Karnataka polls: Headstart to Congress, but BJP is not far behind

Karnataka polls

Rama Krishna Sangem

In Karnataka assembly elections on May 10, opposition Congress has some headstart as ruling BJP is weighed down by anti-incumbency. Results of the election will be known by May 13 afternoon. A C Voter opinion poll early March predicted a clear win for Congress – which can get 115-127 seats – followed by BJP 68-80 and JD(S), a distant third with 23-35 MLAs.

Two days ago, NCP leader Sharad Pawar who is known to make accurate political predictions said that Congress will win hands down in Karnataka and BJP will sit in opposition. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai who shares his late father SR Bommai’s legacy is known as inefficient leader presiding over a corrupt government in the history of Karnataka – most ministers are famous for demanding and getting 40 per cent cuts in every government work.

Congress has the advantage of its aggressive leader DK Shivakumar working along with former CM Siddaramaiah. We don’t know what will happen after the election results, but now they appear to be working together. The presence of AICC president Mallikarjuna Kharge is another plus point to the party in the northern Karnataka. So, there are three heavy weights for Congress.

At the same time, there are underlying tensions for Congress. As Siddaramaiah said that these are his last elections, it looks like he is aiming for CM post once again. Whether DK will agree to this is to be seen. By now, Congress has finished tricky business of ticket distribution for – 166 out of 224 seats. Unlike in the past, the party snubbed JD(S) which has become a professional horse trader in politics.

They contest the polls with one party and switch to the opposite side immediately for the sake of CM post. Both Congress and BJP have decided this time to put an end to JD(S) headache. So, now JD(S) led by HD Kumaraswamy and his father former PM Deve Gowda had to struggle a lot to retain their grip, and emerge as king-makers. They are contest all seats, but focusing to keep last time tally of 35 seats.

Former CM BS Yeddyurappa (BSY) is on the field but he is no more a CM candidate now. He himself declared that he is out of the race as he crossed 80 years now. His son BY Vijayayendra may take up his father’s legacy in politics. BJP has bit the bullet by easing out BSY. Whether this will prove to be advantage to Congress is to be seen. CM Bommai is no match to BSY’s popular image.


Congress Vs BJP battle

So for all practical purposes, this will be a Congress Vs BJP battle, though JD (S) another smaller parties like Gali Janardhan Reddy’s Kalyana Karnataka Pragathi Paksha etc will be in the fray. “Congress is promising freebies, like subsidies and cash transfers, while BJP has pinned its hopes on more reservations to key castes – Vokkaligas and Lingayats,” said Anil Badur Lulla, an independent journalist and policy analyst based in Bangalore.

According to Anil, BJP has cut reservations to Muslims by 4 per cent and allotted the same to these  dominant yet backward castes, apparently with an eye on votes. Whether Muslims will en-block  go to Congress is to be seen. But, BJP is unmindful of the consequences. Whether Congress can woo these two castes with its economic schemes is another point which decides the poll outcome.

Anil said Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Lok Sabha may Not have much impact on the polls here. Unity among local Congress leaders and their hard work will tilt the balance. BJP top brass has realized the headwinds to it in Karnataka. So, Prime Minister Narendra Modh is leading the campaign from the front by asking voters to vote for BJP by seeing his face, not that of local leaders.

Winning Karnataka is important to both BJP and Congress, and of course, to JD(S) too. If BJP fails to retain this key state, it will lose its presence in the entire South India. If it is out of power here, winning a majority of 29 MPs will become difficult to Modi. Congress too shall prove its relevance by coming to power here. For JD(S) this is an existential question as by next election Deve Gowda may not be there to actively campaign for it.



Rama Krishna Sangem

Ramakrishna chief editor of excel India online magazine and website

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