Politics is in a state of flux in Karnataka and likely to remain so until the election in April/May 2018
Can Karnataka BJP leaders deliver on Prime Minister Modi and Party President Amit Shah dream of “Congress Mukt Bharath”? That question took centre stage when Mr Shah made a three-day visit to State last month to take stock of the situation. According to media reports, BJP President expressed his disappointment in no uncertain terms to state leaders and berated them for their passive and reactionary approach to issues. He was also disappointed by the ineffectiveness of state leaders in confronting Congress party misrule and poor governance of past four and a half years.
With less than eight months to go before the election, parties have made a thorough assessment of strengths and weaknesses are beginning to provide a glimpse into their campaign strategies. Congress party in its quest to dent BJP’s base in North Karnataka has rekindled the age-old demand of making Lingayat a separate religion. BJP, on the other hand, to shore up its base in coastal areas rewarded Mr. Ananth Kumar Hegde, a member of parliament from Uttara Kannada constituency, with a ministerial berth at the Center. It also wants to negate Congress party’s Lingayat-Veerashiva campaign by moving State President and former Chief Minister Mr. BS Yeddyurappa from his home district of Shivamogga to Bagalkot in North Karnataka. Regional Party Janata Dal(S) is trying to shed its rural and farmer tag to reinforce its development credentials. Recently seasoned party office-bearers headed by its Chief Ministerial candidate Shri HD Kumaraswamy made a visit to Israel to study technological advancements in Agriculture and Water preservation and held strategic sessions with companies for implementation in Karnataka.
Congress is in a position of strength as far as choices of candidates are concerned for the 224 assembly constituencies.
Congress party’s own evaluation of the past four and a half year performance has left many disappointed. Finally, it is coming home to haunt some of its leaders that most of the policies and programs have overly focused on populism with very little money allocated to the development of the state and job creation. Apart from advertising it’s “Bhagya” schemes and recently introduced “Indira Canteens” modeled on Tamil Nadu’s extremely popular “Amma Canteens”, Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues announced a slew of development projects across the state in its final year including funding for irrigation projects and Bengaluru’s Metro rail Phase II network.
Congress is in a position of strength as far as choices of candidates are concerned for the 224 assembly constituencies. It needs to look outside its party apparatus for only a little more than 20 to 25 constituencies. It remains well funded despite IT raids on Power Minister DK Shivakumar and has only the anti-incumbency factor to overcome to retain power.
BJP, on the other hand, is suffering from a shortage of leaders across castes and regions. Leaving aside its veteran leader BS Yeddyurappa, it lacks depth in taking on Congress across the state and JDS in its Vokkaliga bastion. Also, the merger of Mr. Yeddyurappa’s erstwhile Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) with BJP has caused much consternation to BJP loyalists. While they accept the leadership of former Chief Minister, they are not willing to give a second chance to other leaders who were welcomed back with him to the BJP fold. Constant bickering and in-fighting have in fact become a de-motivating factor many party workers. Most leaders and party disciples are hoping that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Party President Amit Shah could weave the UP magic in 2018. And like UP, odds are high on party awarding ticket to many new faces.
Shri HD Kumaraswamy has been campaigning aggressively and plans to reinvent his famed “Grama Vastavaiya”
Regional party JD(S) was first to recognize that the path to the throne in Vidhana Soudha runs through North Karnataka. It wants to repeat its performance of winning at least 39 seats which got it the seat of Chief Minister in 1994. Shri HD Kumaraswamy rented a place six months ago in Hubli, has been campaigning aggressively and plans to reinvent his famed “Grama Vastavaiya” in the run-up to the election. It is banking on the charisma of former Prime Minister Mr HD Deve Gowda to retain many of the seats in its bastion of Old Mysore region and win a few in other parts of Karnataka. And like BJP, the party is looking outside its fold in many constituencies in North Karnataka and Coastal areas where it has limited or no presence.
Currently, politics is in a state of flux in Karnataka and likely to remain so until the election in April/May 2018. Only actual election results can answer three important questions that most pundits across the country keenly await – Can Congress overcome anti-incumbency and retain power? Can Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Party President Amit Shah weave magic to herald “Congress Mukth Bharath”? And finally, can Mr HD Deve Gowda realize his dream of bringing JD(S) back to power on its own or at least in a coalition?
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
He tweets at @envyk_blr.
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