A Karnataka victory would go into the account of Rahul Gandhi whose credentials as a leader would get strengthened and accepted by his friends and foes alike. On the other hand, a failure of the BJP in Karnataka would damage Narendra Modi’s USP.

Bharatiya Janata Party,Indian National Congress,Karnataka,Narendra Modi,Rahul Gandhi

A Congress rally in Honnavar, Karnataka

Source: PTI

For both the Congress and the BJP, 15 May is going to be a crucial day. On this day, the results of the ongoing assembly electoral battle in the southern state of Karnataka is scheduled to be announced. The outcome will set the tone for the next general elections whose timing also is likely to be impacted by the results.

The polling is scheduled for 12 May. There are 2,655 candidates in the fray out of which 2,436 are men and 210 women. Out of this, 224 candidates are from the BJP, 222 from the Congress and 201 from the Janata Dal (Secular). Others in the electoral arena are the BSP 18, CPI 2, CPM 19, NCP 14, registered unrecognised parties 800 and independents 1,155.

The Karnataka battle is essentially three cornered with the BJP and the Congress being the main rivals fighting for power. The Janata Dal (Secular) of former Chief Minister and Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda is the third major party in contest and needs to perform well to remain politically relevant.


The Karnataka battle is essentially three cornered with the BJP and the Congress being the main rivals fighting for power.


In the 2013 assembly elections, the Congress had won 122 seats while the BJP and the JD (S) got 40 seats each in the House of 224. Rest 22 seats had gone to smaller parties and independents. Then, a total of 2,948 candidates had contested.

Theoretically, only three results are possible. First, the incumbent Congress government of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah returns to power, defying the political logic of the last three and half decades when no party has been able to beat the incumbency. Second, the BJP recaptures power after a gap of five years. Third, a hung assembly with neither the Congress nor the BJP getting a clear majority and the JD (S) emerging as a possible coalition partner wooed by both.

In its calculation to get Dalit votes that constitute roughly 18 percent of the state’s population, the JD(S) has reached an electoral understanding with the BSP. Out of a total 224 assembly seats, 36 are reserved for the Schedule Caste candidates.

While several parties like the Janata Dal (United) and the NCP are also are trying their respective luck, but most of them are going to be more spoilers rather being a force to reckon with.

BJP, Modi, election, campaign, Karnataka
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address over 15 rallies from 1 May. | Photo: PTI

The election campaign for the state, in fact, began last year itself with BJP and Congress leaders beginning their campaigning. Now, it has reached a feverish pitch. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already addressed several rallies. In all, the Prime Minister is scheduled to address over 15 rallies from 1 May. The BJP is depending upon Modi’s appeal and charisma to woo the voters.


The election campaign for the state, in fact, began last year itself with BJP and Congress leaders beginning their campaigning. Now, it has reached a feverish pitch.


BJP chief Amit Shah has also been to the state several times and has now camped in the state. He has been holding roadside shows and addressing rallies and meetings.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi also started touring the state about a month and half ago, beginning with Ballari, which had elected his mother Sonia Gandhi to the Lok Sabha in 1999. The Rs 16,000 crore mining fraud, which brought ill fame to the then BJP government in Karnataka in 2008⎯13, also had its roots in the district. Rahul Gandhi has already visited 27 out the state’s 30 districts. He has touched all the regions and important constituencies. The highlight of Gandhi’s election journey has been the visits to temples and other religious shrines.

Deve Gowda and his son H.D. Kumaraswamy are also touring the state, particularly in the old Mysuru region. Deve Gowda has held two joint rallies with BSP leader Mayawati.

The electoral outcome is very crucial for both national parties as well as for the JD (S). That is why all the three parties are leaving nothing to chance to win the confidence of people.

It is a close battle, according to all available accounts and majority of opinion polls. The opinion polls predict a hung assembly. Experts are equally divided over the outcome — in favour of either the BJP or the Congress.

Notwithstanding the predictions of surveys and opinion polls, the Congress has to fight the anti⎯incumbency. However, it has many positives on its side. Chief Minister Siddaramiah has cleverly played the electoral cards by projecting the Congress as the party of the weak, backwards, Dalits and minorities. By recommending to grant religious minority status to Lingayats, he has sought to divide the powerful Lingayat section of the Karnataka society that constitutes almost 17 percent of the total population — a big vote bank. Lingayats have been voting for the BJP for over two decades.


The BJP’s desperation was clear when it decided to project former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyruppa, who was once expelled from the party on the charges of corruption, as its chief ministerial candidate, weakening Modi’s much claimed stand against corruption.


The BJP is leaving nothing to chance to wrest power from the Congress. The BJP’s desperation was clear when it decided to project former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyruppa, who was once expelled from the party on the charges of corruption, as its chief ministerial candidate, weakening Modi’s much claimed stand against corruption.

Similarly, the BJP has given tickets to the brothers of the controversial mining baron Janardhan Reddy. Embarrassed over the party’s compulsion to give tickets to the Reddy brothers, Amit Shah had to cancel the meetings in the constituencies of the Reddy brothers. Union Minister Prakash Javdekar, the party’s Karnataka in⎯charge, had to say that Janardhan Reddy was campaigning in his personal capacity, thus inviting ridicule from the opposition parties.

Karnataka, victory, Rahul Gandhi
Victory in the Karnataka elections would give Rahul Gandhi much more confidence and determination to take on the BJP in the 2019 battle. | Photo: PTI

The BJP and the RSS leadership has tried its best to polarise the society, and has been playing the Hinduatva card for almost a year now. In the coastal belt particularly, the BJP has been hyperactive hoping that it could win the majority of seats by arousing fears of Muslims. There are roughly two dozen seats at stake in this region and the Congress had won majority of them in the last election. This time, the BJP is very hopeful of turning the tables on the Congress.

If the BJP succeeds in wresting power from the Congress, then it would be a serious setback for the opposition parties, particularly the Congress whose electoral prospects for the Lok Sabha elections would become bleak. The invincibility of the Modi⎯Shah duo would again receive credibility and all doubts over Modi’s popularity would blow away. He would remain the sole campaigner for the 2019 battle.

In case, the Congress is able to retain power, then it would prove to be a turning point in the political history of the country. It would be a resurrection of the Congress and would help the Congress to improve its electoral prospects in Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram in November⎯December this year.

The Congress win would be a boost to the opposition unity and would make things difficult for the BJP, as it may be impossible for the BJP candidates to win in one to one contests in majority of the states. The USP of Prime Minister Narendra Modi would also get reduced. Shah’s image of an election strategist would also be dented.

Last but not the least, a Karnataka victory would go into the account of Rahul Gandhi whose credentials as a leader would get strengthened and accepted by his friends and foes alike. It would give young Gandhi much more confidence and determination to take on the BJP and Modi in the 2019 battle.

On the other hand, a failure of the BJP in Karnataka would damage Modi’s USP, making the general election battle more difficult for the BJP.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

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