Will Congress President Sonia Gandhi's visit to Karnataka help revitalise the Congress in the state? Vicky Nanjappa reports on how the visit will unfold.
April 28 will be an interesting day in Karnataka politics. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi will pay a visit to the state to take stock of the drought situation and pep up the feuding party cadres. She will also visit the Siddaganga Mutt in Tumkur, an important centre for the dominant Lingayat community in the state.
Gandhi will take part in a programme to wish Sivakumar Swamy, the seer of the mutt, on his 105th birthday. Her participation in the event was planned and organised by Union minister and Gandhi family loyalist Veerappa Moily.
Sonia's visit is an interesting move by the Congress, which has found itself down and out in the state. After a very long time, a Congress leader is taking the lead at a function at the Siddaganga Mutt. Earlier, when J H Patel was the chief minister, Janata Dal leaders use to take part in the function. In recent years, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have been present at the event.
B S Yeddyurappa, the ousted CM of the state, swears by this mutt and makes all decisions only after visiting this place, according to his close aides.
The Congress had lost favour with the Lingayat community after the party unceremoniously ousted Veerendra Patil as the CM. The decision was taken by Rajiv Gandhi, who had cited the bad health of Patil as the reason behind the ouster.
Since then, the Congress has never been a hit with the Lingayat community. Now, it is Gandhi's chance to fix the equation as the support of the Lingayat community would ensure victory in the state.
Understandably, the BJP and the Yeddyurappa camp are worried about this development. Yeddyurappa's followers had camped at the mutt and tried to scuttle the visit by Gandhi. But mutt authorities have made it clear that it is too late to change the programme as they had already committed to the Congress leader.
Sources in the BJP say that this is a desperate move on part of the Congress to gain the Lingayat vote share.
Some BJP leaders will also participate in the function.
The local unit of the Congress believes that Sonia's presence would give a much-needed boost to the party.
Most political parties have realised development by itself would not be enough to win elections in the state and they need to play the caste card as well.
Apart from taking part in the function, Gandhi will also take stock of the drought situation in the state. According to Congress leaders from Karnataka, Gandhi will ensure that the prime minister releases funds for the drought-affected areas.
Gandhi also has plenty of other issues to deal with in the state.
She has to curb the infighting in the Congress and mollify senior leaders like Siddaramaiah, who have been sulking. Such leaders have been like a stumbling block for the Congress, which wants to launch its state-wide campaign ahead of next year's assembly election.
The electoral battle in Karnataka will be an interesting one, say political observers. The Congress is trying to come back to power in Karnataka while the BJP tries to deal with in-fighting and Yeddyurappa.