He is gearing the party to make inroads into the south by winning the Assembly polls due in Feb

After “capturing” Bihar and all of north India, it is now the turn of Karnataka to elect a BJP government, BJP President Amit Shah said today in Bengaluru, at the start of a three-day visit to meet party legislators and to set the house in order. “I have only this to say: ab ki baar, BJP sarkar,” Shah proclaimed in a resounding battle cry ahead of the 2018 Assembly elections in Karnataka, only one of the two key states that the Congress runs a government in the entire country at present.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi will triumphantly ride his chariot into Karnataka next year and I am certain that the people of this great state will ring in a BJP government in Bengaluru after that,” Shah said. In May, Shah had indicated that B S Yeddyurappa would be the party’s chief ministerial candidate in the coming elections.

The BJP president’s visit comes even as the Siddaramaiah government reportedly mulls moving forward the state elections by four months to early 2018, to gain optimum advantage of the roll that the Congress perceives itself on currently.Siddaramaiah and the ruling party have made an issue out of the pro-Kannada (and anti-Hindi imposition) sentiment by publicly showcasing the regional flag. Playing the Kannada card, the CM also wrote to PM Narendra Modi, asking for the removal of Hindi signage on the Bengaluru Metro, pointing out that a substantial chunk of the funding was from the state itself and that other languages were more widely spoken in the state than Hindi.

More recently, the KDA or Kannada Development Authority has demanded that all bank employees in the state learn basic Kannada for optimum communication with locals, within a span of six months. With the objective of stoking regional sentiments afresh and gaining politically from the resurgence of a call for Kannada identity as distinct from the nationalist slogans of the BJP, the CM also set up a panel to go into the legalities of a separate flag for Karnataka.

Siddaramaiah’s popularity plummeted significantly following innumerable corruption and laxity charges on him and his ministers. The public movement launched against the steel flyover, whose funding increased by many crores of rupees over years of delay, highlighted graft in high places in the Congress government. More recently, the IT raids on state minister DK Shivakumar, among the richest state ministers in the country, has only added to the widespread impression of the Congress government as a very corrupt one. It is this sentiment that the BJP would like to tap into at the earliest, especially if the Assembly elections are moved forward. In that backdrop, Shah emphasized“Our effort will be to ensure that the people of the state, who have decided that enough is enough, would elect a BJP government in Karnataka.”

The BJP scored a big win in luring former state CM and Union minister, a veteran of the Congress party S M Krishna into its ranks. However, it had a setback of sorts whenLingayats, who have been traditionally voters of the BJP, raised the demand to be declared a religion separate from Hinduism. While the state CM has declared that he has an open mind on this, it was clear that the Congress was trying to play key Mutts of the Lingayat community against each other on the issue with a view to pose problems for the BJP.

Shah’s main focus, however, is to rally the state BJP unit to work as one to ensure the party’s resounding win.

Addressing party leaders,he urged them to come together and ensure that BS Yeddyurappa won the Assembly elections by a handsome margin in 2018. That was aimed primarily at a dissenting faction headed by K S Eshwarappa. The two senior leaders have been engaged in a turf war in the state since the party first made its presence felt there. Aside from these two leaders, Ananth Kumar, D V Sadananda Gowda, Jagadish Shettar, R Ashoka and C T Ravi received Shah at the airport along with some 3,000 party workers.

The BJP president is likely to draw up a decisive election strategy for the party leadership over the next six months based on a detailed report of the electoral pluses and minuses that the BJP faces in 224 constituencies. Using the strategy he set into action in UP for a landslide victory, Shah is expected to draw up a detailed plan for the BJP’s boost especially in the weaker seats.