BJP banks on chemistry, JD(S)-INC on numbers 

Congress’s practical politics in Karnataka, of handing over the CM post to Janata Dal leader HD Kumaraswamy, has paid off, putting an end to all desires of BJP to form a government in the state

Photo Courtesy: Social media
Photo Courtesy: Social media

KV Lakshmana

Unlike in neighbouring Tamil Nadu where politics is a mix of alphabet soup, the pre poll situation is clearer and largely predictable in terms of both the line up as also the outcome.

In last year’s assembly elections, all three formations, namely the Congress, the Janata Dal (S) and the BJP fought the polls separately leading to a hung assembly. It was a post-poll tie up between the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) that put paid to BJP’s aspirations of wresting power from the Congress.

In a flash of practical politics, the Congress sacrificed its ambitions and handed over the CM post to Janata Dal leader HD Kumaraswamy, son of JD(S) supremo and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda. This move, made at an amazingly swift pace, put paid to all BJP efforts to form the government in May after results were announced. It insisted on forming the government and the Governor obliged the BJP by inviting it but the party failed to win adequate support to hang on.

At that time in May last year itself, Congress and the Janata Dal (S) made it very clear that the postpoll coalition would continue into the Lok Sabha general elections.

BS Yeddyurappa’s failed attempts so far to dislodge the Kumaraswamy government have damaged the image of the BJP ahead of the crucial general elections. Yeddyurappa had formed the government in May immediately after the results were declared and as the leader of the largest single party. Though he was given the first chance by the Governor, he could not muster support and quit before seeking trust vote in the assembly, paving the way for the Congress-JD (S) coalition government.

Since then, the BJP has been trying to wean away some disgruntled Congress MPs and maintained pressure against the government. Termed Operation Kamala 2, a project of the BJP leadership to get Congress MLAs to defect or resign to turn the number game in BJP’s favour. However, this has so far, flopped given the resolve of the Congress and JD (S) members to stay firm.

It is in this backdrop that the three formations will be entering the poll arena for the general elections to Lok Sabha.

In the numbers game, the situation on the ground appears to favour the Congress- Janata Dal (S) combine.

If we take up the 2018 assembly elections, the BJP won 104 seats with a vote percentage of 36.34 and the Congress ended up with just 80 seats with a vote share of 38.14%. The Janata Dal (S) secured 37 seats with a vote percentage of 18.3%.

If the two post-poll partners had fought the assembly elections in an alliance, the result would have been very different. In fact, the BJP would have found it very tough to win even half the seats it did as the combined vote share of the two was a whopping 56.17%.

This indicates the current mood, if the assembly election situation on the ground holds.

Former chief minister S Siddaramaiah has said that defeating the BJP was the common goal of both the parties and winnability of the candidate will be the main factor in deciding the candidature in each of the seat. Already, seat sharing discussions have begun with meetings between state Congress party chief Dinesh Gundu Rao and JD (S) leader AH Vishwanath and other leaders. “Barring four or five seats, all other seats have been agreed upon,” said a senior Congress leader.

Had the BJP formed its own government in the state, things could well have gone in its favour as the local administration would be at its beck and call

Karnataka, with 28 Lok Sabha seats on offer, is a crucial state for both the Congress and the BJP. In the last general elections, the BJP had won 17 seats and the Congress 9 and the JD (S) a mere 2.

In 2014, Congress and the Janata Dal (S) fought separately and ended up winning 9 and 2 respectively. But had they fought the polls together with a combined vote share of 51.8, again the result would have been diametrically opposite.

For the BJP, Karnataka is the only South Indian state where it has struck roots and reaped a rich harvest of seats in the Lok Sabha in previous elections. It is well entrenched in North Karnataka and hopes to consolidate on what it claims are gains it made during the last five years.

Had the BJP formed its own government in the state, things could well have gone in its favour as the local administration would be at its beck and call. But with the levers of power in the state in Congress and JD (S)’s hands, the BJP knows the fight will be that much tougher.

Much however would depend on the chemistry between the two coalition partners and of course their cadres on the ground. As far as the issues are concerned, they are slowly crystalizing with unemployment, agrarian crisis and after effects of demonetisation and faulty GST roll out topping the narrative of the non-BJP opposition across the country.

But the ruling BJP is cleverly changing the narrative, whipping up nationalistic fervour as also religious fervour to distract voters.

Already, central ministers are out politicising the Air Force strikes and asserting that such a strike was only possible in Modi’s India.

Now it remains to be seen if the mood of the voters undergoes any change after this IAF strike

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