Karnataka Elections 2018: Will Brand Bengaluru initiative help Congress gain urban votes?

The Siddaramaiah-led Congress government of Karnataka on Sunday launched a logo for Bengaluru with much fanfare and celebration. The logo is the first designed for any city in India and is aimed at giving it a brand identity that’s similar to that of New York, London and Amsterdam, among other global destinations.

The crowdsourced logo, with a mix of Kannada and English, tries to emphasize ‘Be U’ from the word Bengaluru—uncannily similar to ‘I am’ from the I Amsterdam logo—to capture the ethos of a city known for its gardens, innovation, technological prowess and start-up culture.

“The logo will help to leverage Bengaluru’s identity better and create a brand value that could, in turn, stimulate the economy and create jobs by attracting more footfalls,” Priyank Kharge, the Karnataka minister for information technology and biotechnology, and tourism said in a statement on Sunday. The logo was a tourism department initiative.

The launch of the new logo comes at a time when the city’s image has been dented by its problems with garbage pile-ups and traffic snarls, polluted lakes and crumbling public infrastructure that may go against the Congress party, which faces an assembly election in Karnataka next year.

“Definitely it’s an attempt to change the narrative from one of the traffic gridlocks and polluted lakes to something more positive to think about in the Bengaluru context,” said V. Ravichandar, urban infrastructure consultant and member of Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF), a committee of eminent personalities set up to promote and sustain good governance and enhance the image of the city.

Bengaluru, the seat of power and the highest revenue earning district of Karnataka, plays a central role in Siddaramaiah’s ‘Navakarnataka Nirmana’ (building new Karnataka) campaign and accounts for 28 (excluding eight seats of Bengaluru Rural) of the total 224 assembly constituencies in the state, and four parliamentary seats.

Of this, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 12, Congress has 13 and the Janata Dal (Secular) has three seats The BJP won three of the four parliamentary seats in 2014.

At the municipal level, BJP has 100 of the 198 seats in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the city’s civic body, and the Congress 76 seats.

While Siddaramaiah is trying to appeal to the urban middle class, he has announced a flurry of populist schemes targeting the urban poor, which include the launch of a subsidized food venture (Indira canteens), subsidized homes and free healthcare, among others.

“Congress will want to regain Bengaluru, but I really see this as a defensive step,” said Narendar Pani, a political analyst and professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), referring to the brand-building exercise.

“It won’t really matter to the people on the ground but it will matter in Delhi (Congress leadership) and matter among the middle class. Suddenly the government is showing some sensitivity to them (middle class). Previously they used to say, you say what you like, it doesn’t matter,” he added referring to social media campaigns targeting the state government.