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  India   All India  22 Jan 2018  BJP, Congress head for a tough Karnataka contest

BJP, Congress head for a tough Karnataka contest

Published : Jan 22, 2018, 1:17 am IST
Updated : Jan 22, 2018, 1:17 am IST

At present the Congress holds 129 seats, BJP 44, and Janata Dal (Secular) 39 seats in the 229-member Assembly.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
 Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

New Delhi: Contrary to expectations, it would not be a cakewalk for the BJP in Karnataka where the saffron party is trying to wrest power from the Congress, party feedback suggested.

In a redux of the Gujarat battle, both the BJP and Congress seem to be heading for a tough contest in the southern state. While the Congress, which is in power, is battling anti-incumbency, it is not going to be a cakewalk for the BJP either as CM Siddaramaiah seems to be on a resurgent mode from the past 7-8 months.

At present the Congress holds 129 seats, BJP 44, and Janata Dal (Secular) 39 seats in the 229-member Assembly.

Feedback coming to the saffron party poll managers suggests that though anti-incumbency against the ruling Congress was the main issue, which the BJP has been highlighting, the state’s main Opposition party needs more ammunition in its armour to take on the ruling Congress.

Though the BJP top brass has managed to contain the issue of factionalism, only the results of the Assembly elections will prove whether or not declaring party stalwart B.S. Yeddyurappa as the chief ministerial candidate was a good decision, sources said.

Though Mr Yeddyurappa is a prominent face of the Lingayats, a numerically strong community, Mr Siddaramaiah is also playing the caste card shrewdly this time, which includes promising special status to the community.

Though Mr Yeddyurappa’s Parivarthana rally has managed to garner support for the BJP, preparations are on full swing for the party’s star campaigner with none other than PM Narendra Modi participating in the valedictory function of the rally on February 4.

Another issue, which the saffron poll managers have been closely monitoring, is that of how the dalit vote bank will react to the spurt in anti-dalit incidents in the country under the BJP-led NDA rule. Karnataka, where 17 per cent of the population is dalit, has had a history of a very strong dalit movement.

The Congress and BJP have been both wooing the dalits ardently. But the Congress seems to have an edge with the emergence of the new crop of dalit leadership led by Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani.

Apart from wooing the dalits, the Congress is also focussing on “soft Hindutva”, projected by its party chief Rahul Gandhi, which is said to have reaped benefits for it in Gujarat.

Mr Gandhi is set to hit the campaign trail in the state between February 10 and 12. During the course of his three-day visit, Mr Gandhi will address meetings and interact with various groups of intellectuals, farmers, women, and students in the state.

The third key factor in these elections, the Janata Dal (Secular) led by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, might align with the Congress post polls, if needed.

“After the initial mood of anti-incumbency, Mr Siddaramaih has regained lost ground and we are not anticipating more than 80 seats for BJP. In such a scenario, both Congress and JD(S) would be able to keep the BJP out of power,” a senior JD(S) leader told this newspaper.

Tags: karnataka, siddaramaiah, dalits