In what may have come as a reality check to an otherwise over-confident Congress in Karnataka,Sonia Gandhi on Thursday addressed a meeting with a large number of empty chairs at Palace Ground in the capital city that comprises 28 Assembly seats.
With 70 seats in the 224-member Assembly being urban,a not-so-impressive gathering at the star campaigners meeting in Bangalore came as a warning signal to the Congress,although party sources blamed it on the sweltering heat.
The BJP presently holds 17 out of 28 seats in Bangalore urban district. There is a strong,palpable undercurrent against the ruling party,following five years of misrule marked by corruption. While Congress leaders are confident of winning at least 18-20 of these seats,so many empty chairs at Sonias meeting did not inspire much confidence.
On a day when Modi sought to revert to hardline Hindutva card referring to cow slaughter at Mangalore,Sonia asserted in Bangalore that the Congress is for all sections of society,including the SCs,STs and minorities.
In her rather brief address,she exhorted the people to give her party full mandate to provide a stable government. She said Karnataka was once the pride of India,but all this is history because the BJP betrayed your mandate. The BJP regime acquired a reputation for unprecedented loot,illegal mining and land grabbing,she said,adding that the UPA government had given Rs 88,000 crore to Karnataka,but there are no roads,no infrastructure. Where is the 24 hours of electricity that they had promised? Where are the five lakh houses? Instead of looking after your interests,the BJP serves the greed of its own leaders and its close friends, she said.
Castigating the BJP for single-handedly stalling the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha,she said,The Congress makes no false promises or claims. We only promise what we can deliver. What is the point of promising 24 hours of electricity when you cannot give it? That is why we have promised lesser number of hours of electricity,but promise that we will deliver it.
While the enthusiastic response to her speech and the fact that the people did not leave the ground until her helicopter was out of sight proved Sonias personal appeal and popularity,party stalwarts from Karnataka appeared to have lost the connect with the masses.
An array of leaders S M Krishna,K Rehman Khan,G Parmeshwar,D K Shiv Kumar,C K Jaffer Sharief,and Chiranjeevi who is from Andhra Pradesh stood for an hour and lined up near the dais to greet Sonia,but they remained completely aloof from the gathering making no attempt to reach out to them.
The Congresss failure to organise a big gathering for their party presidents meeting could also be attributed to lack of coordination among state leaders with at least half-a-dozen contenders for the chief ministers post focussing their energy on downsizing one another with the partys victory perceived to be a forgone conclusion. Given that the JD(S) is making its presence felt in Bangalore urban area,turning it into a triangular contest on most of the seats,the not-so-impressive gathering at Sonias meeting on Thursday highlighted the perils of complacency.