30 Apr 2023

Karnataka Elections-2023: Who Will Be Ahead In Race For Power In State As Campaigning Set To Peak In Coming Days

Bengaluru: About 10 days are left for the Karnataka assembly elections-2023. The challenges before the two main contenders - BJP and Congress are completely different. Any mistake by either of the two parties can cost them dear at this stage.

Top leaders of both Congress and BJP are campaigning vigorously in the state. PM Modi held a roadshow in Bengaluru on Monday, while Priyanka Gandhi held public meetings.

PM Modi launched an all-out attack on Congress as he kicked off BJP’s mega campaign. Modi on Saturday started his campaign from Humnabad in Bidar district. He addressed three rallies today in several districts of the state including Bidar, Belagavi and Vijayapura (Bijapur).

Bitter war of words

 With the election campaign in Karnataka witnessing a bitter war of words between the BJP and the Congress, both parties rushed to the Election Commission seeking a ban on campaigning by top leaders of the other side. 

The BJP sought an FIR and a bar on campaigning by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge over his ‘poisonous snake’ jibe at PM Modi. 

On the other hand, the Congress demanded action against Amit Shah for flaring communal passions and creating disharmony. Karnataka BJP leader Basangouda Patil Yatnal, in response to Kharge’s remark, called Congress leader Sonia Gandhi a “vishakanya”.  Campaigning and war of words is expected to intensify in the days to come.

While the BJP and its MLAs are facing anti-incumbency, the Congress is treading on a ground that is not entirely safe. The number of contentious matters that were before the state a few weeks ago, now there are not so many issues left.

For example, the revised reservation policy has now been shelved after the Supreme Court expressed displeasure over it. However, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has justified the removal of reservation for Muslims at many places. 

Shah also said in a public meeting that if the Congress government is elected in Karnataka, there will be communal riots in the state. However, political analysts believe that communal issues have reached their peak in Karnataka.

Dependence on Modi and Shah

Some analysts believe Karnataka BJP leadership is weak. It completely depends on PM Narendra Modi and  Amit Shah. The real challenge for the BJP is how to deal with the anti-incumbency wave against it at the state level and at the individual level.

Anti-Lingayat image

The second aspect is how the BJP manages to deal with the image of corruption, anti-Lingayats and sidelining Lingayat leaders.

Last year, the Karnataka contractors' association had written a letter to the Prime Minister saying that 40 per cent commission is common in the state and no government project contract is awarded without it.

After former state Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and former Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi left the party, important Lingayat leaders of BJP held a meeting regarding the Lingayat vote bank. Privately, BJP leaders admit that this vote bank is now fragmented.

It seems that some hopes were raised from BS Yediyurappa, but Amit Shah put an end to this hope by saying that no one will be nominated as the Chief Minister before the elections.

Rising inflation, unemployment are important issues

The issues of rising inflation and unemployment are being raised in the northern districts of Karnataka.

BJP is targeting three to four thousand new voters everywhere, despite the youth being angry with the Agniveer scheme of army recruitment.

Is Cong getting complacent? 

The Congress is now looking confident of coming back to power and the biggest factor that can go against it is complacency.

Political observers believe overconfidence is the biggest challenge for the Congress. The party is giving more importance to opinion polls. 

However, BJP has dismissed the findings of a pre-poll survey which predicted that Congress is headed for a comfortable majority with 134-140 seats with a 10% vote lead over BJP which will bag 57-65 seats. BJP's BL Santhosh called the survey "cooked up."

Factionalism also a challenge for Cong

The second challenge is the factionalism between Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar. This is evident from the delicate balance struck at the time of announcement of the final list of candidates. How long this unity lasts during the next two weeks remains to be seen.

Congress has focused on issues related to Karnataka 

BJP has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat many times in the past. This will be the challenge before the Congress in the last week of the campaign. The question is whether it will be able to handle such electoral onslaughts, as complacency grows rapidly in the Congress.

The positive aspect for the Congress is that it has focused on issues related to Karnataka and is not bringing national issues to the polls.

Congress initially did much to capitalize on the BJP’s troubles by inducting both Shettar and Savadi. The Congress has also given 51 seats to Lingayat candidates, and claim that if the Lingayat community even shifts 20% to its votes, it can get a majority in the Assembly. 

JD (S)

Along with Congress and BJP, JD (S) is also in the fray. For the Janata Dal (S), this is a crucial election, with the former prime minister H D Deve Gowda possibly contesting his last election. The JD(S) poached and welcomed rebels from other parties, putting up at least 28 of its 212 candidates in this way. 

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