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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 20, May 13, 2023

Karnataka electorate cast their franchise | P. S. Jayaramu

Saturday 13 May 2023, by P S Jayaramu


by P. S. Jayaramu *

May 10, 2023

The high voltage campaigning for the Assembly elections got over on 7th May. The candidates campaigned on 8th quietly going from door to door asking for votes. The 5.3 crore voters (2.66 crore male, 2.3 female, and 4927 others) have cast their vote. Thanks to the decision of the EC, the election in the state took place on one day, unlike the 2018 polls which were spread over two phases.

Let me quickly take a look at the three contenders for power—the BJP, Congress Party and the JDs for the high office. Let us glance over the advantages of the Party. They are, firstly, the highly intense campaign carried out by the triumvirate, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Party President J P Nadda in that order. Modi visited the state seven times before the elections were announced and four times afterwards addressing about 20 meetings and carrying out road shows. As we know no prime minister in independent India has campaigned so excessively as Narendra Modi had done in Assembly Elections and will continue to do in future, in all likelihood. He is the Party’s mascot. So much of dependence on Modi is also a mirror to the inability if the state leaders of the Party to convince the voters to reelect it. Secondly, the party has tremendous organisational strength from the grassroots level which was put to extensive use. Thirdly, the bjp has extraordinary resources ( money power) which supported its campaign. Sadly, the media, specially the electronic media, by and large supported the BJP in its goal of recapturing power.

As for the minuses, the Party ran a vicious communal campaign, polarising the election for over an year, thanks to its emphasis on human, halal and itsrecent announcement if constructing a Ram temple near Bangalore costing 150 crores. Inflation, rising prices of essential commodities, unemployment and corruption stand out as its limitations too, adding to the anti-incumbency factor.

As for the Congress, the Party, the advantages can be seen in its intense campaign sphere headed by the duo, D. K. Shiva Kumar, the KPCC Presjdent and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. By and large, they projected the Party’s interests in sustained manner. Siddaramaiah, specially, was relentless in exposing the failures of the Basavaraj Bommai Government during his campaign speeches. More importantly, the Congress came forward and aggressively projected the five guarantees it has promised to the electorate, specially the below poverty level families, and the youth in terms of unemployment allowance. The Party has specially taken up the problems faced by the people of Bengaluru.

The state leadership was supported by the campaign undertaken by the AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during their visits across the state. In terms of voter support, the Congress is likely to get the total support of the muslim voters, thanks to the messing of the reservation for the group by the Basavaraj Bommai government. The issue is in the Supreme Court and is likely to be struck down by the Court.

The disadvantage for the Party was the open competition between Shiva Kumar and Siddaramajiah for the chief minister’s position, with both of them striving hard to get to tickets to their supporters to further their prospects in the event of the Party winning a majority at the hustlings. Their race for power has not gone down well both at the Party worker’s level and with the electorate. Additionally, the Party is perceived to be lacking in the support of the lingayat community, though this time round it had give more tickets to the community’s candidates than in 2018. While the SC, ST and OBC votes are likely to stand behind the Party, prospects of the same being divided between the Congress and the BJP is a limitation for it.

The third pillar in the electoral contest is represented by the JD (S). While the Party is unable to come to power on its own in view of it’s limited social base, depending largely on the Vokkaliga votes, and limited geographical spread, as its voter base is concentrated predominantly in the Southern districts of Hassana, Mysuru, Mandya, and to some extent Tumakuru. The Party is also said to have lost out in the eyes of the electorate in view of its dynastic orientation, which prompted some senior members of the Party to walk over to the Congress and BJP in search of tickets, with some of them succeeding too in their quest. In any case, the Party will be able to play a role only if the elections throw up a hung assembly.

The Parties are waiting with bated breath to see if the electorate will opt for a single-party rule or a coalition government.

* (Author: P. S. Jayaramu is former Professor of Political Science, Bangalore University)

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