The Political Battle for Karnataka - General Elections 2019

The Political Battle for Karnataka - General Elections 2019

The Political landscape of Karnataka

                 The state of Karnataka has a very unique political landscape. Being a rich and diverse state, there are many facets to its political, socio-economic and cultural life. One can look back in time and trace the royal city of Mysore to the state Karnataka is today. Right after independence, the Mysore state had two territorial reorganizations, one in 1953 and another in 1956. The state became Karnataka in November 1973. Karnataka has had many high dignitaries leading the state as Chief Ministers-K.H Hanumanthaiah, Kadidal Manjappa, S. Nijalingappa, Ramakrishna Hegde, D. Devaraj Urs, Bangarappa, Veerappa Moily, H.D. Deve Gowda, J.H Patel, S.M Krishna; until recently H.D Kumaraswamy becoming the Chief Minister of Karnataka.

                 Like any other state of India, caste plays a predominant role in electoral politics and social life. Coalitions have always changed the game of politics in India more so in Karnataka. Karnataka’s political situation has always positioned the state towards- ‘The Presidents Rule’. For a very long time, there has been a constant effort by national parties trying to gain a hold of the regional turf, but in Karnataka, the regional parties and their leaders have always had a stronghold in state politics and administration. Elections also have a different set of dynamics that are unique to Karnataka. Caste and class, vote-banks, community support, loyalty, welfare measures, and many other aspects of social life only add to the complexity of an electoral process. General elections and state elections too have different parameters. Also, political parties have new strategies in any election for every constituency.

 The Aspect of Caste 

             Carl Von Clausewitz had said- “War is Politics by other means”. For a very long time in Karnataka, there has been a hard fight between dominant communities for political power and strength. The caste factor is strongly embedded in the political space and ethos. Demographic strength and economic might define the rules of the game, and political power is all about shrewdness and tact. In Karnataka, many groups get together to access political power and strength. Once Vokkaligas were 14% and Lingayats were 19% of the population. However, over the years the numbers have decreased with many surveys showing this trend.  Since 1956, Lingayats have held the political fort for over 25 years, and Vokkaligas later got stronger. Brahmins are relatively better off compared to other minorities in the state.

            In Karnataka, economically forward communities provide leadership to the backward sections of various castes. Lingayats and Brahmins are powerful communities and they have predominantly supported the BJP in its neo-liberal policies. In the political spectrum, the Congress leans towards the left, the JD (S) (Janata Dal (Secular)) is to the centre, and the BJP often leaning towards the right. However, there are exceptions to every government, and schemes offered can have a different view as well.

The Political Situation in Karnataka

             In Karnataka, the numbers have shown a very different trend. The state has always had a strong anti-incumbency sentiment for a very long time. However, in Assembly elections and General elections, there are different methods of extrapolation. In 2013(Karnataka Assembly elections), the INC (Indian National Congress) had won 122 seats with a vote share of 36.6%. and the BJP had 40 seats with a vote share of 19.9 %. In 2018, the BJP had 104 seats with a vote share of 36.2 % and the INC had 78 seats with a vote share of 38.0%. This time, the Congress and the JD(S) formed a post-poll alliance and formed the government in Karnataka despite BJP having secured more numbers. The political fight reached the Supreme court and based on the judgement, a new government was formed.

            The BJP’s national narrative of 2018 had an impact on certain places in the state, especially in Coastal Karnataka. However, for the General elections, the BJP has to do a lot of spadework and focus on towns like Mysore, Tumkur, Hassan, Bengaluru-rural, Kolar, Mandya, Ramnagara etc. In places like Kodagu, Coastal Karnataka and Shivamogga, the BJP cadre is quite strong. One has to note that both-Congress and the BJP have their core supporting bases. If one observes- the BJP in 2009 had 116 seats and the Congress had 206 seats, and the BJP in 2014 had 282 seats and the Congress had 44 seats. The Modi wave and scams during the period of Congress had led to a change of mindset among voters in 2014.     

The Road to 2019

                Karnataka has 28 Lok Sabha constituencies and voting will happen in two different phases. The Chief election commissioner Sanjiv Kumar had also announced the dates last week. In the second phase, South Karnataka will go to polls on April 18 and the remaining seats of North Karnataka will poll on April 23rd in the third phase. In the 28 seats Kalaburagi, Vijayapura, Chitradurga, Kolar and Chamrajnagar have been reserved for SC candidates while Ballari and Raichur are reserved for ST candidates. Based on the numbers from the revised electoral rolls of Jan 2019, the state has 5,03,46,721 voters which include 2,54,94,711 males and 2,48,47,292 females, and 4718 in the others category.

             The fight between Narendra Modi and the opposition is going to be a hard-fought one. Modi’s re-election campaign in the backdrop of the Balakot airstrike and a comeback signal by the opposition with a grand alliance of regional parties is the true test of politics for 2019. The opposition has been trying to put up a tough fight against the BJP but there are differences in regional alliances and leadership issues that are holding the opposition back. The opposition has to work out the CMP (Common Minimum Program) and solve the hurdles in state-specific and regional alliances. Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar and West Bengal which have 190 Lok Sabha seats, is going to be the battleground for the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) against the double-incumbency it faces both at the Centre and the state government.

          One has to really observe if 2019 will actually be a presidential style of election or not? Truly, there are many factors which have to be kept in mind in any election. The voters of our country are very unique, and one does not really know for sure, the way things will pan out in the end? 2019 is going to be no-holds-barred fight across India!

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