May 11, 2023
With the countdown for the results of the keenly fought Karnataka assembly polls by Saturday evening and almost all the nearly a dozen exit polls predicting the opposition Congress clearly edging out the ruling BJP, it is evident that the grand old party is well on its way to stage a dramatic comeback.
Given the fact, that unlike the pre-poll surveys, the exit polls generally tend to be true, it is obvious that the ruling party is certain to be heading home. Yes, out of the dozen exit polls, at least two predict an absolute majority for the Congress and even the rest – barring one – indicating a defeat for BJP, the writing on the wall is clear.
Assuming the findings of the exit polls hold good when the results are out, it is clear that the aggressive campaigning and clear focus on local issues by KPCC Chief D K Shivakumar and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah must have paid off for the Congress. If the Congress, is indeed able to secure an absolute majority by crossing the magic figure of 113 in the 224-member assembly, and is perhaps able reach 125 to 130 or even surpass 140, it will be a remarkable feat especially in the face of the determined assault led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, National party president J P Nadda and the State’s own Lingayat strongman Yediyurappa.
Though the ruling BJP has produced as many as four Chief Ministers starting from B S Yediyurappa, D V Sadananda Gowda, Jagadish Shettar and the present Basavaraj Bommai, it has never won an election in the State on its own. BJP cobbled a coalition with JD(S) once and whenever it ruled in the State, it was because of its ill-famous ‘’Operation Kamala’’ of engineering defections from its rivals Congress or JD(S) by offering money, power or even promises of immunity from probes and then getting the defecting MLAs to contest on its symbol to manufacture majority.
Most of the times, the political grapevine indeed reveals the truth. There is no direct proof of any of the inducements and, more often than not, the inference is based on conjecture or claims aired in the media. In any case, is it reasonably possible to produce documentary evidence to prove allegations of corruption, bribes or other irregularities?
Evidently, the BJP and, more particularly Modi-Shah bungled royally in unceremoniously dethroning its tallest local stalwart BSY and installing another of its own yes-man Bommai, who is also a Lingayat in the mistaken assumption that the politically powerful Lingayat community, which holds sway in over 100 assembly constituencies, can be assuaged by the ploy.
Bommai, who is not an original Sangh Parivar product and joined the Hindutva-centric BJP from the Janata Dal stable, did try his best to please his Delhi bosses. In fact, he went out of the way in espousing the Hindutva agenda in all the government’s dealings and was second to none in singing the praises of Modi-Shah at every opportunity and devoutly followed all the Sangh Parivar policies from anti-minority (read Muslims and even Christians), hijab-halal, Gau Mata and, yes, proposing to build a Ram Mandir in Ramanagara on the lines of the Mandir under construction in Ayodhya. If that by itself was not enough, he even sought to tweak the reservation policy and went out of the way to please the Dalits by increasing the quota for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, sought to please the two dominant communities of Vokkaligas and Lingayats and tried to marginalize the Muslims by removing the quota benefits granted to the community and placing it – rather some of the people among the Economical Weaker Sections on the ground that religion-based reservation was unconstitutional. The move, however, is now struck in the Supreme Court and if the BJP loses power, might be completely thrown out.
40% Commission Sarakara
The Congress resurgence, assuming the findings of the Exit Polls prove correct, definitely suggests that the ‘’illegal’’ BJP rule faced strong anti-incumbency mood as the people were obviously convinced by the various corruption scams, especially the 40% commission allegation leveled by the State Contractors Association and subsequently repeated by several contractors with at least two committing suicides, the resignation of BJP’s prominent Kuruba face and former State President K S Eashwarappa, the resignation of minister Ramesh Jarkiholi over the Sex Video CD scandal and the more recent arrest of BJP’s MLA and KSDL Chairman Virupakshappa Madal and his son and the seizure of overs Rs 8 crore in cash, the filing of a criminal case against another MLA from Mudigere Kumaraswamy to name some of the more notorious cases.
Despite his pre-eminent stature and obvious mass appeal among the people, Modi’s failure to respond or take action against the corruption scandals, particularly the 40% commission complaint that was directly sent to his office in sharp contrast to his vicious attack against the previous Siddaramaiah regime of Congress as being a 20% commission rule in the run up to the 2018 assembly polls, did not help matters. Besides, Modi-Shah duo was evidently aware of the unpopularity of Bommai and sought to distance from the Chief Minister in the final phase of campaign during the Prime Minister’s roadshows. They even involved Yediyurappa in the campaigning and were very effusive in their praises of the Lingayat stalwart, who incidentally was accommodated earlier in the party’s highest decision making body, the Central Parliamentary Board, and Shah himself thought it fit to visit the latter’s home for breakfast and exhibited his love for Yediyurappa’s blue-eyed boy, B Y Vijayendra.
The Congress, on the hand stayed focused and somehow managed to iron out the differences among the two key players – DKS and Siddaramaiah – angling for the coveted post in the event of the victory. The newly elected AICC Chief Mallikarjuna Kharge, who hails from Kalaburgi district and belongs to the Dalit community, along with Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and even Sonia Gandhi lent their presence to boost the party’s electioneering efforts.
To top it all, the 5 Congress Guarantees – Gruhalakshmi, Gruhajyoti, Yuva Nidhi, Anna Bhagya and Bus Savari – all aimed at women, unemployed youth and the poor, which were announced even before the announcement of the poll schedule pre-empted both BJP and JD(S) and virtually made their electoral manifestos redundant. The price rise, unemployment and problems of the poor and middle classes added to BJP’s woes. In a bid to convince the voters of their determination and commitment, the top Congress leadership declared that the government will quit if the promises were not kept. Though the BJP sought to attack Congress over its equating Bajrang Dal with the banned outfit PFI, and promise to ban all such anti-people outfits spewing hatred, and Modi as well as Bommai chanting Hanuman Chalisa to rouse passions, the issue apparently did not help BJP in a big way.
What must have given a big boost to the Congress is the denial of tickets by BJP to two of its prominent Lingayat leaders – Jagadish Shettar, a former CM, and Laxman Savadi, a former DCM- and other top leaders, and their decision to embrace the party. The party enjoyed the benefit of many prominent leaders from JD(S) quitting and joining Congress. The JD(S), despite its stiff contest and posturing, was faced with dissension and had to rely on defectors from Congress or BJP to field candidates in several constituencies. It is evident from the exit polls that the weakening of JD(S) has come as a big plus for Congress.
With the counting of votes on Saturday, one wonders whether the findings of exit polls are indeed correct and if Congress has really managed to stage a dramatic comeback to beat the BJP.