Bengaluru: The polling for the 224-member Karnataka Assembly concluded on Wednesday and the Congress, which is hoping to return to power in Karnataka had run a spirited campaign in the state with five top leaders playing a significant role.
From manifesto to aggressive campaign, all of the points highlighted by the grand old party in the state gained the immediate attention of the people of the southern state.
But behind the successful campaigning in the state, party leaders like G. Parmeshwara, party state in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala, M.B. Patil, Shashikant Sethil and Sunil Kanugolu played an important role.
Surjewala: He was appointed as Karnataka in-charge by replacing party general secretary (Organisation) K.C. Venugopal in 2020. Before he was appointed the in-charge of the state, the differences in state leadership were clearly visible between former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and state unit chief D.K. Shivakumar.
However, Surjewala ensured that the differences between the two factions get end before the polls and he brought both of them together during the Bharat Jodo Yatra in the state last year along with former party chief Rahul Gandhi, during the candidate finalisation and also during the entire campaigning.
Surjewala also kept on giving the message of unity in the party leadership in the run up to elections and also kept on sharing the pictures of Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar altogether.
M.B. Patil: A powerful Lingayat leader, Patil, who was made the chairperson of the campaign committee in the state ran a spirited campaign against the ruling BJP in Karnataka.
According to party insiders, Patil was instrumental in inducing powerful Lingayat leader and former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar into the party ahead of the polling.
The party leaders also said that Patil was behind designing the aggressive campaign in the state with back-to-back public meetings of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, public meetings and road shows of former party chief Rahul Gandhi and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the state. He also focused on the door-to-door campaign of the party to woo the voters in the state. It was also due to Patil’s efforts that Congress’ former chief Sonia Gandhi held an electoral public meeting after a gap of four years.
Patil is considered close to Siddaramaiah and had also handled several important portfolios in the state government.
G. Parmeshwar: He was made the Chairperson of the Karnataka Congress Manifesto, Policy, and Vision Committee. The Congress’ manifesto, which talked about banning organisations like PFI and Bajrang Dal, soon garnered the attention of the people and also attracted criticism from several quarters.
Parmeshwar, a former Deputy Chief Minister and former state unit chief also mentioned the five guarantees of the party for the people of the state which became an instant hit.
In the manifesto, the Congress promised Gruha Jyothi (200 units of free electricity), Gruha Lakshmi – Rs 2,000 monthly incentive to every woman head of the family, Anna Bhagya – 10 kg of food grains of their choice (among rice, ragi, jowar, millet) to every person in a BPL family and free travel to all women in regular Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation and Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses.
He also brought a manifesto for different regions of the state like for Coastal region, where the party is hoping to gain more seats as compared to previous elections.
Shashikant Sethil: A 2008 batch IAS officer, Sethil, who resigned in 2019 over the CAA and joined Congress later was made the in-charge of the Congress war room in the poll-bound state.
He not only worked closely with the team but also ensured that the party would monitor the fact-checking and give support to party leaders to counter and corner the ruling BJP on issues. Under Sethil, Congress kept a close tab on the campaign of the party in all the Assembly constituencies of the state.
Sunil Konugolu: Kanugolu, who is working as a strategist for the Congress, was responsible for preparing the survey, campaign, deciding on candidates selection and winning strategy.
According to party leaders, Kanugolu, who stays mostly behind the scene, prepared the strategy for each Assembly seat in the state. He also prepared the strategy to corner the BJP and the JD(S), so that Karnataka’s contest does not become triangular.
According to party leaders, Kanugolu was responsible for Congress campaigns like the release of the rate card, pay-CM, and 40 per cent commission sarkar against the ruling BJP.
Kanugolu had earlier worked with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of the BJP’s campaign. He was brought into the Congress fold in May 2022.
Later, he started strategising campaigns for the Congress. He even contributed to Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. He had worked for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and is said to have played a key role in the resounding victory of Yogi Adityanath in 2017.
Kanugolu had worked with Prashant Kishor in 2014 before parting ways.
The counting of votes for the 224-member assembly will take place on May 13.
In 2018, Congress could manage to win only 80 seats while the ruling BJP won 104 and the JD(S) got 37 seats.
The Congress formed the government in alliance with the JD-S. However, the government fell in 2019 after several MLAs of the JD-S quit the party and joined BJP.
This time, the Congress is hoping to form the government in the southern state with a full majority by dethroning the ruling BJP.