Express News Service
As the three main parties in Karnataka — BJP, Congress and JDS — face the looming Assembly polls that are likely to be held early next year, each one is doing so from the basis of its own predicament
Cong: needs to pull its act together
It is well known that a house divided falls like a pack of cards, and no other party faces as many internal divisions as Congress in Karnataka. Its rivals have joked: “The biggest enemy of the Congress is the Congress itself !” There are several factions and they are led by Siddaramaiah, DK Shivakumar, KH Muniyappa, HK Patil, BK Hariprasad and Dr G Parameshwara. The recent polls in five states left Congress unit in Karnataka demoralised as it feared that the same recurring here in the 2023 Assembly polls if they do not unitedly fight the opponents instead of fighting each other. Congress’ bungling over the Youth Congress leadership issue, torn between two groups even among the younger generation of the party — one led by Raksha Ramaiah and other by Mohammed Nalapad — brought the ugly divisions to the fore. Unless the leadership is clearly fixed and everyone remains accountable, Congress could fall apart, like in Punjab.
Congress was forced on the backfoot on issues of hijab, halal, and ban on Muslim traders at temples. It finally got an opportunity in the form of “40-per-cent corruption” issue on a platter. Though critics argue that “lethargic” Congress did not exploit the complaints by contractors’ associations in two back-to-back legislative sessions, the suicide of contractor Santosh Patil provided fresh ammunition. Shivakumar said for the upcoming 2023 polls they will focus on the failures of this government on all fronts — corruption, unemployment, price rise and Covid failure. Congress’ rivals had mocked at the party over night-long protest in the House seeking Eshwarappa’s resignation over the national flag issue and failing. Also, when Eshwarappa did resign on Friday evening, the ex-minister’s supporters stressed that he did so by his own will and not due to Congress pressure and demands for his resignation.
BJP: consolidating its hindu votes
Less than a year away from the Assembly polls, ruling BJP has started preparations well before the rival parties. The party organisations and Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai are trying to work in tandem to further increase the momentum after BJP won four out of five states. The party has clarified that there are no plans of going for early elections, nor any more changes in leadership, and has shifted gears into the poll mode. Karnataka BJP leaders, in four teams, are touring the state to galvanise workers and popularise welfare and development programmes of both state and Union governments. Party insiders feel preparations started with the change in leadership of Lingayat strongman BS Yediyurappa being replaced by another Lingayat Basavaraj Bommai nine months ago. Bommai initially staggered and struggled to bring some seniors on his side, and is yet to take control of the administration to bring in a clean and transparent government to enhance the party’s image.
The low-profile Bommai’s imaginative budget had earned appreciation with some welfare programmes targeting all sections — including Vidaynidhi, a scholarship programme for children of farmers which is to be extended to children of fishermen and weavers; reintroduction of Yashaswini health scheme; additional Jayadeva and Kidwai hospital units; financial assistance to pourakarmikas, Dalits and others; and a manufacturing unit in North Karnataka region. The hijab row, the halal issue and the call to boycott Muslim traders turned out to be a blessing in disguise for BJP when the Congress itself was appearing to regain its lost ground by taking up Mekedatu padayatra and price rise issues. The principal opposition parties’ stand on hijab issue and support to some of the outfits to observe bandh against the High Court verdict was a windfall for BJP as vast sections of Hindus consolidated behind the party.
JDS: facing an existential crisis
Elections after elections, JDS is known to face the crisis of its existence and retaining its identity as a regional party to be reckoned with. Evidently, it has started all-out efforts to impress upon the people of the state, especially in the old Mysuru region. After holding a brainstorming workshop ‘Janata Parva’, also aimed at identifying the alternative candidates for those who are ready to quit the party, party supremo HD Deve Gowda sounded the poll bugle by launching the ‘Gangajala Ratha Yatra’ as part of the ‘Janata Jaladhare’ programme to showcase his contribution to the irrigation sector in the state. The 15 decorated buses with LCD screens dispatched in different directions will create awareness.
Since 2004, the party has experienced upheavals as stalwarts like Siddaramaiah quit the party along with his supporters and joined Congress. Yet JDS, which has the strong backing of Vokkaligas, managed to make an impression and become a kingmaker. With a poor track record of retaining stalwarts and their supporters in its ranks, the party is likely to merely play a role of “kingmaker” again. After Siddaramaiah, wi th some key leaders — including GT Deve Gowda, Srinivas Gowda, SR Srinivas, among others — leaving the party in the Old Mysuru region, it may get difficult (almost impossible) for the party to realise its ambitious plan of getting 123 seats in the Assembly polls, and might just limit itself to helping either BJP or Congress in their Assembly seat equations. Many leaders in the region have started identifying with Siddaramaiah as a leader who can fight for the farmers’ cause. For instance, when the state government failed to procure ragi, former MLC YSV Datta approached Siddaramaiah instead of Kumaraswamy — enough evidence of JDS men losing trust in their leaders.