It's tight-rope walk for 3 biggies

It's tight-rope walk for 3 biggies

Karnataka is set for a high-stakes battle among the Congress, the BJP and the JD(S) on April 17, as it is a do-or-die elections for the contenders in the State.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who is facing the first major electoral fight after he assumed office 11 months ago, has to ensure a good show of his party for his own survival in office. 

For the BJP, which faced a drubbing in the 2013 Assembly polls, this election is a must-win to revive itself in the State. The JD(S) led by H D Deve Gowda, who has been away from power for long, wants to win as many seats as possible, so that it can be part of a non-Congress, non-BJP coalition at the Centre, if any, post elections.

Siddaramaiah started pursuing the Ahinda agenda (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and dalits) right from day one of his assuming office: His first State budget focused on backward classes and the second on dalits. 

He presided over a series of conventions of various backward class communities in the run-up to the elections in a bid to consolidate the Ahinda communities in his favour. It is said the Kuruba community, to which Siddaramaiah belongs, is likely to stand by the Congress. 

Besides the chief minister, State unit Congress chief G Parameshwara toured extensively, campaigning for the party which is hoping to win about 20 seats of the total 28.

The BJP, too, did a lot of spade work. Its leaders regrouped with B S Yeddyurappa and B Sriramulu merging their parties with the BJP ahead of the polls. Knowing fully well that their political future hinges on this election, many senior leaders, including Yeddyurappa and D V Sadananda Gowda, have jumped into the fray. 

The BJP, however, does not seem to have put in much effort to consolidate the Lingayat community despite Yeddyurappa’s return to the party. The community had strongly backed the party in the 2009 parliamentary elections and helped it win 19 seats, especially in North Karnataka. Yeddyurappa, who was seen as an influential Lingayat leader, has now maintained a low profile and by and large confined himself to Shimoga.

The State BJP leaders are banking heavily on the Modi factor in the absence of an impressive report card of their own performance between 2008 and 2013 in the State. The party is hoping for a repeat performance of 2009 using the Modi factor.

On the other end, the State Congress leaders are trying to market the various social welfare schemes of their government in the State rather than talking about the achievements of the UPA government at the Centre. Besides, the State leaders went hammer and tongs attacking Modi, in a bid to counter the Modi factor. In most of the constituency, it is a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP.

The JD(S)’ strategy to fish in troubled waters backfired with Muslim leader C K Jaffer Sharief letting down Gowda. Many of party MLAs refused to contest the polls. The party virtually lost the Bangalore Rural constituency, which was once considered the JD(S) bastion, due to the emergence of Congress’ D K Shivakumar as a Vokkaliga leader.

Kumaraswamy, as a result, was forced to migrate to Chikkaballapur. Even Gowda is having a tight-rope walk in Hassan with a united Congress giving a tough fight. Though the AAP has fielded its candidates in all the constituencies, it is not on an equal footing with its prime rivals.

A recent pre-poll survey by a national news channel gave 14 seats to the ruling Congress, 12 to the BJP and two to the JD(S). But, going by the trends of the general elections in the State, the electorate have by and large voted in favour of either of the national parties – Congress 18 seats in 1999, BJP 18 in 2004 and 19 in 2009 polls.

The outcome of this election, according to political pundits, depends much on how far Siddaramaiah will be able to contain the Modi factor, which the BJP is confident will swing the polls in its favour.

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