The Centre’s allocation of ₹17,000 crore for Bengaluru’s suburban rail network is being seen as an attempt by the BJP to corner political ground in the Karnataka capital.

The State goes to the polls in a few months.

The city is home to as many as 28 Assembly seats, and has the ability to influence another 60 seats in the neighbouring districts of Kolar, Tumakuru, Chikkaballabur, Hassan, Mandya and Mysuru.

The project

“A suburban network of approximately 160 km, at an estimated cost of ₹17,000 crore, is being planned to cater to the growth of the Bengaluru metropolis,” Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in his Budget speech on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Karnataka State Cabinet had approved ₹349 crore — or 20 per cent of the total project cost of ₹1,745 crore — for the suburban rail project.

“This was a long pending issue, which has been finalised now. Soon after the Budget provision is made, work will commence. The SPV will raise the necessary funding as per the suburban railway policy of Indian Railways,” explained TB Jayachandra, Karnataka Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister.

Bengaluru is crucial

In the run-up to the Assembly polls, Bengaluru has gained importance. The BJP, which had a vice-grip over the city civic body (BBMP) and a lion’s share of Assembly seats till 2013. However, in the elections held that year, it won only 12 of the 28 Assembly seats, while the incumbent Congress bagged 13. Later, the BJP also lost the civic body polls to the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S).

Now, after urban voters helped the BJP win, but narrowly, in Gujarat, the BJP is pulling out all the stops to regain control of Bengaluru’s voters.

The party intends to make major gains with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s urban-centric image.

Also, as the party is weak in Old-Mysore region, any gain in Bengaluru is a plus for the BJP, and could be a game-changer. And while the Mahadayi river-sharing row could cost the party in the Mumbai-Karnataka region, a gain in Bengaluru could compensate it.