Most experts agree that as of now, Congress appears to enjoy an edge over its rivals.
NEW DELHI: With only a few days left for the Karnataka Assembly elections, all political parties are busy in drawing and redrawing their strategies to ensure that they win the maximum number of seats in the 224-seat Assembly. While every political party is claiming that they will win with an absolute majority, most experts agree that as of now, Congress appears to enjoy an edge over its rivals.
‘’It will surely not be a hung Assembly as that is only in days of transition. It will be a clear majority for BJP or Congress (said BJP first as B comes before C). The Congress seems to have an edge as of now, but we are still a week from voting to take place,’’ political scientist and psephologist Sandeep Shastri said.
Asked about the prospects of the Janata Dal (S) which had emerged as a kingmaker in the last Assembly elections, Shastri predicted that the regional party would get the third place. ‘’A clear majority for the Congress or the BJP as they are in the race. The JDS’ political canvas is limited and is being edged out. Congress has the edge because of the strong anti-incumbency against the state government,’’ he said. Chandan Gowda, a political analyst, too felt that Congress may have an edge in this election, though it may form a coalition government to ensure stability.
‘’Congress will get a simple majority (meaning 112 to 120) but will form a coalition with JDS to make sure the government remains stable,’’ he said. However, he added that although JDS may get more than 40 seats, it will have a more substantive role than a kingmaker. Giving reasons behind his claim, Gowda said the anti-incumbency is high for the ruling party while there are the corruption charges which have taken root in people’s minds.
Naheed Atahulla, former political editor of the Times of India, said, ‘’You cannot predict the outcome of elections. You can say that there is a tough competition among all the three political parties. It is a two-way competition between the Congress and the BJP. As of now, the Congress seems to have an edge. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s roadshows have some kind of impact.’’ According to her, while the two national parties are battling it out, Janata Dal (Secular) is set to give a good fight to both the parties in the Old Mysore region.
“‘JD(S) is expected to do well in North Karnataka also because it has taken candidates who have been denied tickets from either BJP or the Congress and who have had presence in the constituency,’’ she said.
Senior journalist Rajshekhar said, ‘’It is a very keen contest between Congress and the BJP in the rest of Karnataka and Congress and the JD(S) in Old Mysore region. In Bengaluru, it is between BJP and the Congress again. There is a straight fight between the Congress and the JD(S) in most parts of the state. The difference of seats between the two national parties would be 10 or 15.’’
He said that PM Modi’s visit to the state and incidents like Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge calling the PM a “poisonous snake”, his son Priyank Kharge calling the PM “nalayak beta” and alleged promise of the Congress to ban the Bajrang Dal, have “built the bridge” for the BJP in the run-up to the elections.
‘’We have seen since 2013 that abuses hurled at Mr Modi have turned into the vote bank for the BJP. We have seen how Mr Modi and the BJP have converted the abuses into their advantage,’’ he said. According to the senior journalist, the Congress appears to offer ground for the BJP on certain issues by its mistakes.
He said, ‘’Lingayats are feeling alienated from the Congress but the grand old party has not made any efforts to win them back. After B.S. Yedyurappa was removed, it was the best opportunity for the Congress to win back the support of Lingayats, but they have failed. In fact, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s rhetoric against the Lingayat community has helped BJP to further consolidate their base in the community.’’
‘’PM Modi’s visits, too, have enthused the party workers and some section of people in the state. Whatever differences the BJP cadres had with the party have been buried and now they are working as a unit. Comparing Bajrang Dal with the PFI by the Congress has helped the BJP to consolidate the vote base through polarisation. In coastal Karnataka, there is no need for any new issue. This can attract other Hindu voters to the BJP even if they have some other plan in their mind,’’ he said.
On the prospects of JD(S), Rajshekhar said in some parts of Karnataka, Congress or BJP rebels may support JD(S) and the JD(S) will give tough contests in Old Mysore region and some other parts of the state. He said it’s true that PM Modi’s visit has bolstered the BJP’s poll prospects in the state, but how far it turns into votes is to be seen. On Vokkaligas, he said that they have always remained with the JD(S) and this time too they would do the same. However, he added the people have started talking about Modi in the Old Mysore region and there is likelihood of the BJP improving its vote share in the region and getting more MLAs elected.