Brief Political History
The country has not forgotten the charm of last Lok Sabha elections yet and the clashes before the next poll are already making headlines every day. On the same lines, the fate of leaders in Karnataka will be decided on 12th May when the state will vote for its 16th Assembly. The three major parties, Indian National Congress (INC), Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and Janta Dal (Secular) are at the forefront of the battle.
After independence, the Indian National Congress had a very strong presence in Karnataka, as it had on other states, due to the popularity of INC and Jawaharlal Nehru. It was only in 1983 that the stronghold was broken when, Janta Dal (JD) won 95 seats in Karnataka Assembly elections while INC got 82 and BJP managed 18 seats resulting in a hung Assembly. The Janta Dal (United) tied-up with other parties to form the first non-Congress government in the state. The 90s was a very dramatic period in Indian politics, it was the time when HD Devegowda left Janta Dal to form Janta Dal (Secular) or JD (S)
With a major presence in Karnataka, JD (S) formed a coalition government with the Congress in 2004 and in 2006, Deve Gowda’s son, HD Kumarswamy merged with the BJP to become the Chief Minister of the state. Followed by this, both BJP and the Congress gained power in 2008 and 2013 respectively.
Caste and Religion Scenario
In all these transitions, caste and religion have played a significant role in the state. Lingayats were demanding a different religion status other than Hinduism while a section of the community, Veershaiva, were against the demand. The present Siddaramaiah government has given the status of minority religion to Lingayats though the Centre’s NDA government has refused to approve the ruling. Lingayats comprise of 17% of the total population and can benefit 100 of the 224 assembly seats. The community has always supported BJP and the minority status move came as a setback for the party.
Pros and Cons for the Parties
This election is the gateway to the south for the BJP. BS Yeddyurappa has declared himself the chief-ministerial candidate without having the Karnataka BJP’s unqualified support. Now, the situation for Amit Shah is very serious when it comes to the choice of CM. He has a line-up of KS Eshwarappa, Jagadish Shettar, DV Sadananda Gowda and Ananth Kumar in addition to Yeddyurappa to choose from. Also, the NDA’s disapproval to Lingayats’s demands can reduce its votes share.
For the Congress, the upcoming elections are a big test as Karnataka is one of the four states where the party has a sitting government. Lingayats had been a big vote bank for the BJP and the move to give them a minority religion may bear fruits for Rahul Gandhi. Also, the party has to be careful with ticket distribution as there have been many allegations on party leaders for unfair distribution in the last two Assembly polls.
For JD-(S) the situation is even more critical because if it loses the elections, it will surely be the end of the road for party with BJP and INC leading the Government and the Opposition. Though currently Kumarswamy is getting great response and has gained enough popularity to be confident. HD Kumarswamy is the sole fighter leading the party against BJP and Congress. For now, it is sure that Karnataka will set the path for 2019 when the results will be out on May 15.