‘Infighting is a more serious problem for the BJP than Congress’
Narayana A who is heading a project on the Karnataka Assembly elections is a former journalist and professor at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru. Hardnews spoke to him about the issues before the polls
How do you see the result of the Gujarat elections impacting Karnataka?
The result of the Gujarat elections will not have any direct influence on Karnataka elections which are five months away, which is a long time in electoral politics. However, the Gujarat results have raised hopes of both the Congress and the BJP in Karnataka. The impressive performance of the Congress even in its defeat in Gujarat has instilled in the party a sense of confidence that its principal rival is not unbeatable. The BJP thinks that since it managed to retain power, overcoming 22 years of accumulated anti-incumbency in Gujarat, it should be easier for it to score a victory in Karnataka. However, if one considers the scenario in Karnataka, it very clear that there is no comparison between Gujarat and the southern coastal state. The state’s BJP unit is totally dependent on the Prime Minister and hopes that he will tilt the balance in its favour. However, we cannot say that the Modi factor will work here in the same way as it did in Gujarat. At the same time Karnataka voters have not re-elected a party since 1985, something that should leave the Congress worried.
What according to you are the trends, issues and factors that one must watch for in the elections?
There is no single overarching issue that shapes trends in the run-up to the Karnataka elections. There are far too many issues being raised by the contending parties — from river water dispute with Goa to the agitation by the Lingayats for their recognition as a separate religion to the alleged injustice to the Kannadigas by national parties. In the absence of a domineering issue, the BJP has been trying to paint the Siddaramaiah government as anti-Hindu in a bid to consolidate the Hindu votes. The Congress is trying hard to defeat the BJP’s game by wooing OBC, Dalit and minority votes for whom the Siddaramaiah government has launched a large number of welfare schemes. The Congress has also lent its support to the demand by Lingayats for a separate religion. This, the party hopes, will dent the traditional Lingayat support base for the BJP which has been following a neutral stand on their demand. So, it seems that there is going to be a clash between two different models of communal/caste politics in the 2018 Karnataka elections.
The impressive performance of the Congress even in its defeat in Gujarat has instilled in the party a sense of confidence that its principal rival is not unbeatable. The BJP thinks that since it managed to retain power, overcoming 22 years of accumulated anti-incumbency in Gujarat, it should be easier for it to score a victory in Karnataka. However, if one considers the scenario in Karnataka, it very clear that there is no comparison between Gujarat and the southern coastal state.
What role will the JD(S) play in the elections? Do you think they will be the king-makers?
The JD(S) has strong pockets of support in southern Karnataka, especially in the districts of Mandya, Hassan, Mysore and Chamarajnagar. However, it relies heavily on last minute desertions by unsuccessful ticket aspirants from the Congress and the BJP. In fact, the latter factor will mainly decide its actual performance in the election and its ability to emerge as a kingmaker.
What impact will the brutal murder of Gauri Lankesh and other rationalists have on the elections? Will it have an impact on votes from the minority community as well?
Gauri Lankesh’s murder will have no impact on elections. Assuming that the case remains unsolved till the elections, the BJP would use it as an evidence of poor law and order in the state and the Congress would continue to allege the hands of the Right wing in all such murders but neither will cut much ice with the voters.
There have been rumours of infighting in the BJP camp. Do you think there will be dissonance between Prakash Javadekar and BS Yeddyurrapa? Also, will Anant Kumar Hegde play an even more central role?
Infighting is a more serious problem within the BJP when compared to the Congress. There are several factions within the party. BS Yedyurappa has a running feud with senior leader KS Eshwarappa. Many leaders do not like Yedyurappa’s close confidante Shobha Karandlaje. There is rivalry among the Vokkaliga leaders within the BJP, especially between Union Minister Sadananda Gowda and former deputy chief minister R Ashok. Loyal BJP leaders have been resisting the importance being given to those who deserted the party on the eve of 2013 with Yedyurappa and then returned to the party along with him. Anant Kumar Hegde has been creating controversies by delivering communally provocative speeches. This seems to be part of the BJP’s strategy to use communal polarisation as its major weapon in the elections.
How would you characterise the Tipu movement by the BJP and what bearing would it have on the minorities?
The BJP launched a series of protests against the celebration of Tipu’s birth anniversary sponsored by the Siddaramaiah government. The issue has died down now but this agitation has helped the BJP to some extent in sending out the message that the Congress has been following a policy of appeasing the Muslims.