No kingmakers, Karnataka will have a clear mandate this time


oi-Vicky Nanjappa


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While the election is a few months away, the poll bugle has already been sounded. OneIndia discusses the Karnataka elections with one of India’s best psephologists

Bengaluru, Jan 13: The elections in Karnataka are two months away, but all parties have already sounded their respective poll bugles. Reports are rife that the Janata Dal (S) is likely to play the kingmaker in the state this time.

However, one of India’s best psephologists, Dr. Sandeep Shastri feels that this time around the scenario may be different. In this interview with OneIndia, Dr. Shastri discusses the elections and the kind of equations that would be in play.

No kingmakers, Karnataka will have a clear mandate this time

How do you see Karnataka voting this time?

It is a bit early to comment on that. Both, the BJP are are clearly neck and neck at the moment. Both have their strengths and chinks in their armour. It would all depend on how much each of these parties can leverage their strengths and cover the chinks in their armour.

The caste equation in Karnataka explained: Will JD(S) play kingmaker again?The caste equation in Karnataka explained: Will JD(S) play kingmaker again?

What would be the strength of the BJP?

The strength that the BJP is hoping to benefit from is its central leadership. They are clearly making Prime Minister Narendra Modi the centre of whatever they can do. Their strategy is to focus on the charisma of the PM. The challenge for the BJP is that in the state, it has not covered itself too much in glory. Another factor is how would B S Yediyurappa play his political cards in the months to come.

And what about the Congress?

The Congress is clearly distancing itself from whatever is happening at the national level. The party is focusing on local issues. The question is whether Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar be on the same page. This is the chink in the armour of the Congress.

Despite emerging as the single largest party in 2008 and 2018, why does the BJP fall short?

For any party to get a majority, it has to do well in all three regions of the state- Old Mysuru Region, Bombay Karnataka and Hyderabad Karnataka Regions. It is impossible to get a 90 per cent strike rate in Karnataka. The BJP has fallen short of majority because it has not being doing well in the Old Mysuru Region and it would be interesting to see how this region will play out.

Reports say Siddaramaiah would contest from Kolar. Your view on this?

He gave up his key constituency in Varuna so that his son could contest from there. In the last election, he chose Chamundeshwari, which has undergone changes during the delimitation exercise. Due to this the JD(S) was able to get him defeated from here in 2018. When he decided to contest from Badami, he had promised the sitting Congress MLA that he would make him an MLC, which he did not. This led to a revolt and hence he is searching for a new constituency. It is being argued that post delimitation, Kolar has more minorities than Vokkaligas which could benefit Siddaramaiah.

Siddaramaiah promises free power: The danger with freebies for a stateSiddaramaiah promises free power: The danger with freebies for a state

Does this frequent constituency change help the Congress?

No it does not. With a probable chief ministerial candidate journeying around the state for a seat, it does not go down well with the voter. If a CM candidate is unable to hold on to his seat, how will the Congress win is the question that is being asked. In 2004, when S M Krishna moved from Maddur to Chamrajpet in Bengaluru, it was seen as a move from rural to urban Karnataka. The BJP and JD(S) had campaigned hard about this while there were already allegations that Krishna was an urban centric chief minster.

How much of a factor will caste be in Karnataka?

The question is will the Lingayats be as entrenched with the BJP as they have been ii the past. There would be questions on Yediyurappa’s role and also the lacklustre performance by the sitting chief minister. Moreover the Vokkaliga vote has seen a three way split and it would be interesting to see how that plays out.

Can the BJP make inroad into the Vokkaliga votes?

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP was able to make inroads into the Vokkaliga votes when the Congress and JD(S) fought together. Now that both the parties are fighting an assembly elections separately, will the same hold. The OBCs are backing the Congress. The Dalits are traditionally left and right. The left within the Dalits are unhappy with both Congress and BJP and accuse the parties of not doing enough for them.

Will the new Congress president Mallikarjuna Kharge be a factor?

With a good number of the Dalit votes and in the Hyderabad Karnataka region, he will be a factor. He will also tilt the balance between Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar. He is the Congress president and his support to any candidate hoping to become the CM matters. In the case of Siddaramaiah, he has not had a very good relationship. Siddaramaiah in 2013 beat him to the leadership. Kharge has always had a good relation with the dominant castes. His constituency has a large presence of Lingayats and it has helped him and this alignment has been his political strategy.

How has the SDPI fared in Karnataka elections and which party will benefit from it contestingHow has the SDPI fared in Karnataka elections and which party will benefit from it contesting

What about Hindutva?

The advantage which the BJP could. Get from Hindutva factor has been taken to the maximum. It has reached a saturation point. Can religious polarisation help. That does not seem to be the case in Karnataka. It will help in Coastal Karnataka to a great extent. But it is unlikely to have an impact on the entire state.

Do you see the Janata Dal (S) playing kingmaker again?

I doubt it. Karnataka will have a clear verdict this time.

Story first published: Friday, January 13, 2023, 11:13 [IST]

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