NEW DELHI: The election bugles have started sounding in Karnataka, with the Congress now following the BJP Hindutva trajectory with what it claims is a ‘strategy’ to claim the space. Preparations are reportedly afoot to take Congress president Rahul Gandhi on a tour of temples in Karnataka, Gujarat style.

BJP Union Minister of State Ananthkumar Hegde has promised that the Constitution of India will be changed, and attacked secularists for being bastards, albeit slightly more politely by saying that they do not have a parentage. He said, “A few people say the Constitution mentions the word secular, so you have to agree. Because it’s there in the Constitution, we will respect it, but this will change in the near future. The Constitution has changed many times before. We are here and have come to change the Constitution. We will change it,”

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah insisted that he is the real Hindu with a television channel reporting him as saying, “BJP is full of fake Hindus. They use it to fool people and to win elections. We are the real, tolerant, inclusive Hindus. We love our religion and respect others faith. My family has built a Rama temple at my village Siddaramanahundi near Mysore. My parents named me Siddarama because of their devotion for the god Rama”.

The Karnataka Assembly elections due before May next year, will see a triangular fight between the BJP, Janata Dal(S) and the Congress, with the latter unwilling to have an electoral alliance with the Deve Gowda party. The CM who is presently determining party strategy for the elections in the state is focusing on a cocktail of regionalism, Hindutva and development and seems to have convinced New Delhi that this will work in favour of the party, despite the strident rhetoric of the BJP whose central Minister has now spoken of changing (not amending) the Constitution to weed out secularism altogether.

Although the central leadership has still to condemn these remarks Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said, ““Anantkumar has no culture. He does not know political or parliamentary language, or even the social system in India. How can he change the Constitution, they cannot make India a Hindu Rashtra. There are 125 crore people in India and all of them are Indians… only Brahmins cannot be glorified.”

Siddaramaiah is wooing the middle class of Bengaluru, and recently released a city logo---the first for any city in India. Borrowing from the European example, the crowdsourced logo is a mix of Kannada and English, and emphasises the “Be U’ from Bengaluru, very much on the lines of the Amsterdam “I Am” logo. The focus here is on techonology and development as encapsulated by the capital of the state.

The CM has also been taking up regional issues, on the lines of BJP’s Gujarati Asmita. Here this is working more in favour of the Congress, mainly because the Congress has made the Kannada language and the state flag central to this issue. The BJP cannot embrace either, because of its fixation with Hindi.

However, on the issue of communalism both seem to be more in sync although local Congress leaders insist that there is nothing like soft or hard communalism. And that the party stands for inclusive politics, embracing diversity and unity unlike the BJPs Hindutva that tends to divide through hate.

The BJP is raising the issue of Tipu Sultan and the Siddaramaiah government’s celebration of his anniversary. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath will be a major campaigner for the party in this state. It has placed the Congress sufficiently on the defensive for its leaders to plan a hectic temple tour for the party president as part of its “we are Hindus too” campaign. The argument here is that the Hindus should be weaned away from the BJP’s Hindutva.