Bengaluru: A well-known television journalist of this country while interviewing former prime minister H D Deve Gowda aired his analysis and seat predictions for the prominent parties which are fighting the Karnataka Legislative Assembly elections 2018. The regional party, of course, had nothing to cheer going by the data rolled out by the journalist.
The unfazed Deve Gowda sneered at him and asked, "Are you an astrologer to do predictions? You sit in Delhi and read the prevailing situation here. But I am on the field and I know the reality." The journalist-cum-psephologist gave a sheepish smile before moving on to the next question. He did not get into argument with political veteran Gowda, who is good at giving a spin to political situation to turn it into his advantage.
Probably, any unbiased political pundit or political journalist who is watching the campaigns would not be hesitating to admit that they are not astrologers to predict the poll outcome on May 15. The elections are fought so intensely that betting markets are working overtime. The JD (S) is sandwiched between the hyper Congress and the BJP. The incumbent Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and two former chief ministers - B S Yeddyurappa and H D Kumaraswamy are in the fray. But the fight has been reduced to between two aggressive leaders – Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Siddaramaiah. Of course, they are not on equal footing. At crucial junctures, Deve Gowda and his son Kumaraswamy have given hints that none is enemy forever in politics.
A good number of pre-poll surveys have been carried out by private agencies and media houses. It may not be even worth remembering or mentioning the exact numbers predicted by each agency because how many of them are 'commissioned' by political parties, how many are conducted sitting in AC rooms and how many of them are unbiased and scientifically done is not known. However, by and large, all the surveys have stated that the ruling Congress is ahead of the BJP and the JD (S), at the most, can again be the deciding factor as to who should form the government. Neither the Congress nor the BJP would get simple majority of 114 to form the government, as per some surveys. At the same time there are surveys which indicate that the 'Hand' would crush 'Lotus' in not less than 120 to 125 constituencies. Similarly there are surveys to show that the Lotus would bloom in at least 115 seats. But no survey however frivolous it could be is indicating that the JD (S) would form the government or the BJP would meet its initial tall claim of accomplishing mission 150+. Anyways, the BJP itself gave up the 'mission' once it realised how difficult it is to take on Siddaramaiah.
If one goes by Siddaramaiah's argument and claims, all his Bhagya schemes should fetch him votes. He often claims that there is no anti-incumbency factor working against him. It is not known whether he has factored in anti-incumbency being faced his party MLAs in certain constituencies. He is very confident of reoccupying his chambers in the third floor of Vidhana Soudha. However, he has not emphasised on the number of seats he would win though armed with many surveys in favour the Congress.
However, his supreme confidence of returning to power did not reflect in winning either the Chamundeshwari or Badami seats. While the JD (S) has posed many obstacles for him in Chamundeshwari, the BJP has made him realise that winning the Badami seat is not easy as savouring Badam halwa. But being a popular leader, he may sail through in both the constituencies, is the Congress' guess. All said and done, he could not just 'file and forget' (the nomination papers) and campaign for his party candidates elsewhere. He has made make several trips to both the constituencies. That also reflects on many things including his popularity.
Compared to Siddaramaiah, Yeddyurappa and Kumaraswmay spent hardly any time in their constituencies seeking votes. Kumaraswamy in addition to Ramanagar is also fighting the battle from Channapattana.
The Congress did not dare to make the Linagayat minority issue a poll plank. It was hoping that the BJP would talk and oppose it. But the BJP maintained deliberate silence, it looks. Neither it could oppose nor could it welcome the efforts to reduce or divide Hindu population. It has left it to the people to discuss and oppose it. The party could not take any firm stand because its leader Yeddyurappa, as Lingayat face of the party, some years ago had supported the minority status. But this time he remained cautious. The party has been of the view that the Congress would be at the receiving end over the division issue.
However, it is Narendra Modi who began taunting the Congress on the 'division' issue. In one of the party rallies, Modi openly attacked three ministers who had actively involved in getting the minority status to Lingayats. Without naming them, he took a dig at the Water Resources Minister, Education Minister and Mining Minister.
Siddaramaiah might not have been hugely benefitted by facilitating AICC president Rahul from having corner meetings and addressing rallies. Even Sonia coming to the aid of Rahul to attack Modi seems to have not worked much for the party. It is only Siddaramaiah's game plans which would come to his aid.
But in case of the BJP, Modi's jibes against the Nehuru Khandan as 'Naamdhars' and repeatedly announcing the details of some of the flagship programmes of his government which helped the BJP to breathe easy. If Modi, BJP National President Amit Shah and 'silent functionaries' such as Ram Madhav had not come to the aid of Yeddyurappa, the party would have found the going tougher. Lack of unity among the state frontline leaders continues to be a problem despite Yeddyurappa successfully taking out his Parivarthana Yaatra across the state.
Self-declared PM nominee
The rallies saw Modi completing one round of campaigning for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections too. He clearly indicated on what lines his narratives would be to take on the century-old Congress. The country also watched how Rahul declared himself as the Prime Minister candidate in 2019.
The Congress-led Siddaramaiah is winding up the public campaigning by saying Karnataka would continue to have the Congress for the next five years. Modi on May 9 left Karnataka by saying he would be here again on May 15 to participate in the swearing-in ceremony of Yeddyurappa as the chief minister. The Deve Gowda clan is confident of continuing its fishing in troubled waters attitude. The election has also witnessed overdose of caste imposition by the parties. All three parties have shown that they are vulnerable to men with heavy cash bags.
The Team Modi has been forced to work hard here because the BJP is trying to generate momentum for the 2019 elections and regain its hold in Karnataka and thus increase its base in the South. For Rahul, it is the question of the survival of his party. After losing states after states, he has every reason to worry. But the Gujarat elections have kept his spirits up.
Ugly side of polls
The worst is Karnataka is seeing a record-breaking seizure of cash, precious metals, liquor and goodies obviously meant for distribution among susceptible voters. As on May 9, the cumulatively, the surveillance squads of the Election Commission have seized nearly Rs 55 crore in cash, nearly 50 kgs of gold, 270 lts of liquor, cookers, biryani vessels, copper pots, laptops, sarees… and what not! Not just that. Seizure of fake voters ID cards in RR Nagar has cast shadow on holding 'fair and free' elections. Such complaints are heard in Chamundeshwari and many other constituencies.
Who says voting is still sacrosanct in democracy!