All parties are clueless on which way Karnataka will vote during the Assembly elections. So far it has been waveless and clueless.
With just a few days remaining to the election date for the Karnataka Assembly, nobody knows what the outcome would be. There are only wild guesses. While this summer will witness one of the hottest elections in recent times, it is by far a wave-less, clueless election.
While people are not upset with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, they are not happy either. While the electorate are not happy with the BJP candidate B S Yeddyurappa, they are not upset with the BJP either. So, which way will they vote?
The silence coming from the ground indicates that the electorate have already made up their mind. Karnataka will not witness a sweeping voting pattern. Hence, it is the regions, regional issues and the candidates that would hold the key to the outcome.
The JD(S) will hold on to the Old Mysuru region and in Vokaliga pockets, coastal Karnataka and parts of north Karnataka, the Lingayat belt and Bengaluru may vote for the BJP, the Hyderabad-Gulbarga region and minority dominated districts may go with the Congress. In the remaining region, it will be a battle between the Congress, BJP and JD(S).
It is because of this regional angle that the electorate are not enthused by national issues or statistics doled out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Realising this, Modi had to switch gears early on during his whistle-stop election campaigns to focus hard on local issues. For example, in Bengaluru, he hard-focussed on issues plaguing the IT city.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi too is bang on target when he speaks on local issues. People are not interested in Modi or BJP bashing, but they are keen to know what the Congress has to say on local issues.
But there is no doubt that all energies of the Congress and the BJP focused on Karnataka. Unlike the mahagatbandhan tie-up in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka will witness a stiff fight between two principle national parties – the BJP and the Congress. As these parties fight to the finish for gaining a majority in the 224-member Assembly, one cannot discount the importance of a local son-of-the-soil player – the Janata Dal (Secular) — which might end up as the dark horse in the race.
Various pre-poll surveys and opinion polls have indicated that Karnataka is heading for a hung Assembly
Various pre-poll surveys and opinion polls have indicated that Karnataka is heading for a hung Assembly with the Congress slightly ahead and is likely to bag between 90 and 100 seats; that will be down from the 122 seats that it held in the previous elections. But the BJP is likely to double the number of seats from what it had in the previous outing with the number likely to hover at around 80 to 90. But the JD(S) is likely to bag around 40 seats, making former prime minister Deve Gowda and sons the king-maker – a role that the father and son HDK Kumaraswamy had played to perfection earlier.
But JD(S) chief is going about with a puffed chest saying that he is not a king-maker, but a king. The statement has significance as Kumaraswamy is aiming to be the Chief Minister once more. But the big question is which party’s support will he seek? The Congress or the BJP. As of now, the talk is that he will be more comfortable with the BJP, but one cannot say. The BJP and JD(S) had once shared power that ended in a disaster.
But HDK, as Kumaraswamy is known, will put up a laundry list of demands before from the parties that approach him. Two conditions that top the list is that he will be the CM and there will be a dalit deputy CM. This means that the chances of Siddaramaiah or Yeddyurappa are bleak as of now. Siddaramaiah recently gave a broad hint of this when he candidly said that he may not come back as CM.
The JD(S) is on an upbeat mood whipping up local Kannadiga pride and asking the electorate to ditch Delhi-based parties – just like the Dravidian parties in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
But the problem with JD(S) is that it is a family’s private venture. Many say that the `S’ in Janata Dal (S) stands for sons, not secular. Despite this, the JD(S) continues to be strong in the Old Mysuru region; not across Karnataka. But if the party manages to hold on to Old Mysuru region, the JD(S) will surely play the role of a king-maker.
JD(S) has one more advantage. With the Congress government in Karnataka ready to accord minority religion status to the numerically strong Lingayats, the Vokalligas, headed by the uncrowned king Deve Gowda, are upset. This election may witness a huge consolidation of Vokalliga votes in favour of the JD(S). Minorities too seem to be trusting the JD(S).
The Congress considers the JD(S) as the “B team” of RSS and has been unusually harsh on the local party.
At present, it is advantage Congress which is heavily banking on Siddaramaiah. An OBC leader, he is also powerful enough to match Modi at state level – just as the way Amrinder Singh did in Punjab.
Siddaramaiah is also considered to be a local version Amit Shah who has cleverly worked the caste arithmetic well. Like Shah, he has drawn his strategy well to pull the OBCs while keeping the minorities and the dominant Lingayats happy.
Lingayats have always been BJP supporters. The Lingayats distanced themselves from Congress in 1990s after the unceremonious removal of Veerendra Patil as CM. But now the Congress is making amends by pushing for minority religion status for the Lingayat community. This has left the BJP without friends. Though the BJP face in Karnataka — Yeddyurappa — belongs to the Lingayat community, it is the seers and the Mutt heads who would swing the votes.
Though without much friends, unlike in 2013 when the BJP had splintered with BS Yeddyurappa floating an outfit, all factions are now united.
The Badavara Shramikara Raithara Congress, led by B Sriramulu, was the other outfit which ate into BJP’s vote share earlier. The BSR merged with BJP before the 2014 polls.
With the Lingayat tailwind, Rahul Gandhi has adopted a soft Hindutva campaign by visiting temples and mutts which has started yielding favourable response.
Local anger against the BJP is also building up with Amit Shah `importing’ his poll machinery from the North
Local anger against the BJP is also building up with Amit Shah `importing’ his poll machinery from the North. This team is managing everything, often leaving local BJP workers seething in anger.
Though the Congress is upbeat, it knows pretty well it cannot come to power on its own. The BJP, on the other hand, hopes for a triumphant ride on Modi’s charisma, the Centre’s policy initiatives and perceived anti-incumbency against the Siddaramaiah government.
Modi is again the astra of the BJP that badly wants to conquer the only State below the Vindhyas once more. But questions remain: is the astra getting a bit blunt and will Siddaramaiah match the Modi onslaught. The summer of `18 is poised to be interesting.