Siddaramaiah
Siddaramaiah at a rally in Karnataka | Twitter @siddaramaiah
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Congress campaign picks up pace as it gears to defend one of its last bastions on 12 May; empowerment-centric manifesto expected soon.

New Delhi: Forty days before Karnataka votes to elect a new assembly on 12 May, the ruling Congress’s campaign has picked up pace. Congress president Rahul Gandhi is on the last leg of his ‘bus yatra’ across the state, which will conclude this week.

Gandhi’s bus — a campaign model he first tried in Gujarat with some success — will travel to Shivamogga and Davanagere in central Karnataka on 3 April and move to Chitradurga the next day. The yatra will travel to state capital Bengaluru and adjoining areas on 7 and 8 April, where it will end.

The yatra has seen Gandhi spend over 15 days in the state, spread across the Hyderabad-Karnataka and Mumbai-Karnataka regions, as they are known; coastal areas, and Mysuru. Each of the modules includes three or four receptions, an interaction with a group of people, culminating with a public speech addressing 25,000-35,000 people, sometimes from the bus itself.

Manifesto

If the Veerappa Moily-led committee is able to finalise an election manifesto by the end of the bus yatra, Gandhi may even release it in Bengaluru on 8 April, Congress sources in the capital said.

It is expected that the key thrust of the Congress manifesto will be the empowerment of marginalised people through implementable schemes, and development of urban infrastructure, they said.

Siddaramaiah’s social media savvy

Chief minister Siddaramaiah is leading the Congress campaign not just on the ground, but also on social media. Every BJP attack on social media is being handled by the CM’s in-house social media team, with a little ‘outside’ support from Congress headquarters in New Delhi.

The latest example of this is the point-by-point rebuttal of claims made by BJP president Amit Shah on the issue of fund allocation under the 14th Finance Commission, which was put up on Twitter Sunday.

While Congress social media chief Divya Spandana, who belongs to the state, is helping push the campaign, it is understood that the onslaught is being led by Siddaramaiah’s son Yathindra, who is expected to contest the polls from the CM’s stronghold, Varuna.

The approach, the party sources said, is similar to the one the Congress followed in Punjab with Captain Amarinder Singh, who was allowed to lead the campaign on his own terms. He even engaged poll strategist Prashant Kishor individually.

The only difference is that new party president Gandhi will be more heavily involved in the campaign than he was in Punjab a year ago, and word on the ground is that so far, he’s being received well by the public.

It remains to be seen whether Gandhi will continue to campaign ‘on the road’ or shift to election rally mode, flying in helicopters. There is a view that road campaigning is a better outreach method than rally-hopping, as engagement levels are higher.

All these questions will be answered in the final phase of campaigning, as the Congress gears up to defend one of its last bastions.

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