NEW DELHI: Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah is trying hard to set the stage for a Karnataka victory when the state goes to the polls next month. But somehow the expected is not happening, and while he is fighting a valiant battle both in the field and on the social media he is getting better than he is able to give from Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

The Twitter campaign for instance is being dominated by the increasingly aggressive CM who does not let a BJP tweet pass without a hard hitting counter. Helping him of course is the social media cell of the Congress party that does not hesitate to post videos and photographs of empty seats facing Shah at his public rallies. When Shah retorts he is responded to by Siddaramaiah, with both sides exchanging barbs over crowds and response. It is , however, a fact that Shah has not been speaking to packed galleries as it were with the enthusiasm of BJP supporters certainly not on display.

The corruption card that Shah and the BJP have used to the hilt in other Assembly poll campaigns is barely effective here as the record of the party’s CM candidate Yeddyurappa is not particularly clean. In fact Shah seemed to have been victim of a Freudian slip when he spoke of the “most corrupt Yeddyurappa government” at a meeting in Karnataka. And while he quickly corrected himself to state “Siddaramaiah government” it was not before the slip had been recorded, and circulated over the social media in viral tweets eliciting wild humour.

In fact Yeddyurappa seems to have not taken off in the manner that the BJP had clearly hoped. The fact that he had split with the party and formed his own Karnataka Janata Party in 2013 before returning to the party fold has deprived him of support within the state unit. He is also seen as too old, and the age seems to be showing in his inability to counter the current CM effectively in the campaign.

He was selected as he is from the Lingayat community that the BJP hoped to consolidate through his candidature. More so as the Lingayats have traditionally opposed the Congress in Karnataka. However, the BJP did not reckon with the Siddaramaiah master stroke, wherein he agreed to their demand for a minority status recognition of the community. He underlined it with concrete action, by sending a proposal to the centre seeking minority status for the Lingayats under Section 3(c) of the National Commission for Minorities on March 23. In unequivocal pandering to regional sentiments the Chief Minister has not only supported the Lingayat community’s demand, but raised ‘Kannada pride’ with a proposal for a state flag, and of course promotion of the language.

Shah has been trying hard to win over the Lingayats regardless, and recently met the Lingayat seers to persuade them of the BJP’s concern for their welfare and development. But since he could not give the assurance they wanted, the seers followed with a letter urging Shah to agree to their demands. And now a forum of Lingayat seers has indirectly given a call to the community to support, not the BJP, but the Congress in the forthcoming Assembly polls.

“Ours is an apolitical forum and we don’t want to get involved in electoral politics. But, we have decided to support those who support us,” Shivamurthy Murugha Rajendra Swami of Chitradurga Murugha mutt said after a meeting of the forum in Bengaluru on Saturday. Mathe Mahadevi of Basava Dharma Peetha was even more categorical and said to reporters, “I personally support Congress and I appeal to Lingayats to support the Congress. Chief Minister Siaddaramaiah has taken a bold decision despite stiff opposition from the seers of Veerashaiva mutts.” At least 50 seers attended the meeting. This is an important call as the Lingayats constitute 17% of the state population. And till now were the BJP’s voter base.

Shah’s list of candidates for the polls has also created some trouble within the party. The first list of 72 names crowded Yeddyurappa’s residence, demanding seats. Not a single Muslim, Christian or Jain is included in the BJPs first list that includes 21 Lingayats, 10 Vokkaliggas and Dalits each, 19 OBC, 6 Scheduled Tribe, five Brahmins,one Kodava. The Reddy brothers of Bellary fame are also pressuring the BJP for a seat for former BJP legislator Somashekhara Reddy from Bellary city.

veterans while three new entrants from other parties who were promised tickets have been given their due. The BJP ticket aspirants who did not make it to the first list are at chief ministerial candidate Yeddyurappa's house demanding seats. Sources said the Reddy brothers from Bellary are also putting pressure on Yeddyurappa as they want ticket for Somashekhara Reddy from Bellary City. The Reddy brothers were central to a Rs 50000 crore mining scam and have resurfaced now to “help” the BJP in these polls.

"When there are huge floods all animals like snakes, mongooses, dogs and cats climb together on a single tree trunk for refuge, as there are deep waters below and they are scared of the rising waters.”.

"The political flood unleashed by (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi has made all these snakes, mongooses, dogs and cats, join together and unitedly contest the 2019 elections against him.”

These remarks by Amit Shah created a storm of protest, with the BJP president having to backtrack. However, it has given sufficient fodder to the Congress campaign in Karnataka with the Congress maintaining that Shah was their ‘star campaigner’ in a reference to his series of goof ups. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has hit out at Shah saying that the disrespectful statement equating the opposition with animals reflected his mentality.