In Karnataka, political discourse gets lower by the day in pitched bypoll battle

Nalin Kumar Kateel  

Though fierce attacks on the Opposition are nothing uncommon ahead of elections, the upcoming bypolls for two Assembly seats in the State have seen the political discourse getting lowered to the level of personal attacks.

On Sunday, the Congress described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an “illiterate” in a tweet and the BJP responded to it by calling Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as “Pappu”. However, soon after, KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar expressed regret over his party’s personal attack on the Prime Minister and asked the party to delete the tweet.


But the trend of indulging in personal attack got even worse with BJP State president Nalin Kumar Kateel on Tuesday calling Mr. Gandhi a “drug addict” and “drug peddler” citing unnamed media reports. Even as these remarks kicked up a political storm, the BJP continued its personal attack on Wednesday by accusing JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy of “bigamy”.

No dip stick

The lowering of political discourse has made saner leaders across political spectrum to wonder over the reason behind such a trend. In fact, the two Assembly seats which are going to bypolls are confined to northern region and hence the results may not be a dip stick for the entire State.

But it appears that the timing and context of the bypolls have made them important. As these bypolls are going to be a precursor to the 2023 Assembly elections, political parties are believed to be using them to galvanise their cadre and set a trend. In fact, the parties appear to be using these bypolls as a launch pad to begin an early preparation for the 2023 elections, feel political observers.


Another possible dimension that has triggered the trend is change of guard in the BJP with Basavaraj Bommai replacing veteran B.S. Yediyurappa as not just Chief Minister but also the leader steering its poll campaign. While the BJP does not want to take any chances due to change of guard and is going very aggressively to prove that the new regime is as stronger as the older one, the Opposition parties too are keen to explore the possibility of breaking the barriers during the transitional stage of the new political order in the BJP. This context is also believed to be one of the reasons for political parties mounting attacks on multiple fronts on their rivals.

Under pressure

Also, top leaders of all the three prominent political parties — BJP, Congress and JD(S) — are under pressure to protect their political space due to the power struggle within their organisation. While stakes are high for Mr. Bommai and Mr. Kateel in the BJP to prove that they have the calibre and capability to ensure winning streak for the party, there appears to be a shadow-boxing in the Congress between its top leaders Siddaramaiah and Mr. Shivakumar regarding supremacy in the party.

The JD(S) is not devoid of problems as it is under immense pressure to protect its political identity and to prove that it is still a force to reckon with in a bid to put an end to desertion by its MLAs. This is being reflected in the manner in which Mr. Kumaraswamy is taking on the RSS head on. Interestingly, various leaders in the BJP, especially those eyeing a ministerial berth, are using the opportunity by joining those strongly defending the RSS to send a message to their party bosses.

These internal pressures and pulls in all the parties too appear to have contributed to the aggressive posture that has resulted in personal attacks, lowering the political discourse in the State.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 6:07:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/political-discourse-gets-lower-by-the-day-in-pitched-bypoll-battle/article37101088.ece

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