Bengaluru: Two hours is hardly ever enough to predict fortunes in a close electoral battle in a state as large as Karnataka. But the Congress’ fortunes aren’t where chief minister Siddaramaiah would want it to be. The barometer seems to be Chamudeshwari where the chief minister is trailing.
The Congress may not finish a very distant second but not holding the state would dent the party’s position as the main opposition to the BJP. The party now holds three states in India – Mizoram, Pudducherry and Punjab – and losing Karnataka would be a challenge to Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the other hand has increased its tribe since its landmark win in the Lok Sabha 2014 elections and now are in government in 21 states in India. The BJP is almost certain to emerge as the single largest party in Karnataka even if it stops short of a majority at 112.
But as the trends convert into results and the BJP closes in on the 100-seat mark, former prime minister HD Dewegowda and his son Kumaraswamy seem to be smiling. And why shouldn’t they? In a situation where no party has an outright majority, the Janata Dal Secular’s (JDS) support would prove crucial. The party may end up with over 40 seats and could play the role of the kingmaker. The JDS formed a pre-poll alliance with Mayawati’s BSP and during the campaign has held the Congress and the BJP at an arm’s length.
The Congress has already made overtures and indicated tacitly that it will woo the JDS — and the incumbent chief minister may be the scapegoat in that scenario. Siddaramaiah has indicated that he may go without a fuss if the party were to nominate a Dalit candidate as a chief minister, a move the JDS would be onboard with. Devegowda started his politics as a Congressman in the 1950s and switched to the Janta Party during the emergency and the JP movement.
Apart from the ideological connect, there is the experience of sharing power with the BJP. Devegowda’s son Kumaraswamy was the chief minister under a post-poll power-sharing alliance with the BJP in 2006 and is known not to get along with BS Yeddyurappa, who is not only the former chief minister but also BJP’s chief ministerial candidate this time around. What is important to remember is that Kumaraswamy was in alliance in 2004 with the Congress — and the alliance with the then chief minister Dharam Singh couldn’t hold beyond two years.
Kumaraswamy’s own chief ministerial ambitions may come in the way of forming an alliance with any party. Mamata Banerjee, on polling day, say the Congress shouldn’t have angered the JDS — and today’s results indicate that the so-called third-front would have a pride of palace, even if it is on Sonia Gandhi’s dinner table for now.
No party in Karnataka has been re-elected since 1985. That augurs well for the BJP but even better for the JDS — which would see opportunity in this fractured mandate. Results for 222 of the state’s 224 seats will be declared today, voting in RRNagar and Jayanagar has been deferred.