Post announcement of Karnataka Assembly Election dates by the Election Commission, the political campaigns by political parties intensified with a sense of urgency. Political puzzle pieces like caste equations, alliance and religious planks are rearranged everyday by all parties, in a bid to reign India’s most electorally contrarian state.
Karnataka is known for its record of voting in contradiction with national political trends, which has always made the elections of state to be interesting and special. Making it even more special this year is – the strong and aggressive Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, a potential challenger – BJP and an X-factor in the Deve Gowda-led Janata Dal (S). It is one hell of an election to be watched by the nation. For incumbent party Congress – it has three dimensions to play with – Siddaramaiah, AHINDA and the Lingayat card. And the BJP holds on to its Lingayat vote base and the Hindutva plank, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal.
The AHINDA — a coalition of minorities, Dalits and backward classes seems to be what Congress had been depending on, but not leaving out the upper class Lingayats who are well integrated into Veerashaivism, and the others. Reprising what Captain Amarinder Singh did in Punjab, CM Siddaramaiah declared that the demand of the Lingayat community for minority status is long-standing and must be conceded – which he did. Hence ruling out the fear about Janata Dal (S) alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and in some seats with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which was expected to hurt the Congress.
Karnataka’s electorate is known to follow its own beats when it comes to voting — the State was deemed safe for Indira Gandhi to contest a bypoll after being routed in the North in 1977. Mr. Siddaramaiah, unlike other Congress members, is following his own playbook with little reference to the high command in Delhi. If he succeeds, he will localise and reinforce Congress as a whole party, but if he doesn’t, Delhi may have the last say, again – in one of the few Congress resorts left.