Can BJP achieve a ‘Congress-mukt’ Karnataka?

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The BJP is trying its best to capitalize on the anti-incumbency factor in Karnataka.

The recent Gujarat election result has positioned Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka threading with caution while issuing statements on making Karnataka free from Congress rule. Though BJP leaders have celebrated the victory in Gujarat, they consider it as a moral defeat in that state. Despite the anti-incumbency factor and yet to be analysed Congress alliance with three sectarian and newly emerged politicians – Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani, and Alpesh Thakor, BJP got the sixth term uninterrupted win and majority to form the government.

Congress Mukt Karnataka
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at Hubballi

The BJP leaders have been trying their best to get mileage on Mahadayi river water issue by arranging a meeting with Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on December 20 in New Delhi. The state BJP leaders have roped in Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to address Parivarthana Yatra meeting at Hubballi on December 21. However, farmers from North Karnataka have made it clear that they want a solution to the Mahadayi water dispute and certainly not an assurance. The BJP leaders have also tried their best to capitalize on the killings of many RSS activists across the state.

On the other hand, BJP state president B.S. Yeddyurappa has also taken up a 75 days Parivarthana Yatra that was launched by BJP national president Amit Shah on November 2 in Bengaluru. It may be recalled the empty chairs and poor turnout at the rally made Shah fume at state BJP leaders. There was nothing to crow on the success of one of the Parivarthana Yatra meetings addressed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on December 17 in Bengaluru.

One cannot ignore the presence of Janata Dal (Secular) in the state. Though seven of its legislators revolted against the leadership and are set to join Congress soon, the JD(S) is set to play a key role in the event of a hung Assembly. It has been sharing power with Congress in Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) despite BJP emerging single largest party in the 198 member civic body.

“The ongoing agitation by Lingayats seeking a separate religion tag is also
expected to become a boiling point for all the political parties”

With an eye on North Karnataka voters that have eluded the party, JD(S) state president H.D. Kumaraswamy has decided to make Hubballi his second home. It was under his tenure, the Karnataka Government began holding winter session of the legislature in Belgavi. He played a key role in construction of Suvarana Soudha in Belagavi at a cost of more than ₹400 crore.

However, JD(S) is not immune to internal squabbles and infighting among its leaders. With more and more members from the family opting to jump into the electoral fray, it has become a headache for party supremo and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda to keep the flock together.

Kumaraswamy is facing tough challenge from his nephew Prajwal Revanna who came out with a startling revelation on the alleged suitcase culture that exists in the party. Now, Prajwal has been appointed as general secretary of the party. In fact, Deve Gowda has publicly acknowledged Revanna’s prowess as a young leader and has even anointed him as his successor in the party.

The ongoing agitation by Lingayats seeking a separate religion tag is also expected to become a boiling point for all the political parties. While Congress supported the demand, it has not taken up the issue to its logical end. BJP has remained mum on the issue fearing backlash from the community which has been its major vote bank all these years.

Other political parties such as Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Janata Dal (United), Sarvodaya Karnataka Party, Vatal Paksha, and left parties are expected to remain on paper and not pose any threat to the major political parties in the state.

However, it remains to be seen if other parties, including the BJP, will succeed in encasing anti-incumbency factor that Congress is likely to face in the forthcoming Assembly elections.