Karnataka Poll Scene

General Elections 2019 – Battle Lines Still Amorphous
A Welcome Ruling
Desperation in the Saffron Ranks

Karnataka will be going to the polls within the next two months. Given the pattern of alternation of power between parties, it is difficult to hazard a guess if the ruling party will be able to buck the trend in the state notwithstanding its excellent performance during the last five years. It is after several decades that the state witnessed a chief minister and a political party completing its five-year term in power. Given this reputation, Chief Minister Mr. Siddramaiah stands a fairly good chance to return to the seat of power in the state.
Yet, the prospect of triangular contests in nearly all the constituencies introduces imponderables for the poll pundits. Though the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) is a pale shadow of its former self, the party is trying to forge a third front of smaller parties to present itself as a viable choice. JD-S had done remarkably well in the 2013 polls when it could come up trumps and notched as many seats as 40 seats, equal to the BJP’s and gained the status of the Opposition Party in the legislature on the basis of slightly higher percentage of votes.
This time round, the party has got into an alliance with the BSP and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The BSP has presence in some of the constituencies in Hyderabad-Karnataka region where Hindi is understood by Dalits in some urban pockets. But the same cannot be said about the NCP, which has never figured in the fray in any viable measure. The JD-S has strong presence in the districts of Old Mysore state where Vokkaliga voters feel traction for the Devegowda-Kumaraswamy led party. However, this time, the support of the agrarian community cannot be taken for granted as the Congress led by Mr. Siddramaiah has penetrated deep into Vokkaliga heartland through a series of measures for farmers. It was only last April that the Congress wrested a seat from the BJP and retained another in Mysore district in by-elections caused by a resignation and a death.
Just as the JD-S’ residual vote-bank hinders the BJP’s prospects in the southern districts, its pockets of influence in northern districts will work to the advantage of the BJP. There have been overtures from both Congress and the JD-S to reach some kind of understanding in areas of their mutual strength. But the two parties are aware that any overt manifestation of such an adjustment will only benefit the BJP.
The BJP has done much to put up a united face before the electorate. But schisms still show through what with its OBC mascot Eshwarappa leaving no opportunity to take a dig at the State BJP chief Mr. Yeddyurappa who is chief ministerial candidate in the event of BJP’s victory at the hustings. The Party’s efforts to ratchet up communal polarization has limited use in the state. It can bring some votes in the coastal belt, but not beyond them. Economic interests inextricably entwine groups among the Hindus and Muslims insofar as they refuse to respond to””let alone pander to””partisan agendas. With scams bursting on a daily basis, the pan-Indian image of the BJP and its Government at the Centre is seriously dented and the BJP may not find it worthwhile to mobilize support on the basis of the Modi Government’s performance.
Mr. Asaduddin Owaisi’s party MIM too would be in the fray in several seats and may carve up some votes in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. Mr. Owaisi, known for his rhetoric-laced speeches in public and the Parliament floor, does not quite understand that his meaningless forays in various states only result in strengthening the forces he vows to fight.
It remains to be seen as to how various issues and actors play out in the electoral arena in the State. As of now, the electorate have provided no indication of their choice.