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2024 Lok Sabha Elections - Pre-poll commentary on the Karnataka Scene | JP Gadkari

Saturday 20 April 2024, by J P Gadkari


Karnataka election scene is hotting up with the polling day (26 April) for 14 seats from the southern half of the State Is fast approaching. The other northern half of the State will go to polls on May 7 for an equal number of seats. Since the Ram Navami day, Rahul Gandhi has landed in Karnataka to take up the party’s poll campaign and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to take up the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) campaign on Saturday starting with a road show in Bengaluru

Karnataka is the most important State for the BJP, which it considers as its gateway to intrude in other Southern States. But having lost power in Karnataka in the Assembly elections last year it has to face a tough time during the present election.. Earlier, before the 2023 elections, it had managed to snatch away the power from the Congress-JDs coalition Govt through its "Operation Lotus" in 2021. But the people of Karnataka with vengeance taught a lesson to BJP by bringing back the Congress to power with a huge majority. This happened with Congress contesting the election on its own without having a tie-up with its earlier ally, the JDs.

This being the recent past, the present situation in the State has undergone a vast change compared to the situation that existed during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. At that time BJP had swept the polls winning 25 seats out of 28 giving only one seat to Congress, one to JDs and one to an independent in the last LS polls. This time the Congress is in a very different position having won the 2023 Assembly election with a huge majority and having implemented all its promises made during the election within six months of coming to power. And now it has come out with a promise to implement five more promises from the National manifesto of the party, viz minimum of Rs 400/- per day for daily wage workers, legal guarantee for MSP, Rs One lakh apprenticeship for educated unemployed youth, Rs 25 lakhs universal health care and Rs One lakh every year to women.

Organisationally party is strong and there is hardly any dissidence in the party. Its selection of candidates for the Lok Sabha (L S) election have almost been smooth except at one are two places. In most of the constituencies, it has chosen new candidates, some of them first-timers. The old stalwarts of the party are almost nowhere to be seen with Mallikarjun Kharge having assumed the National leadership of the party and having decided to remain out of the poll fray and another senior leader and former Chief Minister M Veerappa Moily having been denied a ticket. Among its candidates, there are six women and one Muslim candidate. Except for one or two all women candidates are without any experience of legislative functioning and one of them, if elected, will be the younget M P at 26 in the Eighteenth Lok Sabha.

The party’s campaign is in full swing with Rahul Gandhi addressing his first meeting in Vokkaliga stronghold, Mandya, on Ram Navami day from where former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and JDs supremo H D Deve Gowda’s son is contesting the election with a tie-up with State BJP. Accusing the P M of running an "extortion government" by threatening business houses, Rahul promised that the Karnataka Govt will also implement the five guarantees from the National manifesto in the State after the election.

On the other hand, BJP is facing severe dissidence in its ranks in several constituencies with as many as nine sitting M Ps of the party being denied party tickets out of 25 this time. One of its prominent leaders, Eshwarappa, who held the post of Deputy Chief Minister and was considered very close to former BJP Chief Minister Yediurappa has revolted against his former mentor and party colleague going to the extent of filing his nomination as an independent candidate against the official candidate, B S Raghavendra who is the State BJP president and Yediyurappa’s son. Another important constituency where polling will take place in the second phase on 26 April is Mysore from where BJP has chosen the scion of the erstwhile royal family of Mysore Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamraja Wadiyar denying ticket to two-times sitting M P Pratap Simha, whose name had prominently figured in the security breach of Parliament recently. In another constituency where serious dissidence is seen is Belgavi from where former BJP Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar who had temporarily defected to Congress and done "Ghar Wapasi" recently. Apart from these in several other constituencies, the party is facing such problems.

P M Modi’s guarantees are having no effect here and tie up with Deve Gowda-led JDs is not taken seriously by voters. In fact many are questioning its "secular" credentials.

Strangely and surprisingly it has been noticed that BJP is not concentrating whole hog in the State like it did last time during the Assembly election. Prime Minister Modi is coming for campaigning in Bangaluru just less than one week before the polling day. Though he went several times to Kerala and Tamilnadu and quite a few times touching Karnataka too, compared to that he has not given much attention to the State this time. Other leaders except Amit Shah have not given much importance to the State. It appears, therefore, that BJP has reconciled with the party’s weak position even before going into the battle.

However, despite this situation, the National level Congress leadership also appears to be a bit complacent about party’s situation in Karnataka. They seem to depend much on the fulfillment of promises by the State Government forgetting the past experience that while the party did well in State in earlier elections, at the National level election the Modi charisma worked. Even then whatever may happen it is expected that Congress will do much better than last time. With a moderate estimate, the Congress leaders are claiming that the party will win at least 20 seats out of 28. Other estimates are between 15 and 18. In the third phase of elections which will take place on May seven, the remaining 14 seats will also go to polls where the situation is likely to be favourable to Congress except in many pockets of North and South Canara regions where BJP is likely to win few seats despite dropping of three hardcore sitting M Ps in this election. Let us therefore cross our fingers and wait and watch till June Four as to which way the wind blows.

April 18, 2024

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