Karnataka Poll Narrative: Outcome Could Impact 2024 General Elections
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge likened Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a snake at an election rally in Gadag district Thursday but clarified later in the day that his words were aimed at BJP and not PM Modi. However, BJP leaders took serious objection to his statement. ‘What I meant was BJP is like a poisonous snake. Even if someone tastes it, death is certain. These words were not meant for Mr. Modi. Personally I don’t have any grudge against any individual,’ Kharge said.
The BJP narrative: Hindutva and caste politics
Karnataka Assembly polls will be held on May 10. Results will be clear on May 13. Before the numbers come, Sugata Srinivasaraju (Senior journalist and author) looks at the various narratives that are shaping the elections.
For example, in the case of Karnataka, “Hindutva has made more noise than actually polarise voters……This has been true with the previous elections and is likely to be the case this time, too.” A big reason for this “is BS Yediyurappa, who has been largely responsible for the BJP’s success in the state. He has been more a ‘Mandal’ (OBC) politician than a Hindutva champion…..Yediyurappa has been instinctually attuned to caste identity issues. He has skilfully and cunningly arranged the mix-and-match of castes to generate votes for the BJP over the decades.”
But the BJP got rid of him in the middle of 2021. His age, other vulnerabilities and his family’s alleged corruption aside, the BJP wanted to change the narrative for the state.
Basavaraj Bommai became Yediyurappa’s replacement. The BJP’s game plan, it appeared, states Srinivasaraju “was to get someone from a dominant Lingayat community (which has remained loyal to the BJP) to introduce aggressive Hindutva…..” But nine months before the polls, the BJP realised the “big shifts were not happening…. That is when Yediyurappa was brought back to the centre stage, not to lead the campaign from the front but as a patriarchal figure to manage caste complications…..”
The Congress narrative: believes in anti-incumbency against the BJP
The Congress narrative, writes Srinivasaraju “is rather uncomplicated. It believes that the palpable anti-incumbency against the BJP will automatically put it in the driver’s seat. It has been advertising the BJP’s scams. It is also trying to snatch unhappy elements among Lingayats from the BJP and present a narrative that the Lingayats are moving out of the BJP. It has no clear outreach for minorities (read Muslims) or the more oppressed Dalits or the tribes. Its backward class messaging is largely confined to Kurubas and Idigas — two of the 100-odd communities on the list.”
The Janata Dal Secular narrative: surprise beneficiary ?
When it comes to Janata Dal Secular and the Vokkaligas who dominate southern Karnataka, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, the patriarch of the Cauvery basin, “is guarding his terrain by campaigning at the age of 89. He may retain his 20 per cent vote share. His party has gone to the people with a well-structured development programme. He also sorted out family complications in time. His son HD Kumaraswamy has gone round the state more than any other leader this season. If saffron voters want to teach a lesson to the BJP, but their conscience wouldn’t permit them to go with the Congress, the surprise beneficiary may be Kumaraswamy.”
Implications for Lok Sabha 2024
According to analyst Sunil Gatade “never in the past nine years has any poll-bound state so much turmoil within the BJP. It suddenly appears clueless about what is happening…..”
An exodus of prominent BJP partymen is another factor.
“The BJP has done everything to polarise the poll battle. Only recently, the Karnataka government announced its decision to scrap the four per cent quota for Muslims and add it to the existing quota of two dominant communities of the state…..”
Interestingly, writes Gatade “the Karnataka elections are being held when the BJP has either acted or has initiated action on all three core planks -- scrapping of Article 370, building a magnificent Ram temple at Ayodhya and the Uniform Civil Code. Several BJP-ruled states have formed committees on the issue of the formation of the code.
“Despite this, the BJP is looking shaky in Bengaluru. If it remains so, then Karnataka could have a cascading effect on the entire South where the party has intensified efforts to further its footprint. It has emerged as the rival to K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s BRS in Telangana, replacing Congress.
“Besides, it could cast a shadow in the Assembly polls of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, two of which are now ruled by the Congress while the Congress is raring to give a tough fight in the third.”
Karnataka, argues Gatade “is now a key battleground for the Modi-Shah duo to shake off the Opposition challenge amid the growing Congress belligerence……..”