May 04, 2013

BATTLEGROUND KARNATAKA - PART 2

THE QUADRIPARTITE BATTLE FOR POWER

However, the problem plaguing the Congress is the plethora of Chief Ministerial candidates and the friction amongst them which has jeopardized the entire process of ticket distibution with each leader wanting their confidantes to be the official nominees of the party. Siddaramaiah, the leader of opposition in the outgoing assembly is the front runner in the race. Belonging to the 80 lakh strong Kuruba Gowda caste,
Rahul at a rally in Dharwad
he has considerable influence in the Old Mysore region and has served as the Deputy CM twice in the past. However,the biggest problem for him is that since he joined the INC after falling apart with his mentor Deve Gowda in 2008, many look upon him as an outsider and prefer a Gandhi-Nehru loyalist for the post. Enter Dr. G Parameshwar who was hand picked by Sonia Gandhi to head the KPCC in 2010. Being a multiple time MLA and a fresh face, he does enjoy the support of many insiders. 'Rebel star' and Kannada film star Ambareesh also nurtures ambitions to occupy the CM's chair. With the death of Dr. Rajkumar and Vishnu Vardhan, he is regarded by many as the tallest star in the Kannada film industry today. However, his brash temperament and limited influence in the Mysore region may go against him. S M Krishna, the former External Affairs minister who has served as the CM from 1999 to 2004, has lost much of his former charisma but is still quite popular, especially in the capital Bengaluru which was developed a lot under his tenure. In case, no consensus emerges, he may be called up as the 'please-all' candidate. Leaders from Hyderabad-Karnataka region like Union Labour Minister Malikarjuna Kharge and former CM Dharam Singh are the dark horses in the race for the throne.

The father-son duo of Deve Gowda and H D Kumaraswamy are working tirelessly to replicate in Karnataka what the Yadavs (Mulayum-Akhilesh) and the Badals (Parkash-Sukhbir) did in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab respectively. In his 20 month long stint as the CM, some of the initiatives launched by the junior Gowda were well received by the people. No one can deny that the withdrawal of support to the BSY government in 2008 by the JD(S) which was projected as a betrayal by the BJP won it sympathy votes. Not so surprisingly, the party dropped 31 seats to finish with just 28 in the last elections. Even in
The Gowdas
2009 Lok Sabha, the JD(S) could win only 3 seats. This time though, the mood is upbeat and the Gowdas are trying their best to woo the voters even beyond their traditional bastion of Southern Karnataka and its core vote bank - the Vokkaliggas and become a strong third alternative to the people of the state. The party manifesto has several sops to the farmers, weavers and fishermen. The 'Secular' party has promised funds for the development of minorities and effectively tackle corruption. By declaring its candidate list after the two national parties, it has accommodated several dissident leaders from these outfits. If the JD(S) manages to get over 60 seats and the Congress fails to get a simple majority, then it will emerge as a key player in the post poll scenario. Some reports suggest that, the Gowdas may not be averse to ally with the BJP if that is an option to come to power. Unlike the Congress, the JD(S) does not have an recognized faces apart from the Gowda duo. In fact, two of its other prominent faces - Siddaramaiah and late M P Prakash had quit in 2008 after they realized that the former PM would only support his own son as the next chief. While this prevents any infighting, the sad part for the party is that it is heavily reliant on the top two for campaigning.

Many believe that in 2013 assembly elections, Yeddyurappa is likely to emerge as the King-maker, all the more because of the four way contest that the state will witness. After being side-lined in the party that he had built in the state, the Lingayyat strongman joined the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) founded by Padmanabha Prasanna in November last year. Soon a string of loyalist, right from ministers in the government to corporators and  ordinary workers broke their association with the BJP and followed their leader into his new party. Yeddy's outfit has had a pretty good start as it managed to do fairly well in the local polls, managing to eat into the saffron outfit's vote share. By praising Sonia Gandhi before jumping to KJP, it is believed that he is keeping all his options open and might fill in the numbers in case the party falls short of the magic number. Though, he may vehemently deny it, allying with the BJP may not be difficult either. Thus, he is poised to become the game-changer in this elections in case of a hung assembly which is the most likely scenario if not for a Congress victory. However, allying with KJP may not be so easy. The long list of illegal land deals that he and his family members are accused of will hurt both the KJP and its future ally. Also, as the BJP leadership will tell, he is a tough nut to crack and will be difficult to deal with. One should not forget that besides DVS and Shettar, the KJP boss even had founder Prasanna thrown out of the party.

Yeddy knows that by leaving the BJP, he has taken the biggest gamble of his political career and a lot depends on the May 8 results. The Linggayyat leader who was known to given liberal grants to Mutts and seers during his tenure as the CM still has lots of friends in religious circles, all of whom are now
KJP supremo Yeddyurappa
asking their disciples to vote for him. Next, he is trying hard to get the support of the Muslim community which is traditional loyal to the Congress. Audacious as it may sound, Yedyurappa is asking the masses to vote for him and not the candidate. Even the manifesto is full of sops to appease all sections of the society, from women to farmers, from Christians whose churches were robbed in his tenure to the old. But the shrewd politician that he is, Yeddy knows that winning anything above 20 seats will not be easy. Four of his blue-eyed boys have ditched him, probably because they fear the influence that Shobha Karandalaje welds over the KJP chief. If the BJP manages to do the impossible and comes back to power and if the KJP gets less than 15 seats then he will have no option but to go back to his old party. In case, the Congress sweeps the polls, then Yeddy has to get over 20 seats to stay relevant. While a hung assembly will make him the most important politician in the state, any other result will hurt him in the long run. Finally, if he bags 30 odd seats in the new assembly, then he may well lead the Third Front in the 2014 general elections, something which he says is his aim.


Finally, there are several other smaller parties and a few national parties that have virtually no presence in the state that are contesting the elections. B Sriramalu who has floated his own party - the BSR Congress is expected to do well in Bellary region. With the Reddy brothers throwing their weight and money power behind him, the Nayaka leader is touring the state, hoping to grab as many seats as possible in his kitty. The Loksatta Party founded by former bureaucrat Jaiprakash Narayan, which has promised 'clean' politics is making its debut. Dalit leader and BSP supremo Mayawati has also addressed rallies in Northern Karnataka where she was quizzed by EC officials for carrying large sum of money with her. Besides, other national parties like the Samajwadi Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Janata Dal (United) have fielded their candidates in different parts of the state. The upcoming polls will be the most important in the history of Karnataka. While it is rich in natural resources and is the premiere IT destination of the country, the state has a long way to go as it continues to be plagued with frequent droughts, poverty and inequality. Apart from this, corruption has threatened to derail infrastructure development, especially in 'hi-tech city' Bengaluru. The people of Karnataka have to make the right choice so that the prestige of their state is restored.

Battleground Karnataka - Part 1 (Link)

IMAGES

(1) Rahul at a rally in Dharwad
Original: Rediff - Rahul turns 40 (Link)


(2) The Gowdas
Original: The Gowda merry go round (Link)


(3) KJP supremo Yeddyurappa
Original: Yeddyurappa.in (Link)