NDTV Battleground: Modi Factor vs Congress Guarantees - What Karnataka Wants

The state will be key to the BJP's aspirations in the south but the Congress will also put up a fight, a panel of experts said.

The BJP had won 25 of the state's 28 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.


With its 28 Lok Sabha seats, huge contribution to the country's GDP and as the home of the IT capital of India, success in Karnataka would be high on every party's wishlist for the upcoming elections based on these factors alone. But what makes the state even more important is because the BJP sees it as the gateway to South India and is hoping to make inroads into the region based on its consistently good performances in Karnataka while the Congress is looking to push the party out by eating into its seats in the state itself. 

At NDTV's special show 'Battleground' on Friday, a panel of experts discussed the key issues for the people of Karnataka and its capital, Bengaluru, and whether the Modi Factor will play a bigger role in the Lok Sabha elections or Congress' guarantees, which contributed to the party sweeping the state in the Assembly polls last year. 

The BJP had won 25 constituencies in Karnataka in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and has got the most number of seats of any party in the state every time since the 2004 general elections. Another interesting statistic, revealed by CSDS surveys, is that while one in three voters who cast their ballots for the BJP in other states in 2014 and 2019 said they had done so because of Narendra Modi, the proportion for Karnataka was nearly 55 per cent.

Psephologist and educationist Sandeep Shastri - one of the panellists on the show anchored by NDTV Editor-in-Chief Sanjay Pugalia - said, "Of the 130 seats in the South, the NDA won 30 in 2019... Voters in Karnataka cast their ballots differently in the Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections... At one level, the Modi factor is the key to the BJP's campaign. What they are doing is bringing caste and class together. Much of their politics is caste-based, but class inclusive."

Mr Shastri said the BJP's candidates will appeal to people and say they are not voting for individuals but actually giving another seat to PM Modi. At the same time, he said, the party will also focus on caste and class at the local level. 

"The Congress, on the other hand, is focusing on local issues. So this election will be a contest between the national narrative and the local narrative," he added.

Senior journalist and author Sugata Srinivasaraju said, "I am looking at the 2024 election, especially the south, from the point of view of whether the BJP is going to go beyond Karnataka and make an imprint in other states... and also the Congress has pegged a lot of hope on the south. So, for these two factors, the south is going to be important for both parties."

"This time the Congress (in Karnataka) is in a reasonably better position. Last time they had one seat, so obviously they will do better than one seat... The narrative that the Congress is trying to build on unemployment may become very important in this election... But the Congress does not have a cultural narrative and makes a technocratic argument, and that may not work in a general election like this," he said.

On the Congress' guarantees, which helped the party win 135 of the state's 234 seats in the 2023 Assembly polls, TV Mohandas Pai, Chairman, Aarin Capital Partners, said people will probably give PM Modi's guarantee a chance this time. 

"Out of 96 crore voters, 55 crore are below the age of 40, so how they vote this time will be important. In Karnataka, people have got all the guarantees from (Chief Minister) Siddaramaiah and the Congress. The state has no more money. Now they want Modi's guarantee," Mr Pai said.

"People want PM Modi's development. He has made sure almost every Indian has a bank account, food on the table, a roof over their head and health insurance, et cetera. Deprivation is less. And this can be seen, it is there on the ground," he claimed. 

'Focus On Entrepreneurship'

Another panellist, Nooraine Fazal, Founding Managing Trustee And CEO of Inventure Academy, said India was aspirational even when her generation was growing up, but it lacked the confidence. 

"Today, no matter where you go in the world as an Indian, you can go with your head held high. When I first went out as a student, people would ask 'do you have tigers where you live, how is your English so good?' Now, that has changed thanks to Bengaluru. People now ask 'do you work in IT, do you come from the Silicon Valley of India?'" she pointed out. 

Ms Fazal said her focus in the elections will be on which party is looking at fixing the educational system and harnessing India's potential. "We need to embrace policies such as the new educational policy... We need to focus on employability, entrepreneurship and enhancing ease of doing business," she said.

YourStory Founder Shradha Sharma said she is from Bihar and Bengaluru had welcomed her with open arms. 

"The people know everything. Young India and women know everything. India is no longer apologetic. Young India is looking at the next 10 years. When you see startups like Ola, Zerodha, Flipkart and others, they are proud that they are creating employment. Their focus is on understanding which government will ensure that the next 10 years will be India's decade," she said.