Karnataka has recorded a marginal increase in voter turnout in the two phases of polling in the state that sends 28 MPs to the Lok Sabha, which is a clear indication of a wave-less election. The absence of a wave that was sweeping many parts of the country, including Karnataka, in 2014, is not good news for the BJP that was hoping to increase its strength from south India to make up for its inevitable losses in the Hindi heartland.
In the other south Indian states, the BJP knows that even if it performs well, it would not be enough to win seats in the Lok Sabha. But yes, in Kerala, the BJP hopes to get a seat or two as also retain what it had in Tamil Nadu. Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan was the lone BJP candidate who won from Kanyakumari in 2014 but this time around, even he is said to be on a shaky ground. The chances in Kerala are also pretty remote.
In this context, Karnataka becomes very important for the BJP. What is interesting is that both the BJP and the Congress are hoping that the higher turnout at 68.6 per cent will work in their favour. In the last general elections, Karnataka recorded a voter turnout of 67.2 per cent.
Congress spokesperson Brijesh Kalappa exuded confidence that Karnataka will teach the Modi government and the BJP a lesson. Unwilling to put a specific number, he, however, said that the turnout was indicative of more voters coming out and expressing their resentment against the Modi government.
Congress leader Priyank Kharge, on the other hand, was willing to stick his neck out and say that the alliance was winning up to 20 seats.
The BJP, on the other hand, is confident that the Congress-JD(S) alliance had not worked on the ground and the increased voter turnout, in fact, was beneficial to the BJP. Though even BJP leaders find it difficult to accept the claim of former CM BS Yeddyurappa, they are convinced that the party will retain its present strength.
The BJP had won 17 seats out of the total 28 in the 2014 general elections when Modi wave swept the state.
Professor Sandeep Shastri, political analyst, and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Jain University and Director of its Centre for Research in Social Sciences, said, “It is a very close fight that is on in Karnataka.”
“Our pre-poll surveys too had indicated this and the situation has not changed much on the ground to modify this assessment,” Prof Shastri said. In certain constituencies, the alliance between the Congress and the JD(S) has worked but in others, the alliance had little impact, he said.
The alliance could have done better if only they had worked together in a more coherent and constructive manner, believes political analyst Professor PS Jayaramu.
Still not ruling out the possibility of a better show by the Congress-JD(S) combine, Professor Jayaramu felt that the BJP was putting up a big fight to retain its foothold in southern India and would not give up so easily.
But by checking the BJP from growing further, the alliance seems to have achieved its objective, he opined. “The BJP may drop a couple of seats and there could be seat swapping in a couple of places, but overall, the tally of the three players would more or less remain the same as in 2014,” Prof Jayaramu said. “Give or take two seats here or there,” he added.