Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day tour of Karnataka beginning Monday is the first since the BJP carried out a change of guard in the state last July by replacing veteran leader B S Yediyurappa with Basavaraj Bommai. The two-day tour is seen as a sign of the BJP pushing its development agenda to the foreground of public attention in the run-up to the 2023 Assembly elections, implementing a strategy that worked for it in Uttar Pradesh.
Modi is set to inaugurate infrastructure projects and dedicate some existing projects to the nation before participating in a World Yoga Day event in Mysuru on Tuesday.
“The BJP strategy ahead of polls in all states is to highlight development projects through the Prime Minister in the final lap before the polls. The PM’s visit to unveil several projects in Karnataka is part of the strategy ahead of the state polls,” said a source in the BJP.
The highlight of the infrastructure push is a Bengaluru suburban rail project, valued at Rs 15,767 crore, that has existed on paper for over 30 years. PM Modi will lay the foundation stone for the project, which aims to provide mass transit connectivity to the suburbs of Bengaluru and the city’s satellite towns.
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The PM will also lay the foundation stone for two railway projects and dedicate to the nation four railway projects that are up and running, including the 100 per cent electrification of the Konkan Railway at a cost of Rs 1,287 crore. He will also lay the foundation stone of five highway linkage projects around Bengaluru with a total length of 186 km and an estimated cost of Rs 7,231 crore.
Modi arrived around 11.55 am at the Yelahanka Indian Air Force airbase and travelled to the Indian Institute of Science by helicopter to inaugurate a Brain Cell Research Centre established at a cost of Rs 450 cr by Infosys Ltd co-founder and former CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan and lay the foundation stone for an 850-bed research hospital that is being funded by the tech firm MindTree.
The PM was also scheduled to dedicate to the nation 150 Industrial Training Institutes that have received technological upgrades at a cost of Rs 4,736 crore, and will also inaugurate the Babasaheb Dr B R Ambedkar School of Economics University (BASE), which was originally conceived and developed by the previous Congress-led state government.
“A double-engine government is definitely beneficial. Many projects have smooth sailing if the doors of Delhi are open. Policies are framed in Delhi, it is the international gateway. Only a double-engine government can help states achieve international standards in infrastructure,” Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said ahead of the PM’s visit. The state had benefited from PM Modi’s vision for development, he added.
The BJP’s strategy is the same as what worked for it in Uttar Pradesh, where the development agenda, alongside a Hindutva push, subsumed caste identities and patronage politics to help the party overcome anti-incumbency in the elections earlier this year.
Bommai said earlier this year that the big takeaway for Karnataka from the poll verdict in four states, including UP, was that “caste-based politics has been defeated by politics based on principles” and that people had accepted Hindutva politics in a big way.
“We have the strength of Modi ji’s reputation with us. We have the strength of our programs and the strength of our organisation. If we work together and move ahead we can set the narrative and the agenda. We can come to power on our own strength in 2023. I am fully confident,” Bommai said earlier this year while felicitating BJP leaders from Karnataka who were deployed for election work in UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Goa.
Despite the inauguration of many centrally funded projects on Monday by the PM, the Karnataka government is lagging behind schedule in the implementation of several projects in Bengaluru. “There are many more projects yet to be executed. Most of these projects are pending because of pulls and pressures of vested interests, lack of political will, and administrational drawbacks. Strict monitoring is required as timely execution of these projects is a must for the party to gain the electoral support of citizens,” said a BJP leader.