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Girl’s murder turns law & order into major poll issue



Congress in Karnataka

finds itself on the back foot, with opposition BJP ratcheting up law and order as an election issue amidst claims of “

love jihad

” following the fatal stabbing of 24-year-old MCA student Neha Hiremath in Hubballi this Thursday and the killing of four members of the Bakale family in Gadag early Friday.
Of particular concern for Congress are the electoral prospects in Kittur-Karnataka region, where the party hoped to challenge BJP’s stronghold.

There are apprehensions about the impact on Congress’s fortunes in BJP strongholds such as Dharwad, Haveri, and Belgaum Lok Sabha seats, where the party has faced consecutive losses.
BJP, which had been struggling to set a narrative against Congress, has seized the opportunity to launch a frontal attack on state govt over the law-and-order issue. BJP has released a “charge-sheet”, highlighting a staggering 46% increase in crime rate after Congress took office. It claimed murders have risen 31%, dacoity 41%, and cybercrime cases have resulted in financial losses, with an average daily loss of Rs 1 crore.
Opposition leader R Ashoka has capitalised on these statistics to criticise CM Siddaramaiah’s govt, alleging minority appeasement.

In response, Congress has initiated damage-control measures, including public apologies to affected families and dispatching women and child welfare minister Laxmi Hebbalkar to offer condolences to the family of Neha. This follows a display of empathy by senior BJP politicians and hundreds of ABVP activists at Neha’s funeral.
Political observers offered varied perspectives on the potential impact of these crimes on voter sentiment. “The electorate may not give much weight to routine crimes, but they do play on the minds of voters when they visit polling stations,” said political commentator Viswas Shetty.
Psephologist Sandeep Shastri underscored the importance of govt’s response to the opposition’s criticism in shaping public perception. “Wish the focus was more on crime rather than giving it a criminal twist.”
Political commentator MN Patil suggested that while crimes may sway a small percentage of voters, larger nationalistic sentiments – like those seen after Pulwama attack – may have a more decisive impact on electoral outcomes. “Since north Karnataka goes to polls in the second phase on May 7, things could fizzle out by then,” he added.

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