the two candidates fielded from his own Kuruba community in the elections – A H Vishwanath in the chief minister’s home district and Basavaraj Hitnal in Koppal.
Siddaramaiah is likely to feel the pinch of a drop in his authority in the party in Karnataka in the course of picking candidates for 16 vacancies set to come up in June for the legislative council where the Congress is in a minority but has an opportunity to come into a majority.
In the 75-member council, BJP at present has 39 members, Congress 19, JD(S) 12, Independents 2 and three vacant posts. In June, 13 members will retire – nine from BJP, three from JD(S) and one from the Congress, creating 16 vacancies in all.
Of the 16 vacancies seven will be elected from the state assembly, five would be government nominated, while two each from the graduate and teachers’ constituency will have elections.
On account of the performance of some of his own candidates in the Lok Sabha polls, Siddaramaiah is likely to have less of a say in deciding candidates for the MLC positions, sources said.