All eyes are on the Karnataka assembly elections. The BJP is seeking to return to power, but the challenges are many. Campaigning for the polls concludes on May 8 evening.
To many analysts and psephologists across India, this is an election that has kept an entire nation captivated. People have linked it to the 2024 big battle pretty fast.
In the ultimate, answers to many questions raised by political stalwarts and, at times, even by analysts on the outcome of Karnataka polls remains only in the womb of time.
But, there is a paradox about the Karnataka polls and the outcome of the battle for Lok Sabha. In 2008, BJP won Karnataka but suffered reverses in the 2009 parliamentary elections that deprived the veteran prime ministership to L K Advani. However, in a role reversal in 2013, while Congress had mustered a convincing majority in Karnataka, the grand old party lost the Lok Sabha polls, and its tally came down to an all-time low of 44.
The BJP is more than keen to retain power by winning the majority of its own. In 2008 it had put up the best show winning 110 seats, but that was still three short of the 113 mark in the 224-member assembly. In 2018, the saffron party emerged single largest party winning 104 seats. “This time, we will touch 150 mark. Media underestimated us in Gujarat where we have proved the prophets of doom wrong,” said a party leader.
The formidable challenge for the BJP will be to ensure deeper penetration in the Old Mysuru region which includes 28 seats in Bengaluru and, in total, has 88 seats.
“A good performance in this region will be the game-changer,” the party strategist said.
The Karnataka polls coming in the wake of mega political rows and allegations and counter allegations over business tycoon Gautam Adani, the ‘disqualification’ of Rahul Gandhi for insulting OBCs, and Congress attempts to ‘polarise’ Muslim votes in its favour by talking ill of Bajrang Dal – is already described as the most important poll in a decade.
If Congress loses out, it will stand exposed electorally about the limitations. This will weaken Congress in its bargaining chip with other Opposition and regional parties for the leadership role in 2024.
For BJP, the campaign focused around PM Modi and the achievements of his Government and also some achievements of the saffron party dispensation in Karnataka.
So much is the stake that not many would hazard a guess. Even the most ardent Modi admirer among political commentators does not like to say that BJP’s return is a foregone conclusion. On the other side, none is sure about the Congress party.
But it goes without stating that the BJP’s return to power will vindicate the stance of the saffron outfit, which had categorically laid stress on the growing electoral acceptance of the ‘Hindutva platform’ and its nationalistic politics.
But in the run-up to May 10, 2023 elections, many BJP supporters spoke about ‘Karnataka pride’ — almost similar to what the karyakartas do in Gujarat — the ‘Gujarati Asmita’. Local analysts on ground zero understand the importance of this and say the saffron party strategists have been successful in many segments in making the right synthesis of Karnataka/Kannad pride and BJP’s overall national goals.
The party veteran B S Yeddyurappa belongs to the influential caste group of Lingayats, and reports indicate the majority of Lingayats community men were with the Lotus party rising above various
differences. It perhaps underlines the significance of the caste factor in Karnataka politics vis-a-vis religion.
The fast-approaching Karnataka assembly elections may result in clear decimation of the JD(S), and this will mean further marginalisation of opportunistic regional forces at the national level.
Analysts say, however, if JD(S) can emerge a kingmaker and emerge a key player in the corridors of power in Karnataka post-vote count as in 2018, it could give a massive boost to the efforts being made by various regional satraps to cobble together a ‘federal front’.But the chances look remote as the Janata Dal (Secular), which had been a kingmaker in the past, is now on a much weaker wicket.
Congress remains restive to wrest power, but its mistakes like dragging Bajrang Dal into electoral row could boomerang.
The saffron party’s poll slogan ‘Ee Baariya Nirdhara, Bahumatada BJP Sarkara’ (Time for decision: Majority BJP Government)’ has gone down well. And this was well supported by PM Modi’s campaign.
Since April 29, PM Modi addressed as many as 18 mega rallies, and there were a few successful roadshows including in Bengaluru and Mysuru.