True to the popular belief that the elections to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly will be a semi-final to the elections to the Lok Sabha expected to be held in mid-2014, national leaders of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party have commenced their campaign here in full gusto.

Senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party — L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley — are already in the thick of campaigning here and did their best to draw the attention of the voters in various towns across the State on Sunday, while the top brass of the Congress, including AICC president Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will be here over the next few days criss-crossing the State to woo the electorate. Ironically the issues being raised by the national leaders pertain to subjects not really relevant to the Assembly elections barring of course the misrule by the BJP and the corruption charges made out against it.

Vice-president of the AICC Rahul Gandhi was in the Raichur and Bijapur districts on Tuesday on a whirlwind visit and is expected to follow it up with further visits over the next week. The Congress has also roped in the Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, Kiran Reddy and Oomen Chandy, to garner the votes of the Telugu and the Malayalam speaking population which is in a big number in the districts bordering Andhra Pradesh and in Bangalore.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony who heads the Congress Coordination Committee for the legislative assembly elections, and Congress leader Ambika Soni will also be campaign in various parts of the State apart from the four Union Ministers from Karnataka — K.H. Muniyappa, M. Veerappa Moily, K. Rahman Khan and M. Mallikarjun Kharge.

While senior leaders of the two national parties may not be really conversant with the local problems in the Assembly constituencies where they address although they may be aware of the States issues vis-à-vis the Union government apart from the political issues, it should be noted that prominent national leaders can provide the right advantage to the candidates with their oratory and the power to draw the attention of the people. It is also another way of reducing election expenditure of candidates given the fact that the Election Commission of India is closely monitoring the expenditure incurred by each candidate and Rs. 16 lakh is the upper limit for such costs.

In the view of the Congress spokesperson and former MLC Prakash Rathod, the involvement of the national leaders has had an electrifying effect in electioneering since they have been capable of drawing large crowds apart from motivating the party workers. The speeches and personal interaction of the top political leaders at public meetings has been proven over time that they are much beneficial than advertisements in the media or the individual campaign by candidates.

While Mr. Advani campaigned over the weekend at Ranebennur and Davangere, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Ms Swaraj, addressed a rally in Bangalore and Rajnath Singh campaigned in parts of Belgaum. An important campaigner for the BJP will also be Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and he is expected to address a string of meetings in several districts. His itinerary is however yet to be announced.

Over 3,600 candidates are in the fray for the May 5 elections and counting of votes is scheduled for May 8. The campaign by the national leaders apparently with a focus on the elections to the Lok Sabha has added a new dimension to the issues in Karnataka being heard at the national level.

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