Karnataka elections: No clear winner as yet; it could be anybody’s game
On the ground, the Opposition Congress which is making all-out efforts to take advantage of the anti-incumbency factor seems to have a slight edge.
BENGALURU: As Karnataka goes to polls on May 10, campaigning is set to pick up pace. As things stand today, no party looks to be the clear winner, and the contest is likely to go down to the wire. However, the equations may change as we get closer to the polls. For now, Karnataka seems to be staring at a fractured mandate and the state agencies’ reading of the current situation also indicates the same. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent speech in Davanagere too cautioned against a fractured verdict. There has to be some reason why the PM mentioned it.
On the ground, the Opposition Congress which is making all-out efforts to take advantage of the anti-incumbency factor seems to have a slight edge. The BJP’s well-oiled election machinery is trying hard to bridge that gap and return to power on its own. The Janata Dal Secular seems to be holding on to its base in the Old Mysuru region and its performance will have a direct bearing on the Congress’ show and overall results of the 2023 polls to be announced on May 13.
Around a year ago, it looked as though Congress was clearly ahead of the others and the BJP did not look confident. There were several questions about how the party will face the polls without having its Lingayat strongman BS Yediyurappa at the helm. But, the BJP quickly re-calibrated its strategy and brought the former CM into the game by accommodating him in the party’s Parliamentary Board. He is now leading the charge along with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.
The PM and Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s frequent visits have also helped the party push its development agenda and aggressively counter Congress’ efforts to set the narrative around corruption. BJP is depending on Modi’s popularity to overcome anti-incumbency. The Congress will make corruption one of its major poll planks apart from freebies and welfare programmes it announced as Congress Guarantees.
Cong hopes to start its revival from Karnataka
It is yet to be seen how the government’s reservation gambit will play out. The BJP government hiked ST and ST quota, scrapped the 4% reservation in 2B in Other Backward Classes (OBC) for Muslims and reallocated it to Lingayats and Vokkaligas. Muslims, who are moved to the Economically Weaker Section quota, are not happy. A section of the Banjara community is angered by the state government’s move on the internal reservation in the SC. They have taken to the streets in several places including Yediyurappa’s home district Shivamogga. If the government fails to take them into confidence, it could impact the party’s prospects at the polls.
Many senior BJP leaders also admit that they face anti-incumbency to some extent and are making efforts to overcome it. Unlike in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, the party may not go for drastic measures like dropping many sitting MLAs to overcome anti-incumbency, but that is also not ruled out in some assembly seats. The results of the by-polls to the assembly, Belagavi Lok Sabha seat as well as elections to the legislative council indicated that it is not going to be easy for the BJP as the Congress — especially leaders at the ground level — will fight hard to retain their political hold.
For the first time, the Old Mysuru will witness a triangular contest as the BJP is attempting to gain a foothold in the region. In Kalyan Karnataka and Kittur Karnataka Congress hopes to improve on its 2018 performance, while BJP will have an advantage in the Coastal region. Central Karnataka and Bengaluru will witness a tough contest between the two national parties. Karnataka assembly polls are crucial for the BJP, which is trying to expand its base in other Southern states. It is equally important for Congress, which hopes to start its nationwide revival from Karnataka ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. As we see it now, it could be anybody’s game.