Karnataka elections

Kashmir Times. Dated: 5/14/2018 12:48:38 PM

The outcome of the South Indian state polls will have repercussions at the national and regional levels for both Congress and BJP

It is not important who wins and who loses after the results are out in the next few days of the Karnataka elections for which the voting was completed on Saturday, but the polls will definitely change the colour of the politics at both the regional and national levels for two major parties BJP and Congress. This is mainly true for the reason that the results of these elections will definitely have an impact on the electoral fortunes of BJP and Congress before the Lok Sabha 2019 elections due in less than a year from now. Similarly, these results will also have an impact on the Legislative Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Rajasthan in a matter of few months. All these states are being ruled by the BJP and registered victories immediately after the General Elections in 2014. But the important question has been that the electoral fortunes of the BJP have been going down with the passage of every year in the past four years and prime minister Narendra Modi has been in election mode since 2014. Moreover, the poll results will also likely dent the much-hyped slogan of BJP of making Bharat Congress-Mukt and emerge as pan-India ruling party. In the past, the fortunes of BJP have been limited to few states in the country after its emergence in the mid-1980s and getting a fillip after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. The Karnataka results are equally important for the Congress, which has been making an effort to emerge as a major challenger to BJP rule at the centre after its miserable losses in the last Lok Sabha elections. The only silver-lining for the Congress has been its show in some of the states where it performed well and posed a tough challenge to BJP in Gujarat, where it emerged stronger as the main opposition party with improvement over the past performance. In South India, Karnataka is the only states where it is the ruling party with some face to show and retaining power will give it an identity and place to show itself as a major political force challenging BJP's march to South India. Otherwise, the Congress does not have any major role to play in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. In Kerala and Telangana, Congress is playing a poor second to LDF and TRS respectively. The loss in Karnataka will uproot the Congress from all the major South Indian states, where the regional sentiments are strong and goes against the BJP.
Moreover, as the principal opposition party that won a majority of the Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka in 2014, the BJP was the front-runner until the end. Over the last one year, there is a perception that it has lost some of its earlier connect with the South Indian state, allowing Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah to stage a fightback. With regional sentiments running high, the consolidation of the Hindu vote is not happening in favour of the BJP; indeed, Siddaramaiah has shrewdly and cynically fanned linguistic and caste emotions to paint the BJP as a pro-Hindi party opposed to regional sentiments. To this end, the Congress pushed ahead with its plans for a separate Karnataka flag, and the status of a religion for the Lingayat sect. The return of B S Yeddyurappa to the party has increased the BJP's vote-share in the northern and central parts of Karnataka. But as the party's chief ministerial candidate, the Congress has been given a handle to raise the corruption bogey given the cases he was embroiled in; at the same time, his candidature has diminished the force of the charges against the Congress government on this very ground. The important question is whether there exists a latent anti-incumbency sentiment that the BJP can tap into. The one certainty about this election is that the Janata Dal (Secular) will come in third; whether it is in a position to play king-maker in a hung Assembly remains to be seen. Although Siddaramaiah betrayed political insecurity by contesting two seats and secured a seat for his son, he managed to keep the focus on Karnataka and prevent the elections from being transformed into a presidential-style national face-off between Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. There is something to be said for this, but in what opinion polls suggest will be a really tight race, all bets seem to be off. All political experts are keeping their fingers crossed in view of the close contest between the two parties.



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