By Devika Bedi
Karnataka’s general elections are scheduled for next year with the 2014 winner Siddaramaiah-led Congress tenure ending in May 2018 and the result of the fresh elections being announced in September 2018. These are difficult times that are marinated in a politically heightened atmosphere in Karnataka. Sociological, economic, caste and political factors will influence the selection of the next Karnataka chief minister. Karnataka remains the last major state governed by a non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party and it is and must act proactively in maintaining the lead.
Who has the upper hand
According to a survey by Centre for Political and Social Studies (COPS) done in July this year, if polls were to be held that day, BJP would’ve gotten a simple majority, while the Congress would gain seats in Old Mysuru region, winning 21 out of 37 seats. It will do fairly well in Bengaluru with 16 out of 32 seats, reports the organization. It went on to disclose the findings that BJP enjoys a strong hold in coastal Mumbai Karnataka and Hyderabad Karnataka.
Congress remains sensitive to the metamorphosis of Karnataka politics in the coming months. It has progressed to announce its next Chief Ministerial candidate as Siddaramaiah and must now intelligently and patiently deal with emotions and data that is springing from across the nation and direct it towards gaining political mileage. The party is supporting and aiming at his campaign for “effective and corruption-free administration”. It has also planned to launch “Indira Canteens” based on the Tamil Nadu’s Amma Canteen model. It will serve breakfast and lunch for 5 and 10 rupees respectively. “This programme will give us a huge boost particularly among the poor in Bengaluru city. Rahulji is also constantly being briefed on the campaign so far and will give us inputs whenever required,” a Congress legislator said.
Strong and confident political rivals
On the other hand, BJP seems confident with its candidate Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa who is also the current president of Karnataka wing of BJP. There is massive political rhetoric coming in the backdrop of BJP’s stronghold in the northern states. Politics of Congress encompasses Dalits, Lingayats, Vokkaligas, and backward classes. It strives to maintain a strong Dalit base in the southern Karnataka. To counter B.S Yeddyurappa, the AICC yielded to Siddaramaiah’s demand to bring SR Patil, a Lingayat to handle North Karnataka affairs. Similarly, Ganesh Guddu Rao has been made in-charge of the southern districts. D.K. Shivakumar, a Vokkaliga has been made Congress campaign committee chairman. Siddaramaiah’s political base gains strength from uniting Kurabas, Idigas, Nayaks and others under the Ahinda (Kannada acronym for minorities, backwards and Dalits) label.
BJP fights for survival in Karnataka
In the past few months, where BJP has made more than few visits to the state, Congress is offering substantial resistance. BJP leader Amit Shah has been holding meetings with intellectuals, Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) leaders, party workers from those 11 constituencies where BJP faced defeat in 2014, to improve the party’s prospects keeping Vokkaliga pontiff of Adichuchunagiri at top priority. He has also met the Art Of Living supremo Sri Sri Ravishankar. “There has been a lot of infighting and bitterness within our state unit, though all the leaders have publicly said that they are united. There is resentment over various issues and though our vistarak programme has been a success in terms of spreading our message, the feedback is that the public is unhappy with the infighting,” a BJP leader confessed. “We expect him to tighten the screws on our leaders and drill it into their heads the need to put up a united front against the Congress. He will also outline the strategy we are to adopt for the polls,” said another.
The Gauri Lankesh murder
A recent turmoil—the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh has stunned the country and has ignited a series of nationwide protests and criticism by fellow press organizations and anti-establishment groups. The state government of Karnataka is under constant scrutiny and allegations by the masses. All eyes are on how Siddaramaiah deals the issue and maintains popular support in the state. The establishment and course of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) plays a pivotal role in the treatment of Siddaramaiah’s nature of popularity in the state. Incidents like the inauguration ‘Indira Canteen’, Lankesh’s death and a constant trade of corruption charges between Siddarahamaiah and B.S Yaddyurappa may have caused grief among intelligensia and journalists across the nation, but it is nevertheless an opportunity for Karnataka’s congress to press his mantle its rival BJP which is accused of employing caste and religion based politics.
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