By Manas Dixit
Will Modi’s charisma once again flourish, will this mark the start of the Rahul Gandhi era or will the smaller players prove to be the kingpins?
With the state elections now a month away, focus shifts from the Northeast to the South. The fight in Karnataka is going to be as close as ever; with the two heavyweights – the BJP and the Congress – going head-to-head again, and the regional party, Janata Dal (Secular), being a strong contender too.
Currently, the Congress party, under the leadership of Siddaramaiah, holds a comfortable majority of 123 seats out of the 224 constituencies’ strong Karnataka legislative assembly.
Thoughts of 2019 Lok Sabha elections are already in mind for the BJP and Congress, so every political move is being scrutinized and talked about more than ever.
The Election Campaigning Is Getting Intense
The election campaigns, which started with the BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate B. S. Yeddyurappa taking a 75-day tour across Karnataka in November last year, have now started becoming intense.
The political battle got really fierce on Monday when the Siddaramaiah government decided to declare the Lingayats as a religious minority. This could prove to be a make-or-break move for the Congress. The Lingayat community, which constitutes 17% of the state’s population, has an influence on nearly 100 seats in the assembly.
The Congress has very cleverly put the BJP, as the Central party, in a fix. If it doesn’t give minority status to the community, it will definitely antagonize it. If it does, then the Congress can claim credit for it. The BJP accused the Karnataka CM of “playing with fire” for vote bank politics, and calling their policy “divide and rule”.
The war-of-words is on, with Rahul Gandhi, on Wednesday, blaming the JD (S) for teaming up with the BJP secretly as evident in this statement:
“The JD(S) is working as the BJP’s assistant in this election. They are working with all their dedication to ensure the BJP’s victory. But all this won’t work as the Congress is going to win the elections in Karnataka.”
Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D. Revanna immediately thrashed Rahul Gandhi for his comments against the party.
From the Congress’ viewpoint, the Karnataka elections are of utmost importance as it is one of the last few states ruled by the party in the country. With Amit Shah-led BJP conquering 21 states in the country in the last four years, Congress is now left with only 4. Losing these elections would most likely signify the end of the hope for Rahul Gandhi’s 2019 dreams, if there was any.
The Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) took up an act of setting up a booth level committee at 54, 261 locations. This was an extensive outreach program undertaken to target the grass root level to halt the impression created by BJP.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP President Amit Shah have picked Karnataka — the only Congress-ruled state which sends 20 or more MPs to the Lok Sabha — as their next target. The BJP is relying on the anti-incumbency factor along with the personal popularity and charisma of PM Modi.
Meanwhile, the JD(S) is the one who is working the most quietly among the three players. In 2013, the JD(S) had secured 40 seats with a vote share of 20.45 percent. For the 2018 elections, it has officially made alliances with the BSP and the NCP, while it is trying to get the support of the Left and other smaller parties.
Experts believe that no political party is likely to get an absolute majority, and in that scenario, the JD(S) will be the ‘kingmaker’ once again in Karnataka.
Last ditch political maneuvering is being played out by all players. Most opinion polls held by private firms in January pointed towards a nail-biting contest between the three parties where small parties and independent candidates are expected to play a crucial role.
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