The poll process in Karnataka is, most likely, making everyone involved bite their nails now. The talk that it is heading for a hung assembly may not be correct. Campaigning is winding up and the heat and pressure are increasing. Recent examples of state elections have proven that voters, when and if they desire a change or put forth their views through the ballot box, are unequivocal. The Voter is definitely The King. And (s)he is behaving in that manner too. If they want something, they are demanding it clearly, loudly and in one voice.
The Congress, that seemed invincible at the very start, is less optimistic at about the close of the campaign a day hence, while at the same time it is proving to be no cakewalk for the main rival, the BJP. The Janata Dal (S) of Deve Gowda and son Kumaraswamy is likely to emerge as the dark horse in the event of the two principal parties failing to muster a majority. On the surface, there is no anti-incumbency factor at play, but chances are that the ruling Congress headed by Siddaramaiah may not be altogether impervious to it.
The final phase of the campaign saw the presence of Prime Minster Narendra Damodardas Modi, but Karnataka is neither Gujarat nor Uttar Pradesh. The South has its local satraps who are mostly not only well-entrenched in each of the five states and even the Union Territory of Pondicherry, but also the perception about the new BJP, and especially Modi, being a North Indian Hindi biased party is not going down well in this part of the country thereby leaving less room for outsiders to come in and sway public mood. All the same, the BJP has ruled over Karnataka in the past.
Modi may have a fan-following in Karnataka but apparently not enough to swing the chances prominently to his side by his rhetoric. Large parts of Karnataka cannot understand, assimilate or accept Hindi, and this too might stand in the way of the PM’s campaign blitzkrieg. An exception in the past was the Nehru family that had a reach cutting across boundaries; that might still be partially true of Rahul or Sonia Gandhi.
Caste and community interests play a dominant role in Karnataka politics. Siddaramaiah has taken full advantage of this proposition by actions aimed at directly appealing to his Kuruba and other backward community interests during his five-year-rule. This may have a great impact considering that the backward castes form an overwhelming majority of the voters. There however is no guarantee that in the event of the Congress returning to power on its own or in an alliance with the JDS, Siddaramaiah can return as CM. Rumors are that he would be made to bite the dust in one of the two constituencies he is contesting or he might even be humbled in both.
The socially powerful Lingayats are somewhat solidly with the BJP, but they form no more than 12 per cent of the population and cannot do much to ensure victory of their leader BS Yeddyurappa or his party. Somewhat similar is the situation for Vokkaliga-backed Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy. Each of the three contending forces claims it will sweep the polls. To the Congress’ advantage is also the strong support of the minorities specifically to defeat the BJP. Moslems are numerically strong in the coastal belts and Christians in the southern districts. BJP’s efforts during the campaign, therefore, was to force a Hindu consolidation against the Congress; reason why PM Modi has raised the issue of the state government finding virtue in Tipu Sultan, or of his special reference to the surgical strikes which makes him look like he has nothing more to take credit for.
The BJP has made abundant display of money power in the polls, and it might be at play even after the results are out in the form of horse-trading in the event of a hung assembly. The Congress, the corrupt practices of the past notwithstanding, has been of no match to the BJP when it came to spending money and organising the campaign in energetic ways. A land-force of over 50,000 trained volunteers anchoring their works at booth levels across the state might help the BJP strongly push its case. A silent job is what the JD-S does, and it is still bound to have a crop of seats. The more seats it wins, the chances of a defeat for the Congress and the BJP increase. The failure on the part of PM Modi and CM Siddaramaiah to create a wave in this polls is perhaps guarantee to the fact that the voter is no more swayed by flags and festoons any more. They know what they want. The media pundits, psephological experts and great political wizards are the ones who are bound to bite the dust. The Voter is obviously the only King.