The Karnataka assembly election is one of the key political contests before getting into parliamentary election in 2019. It is important for INC to win Karnataka as it is one of the largest states where it is still in power. BJP wants to win the state as Karnataka is perceived as the gateway to south India. It is also important for JDS as the performance in this election will decide its future in regional and national politics. This election there are many political parties in the field trying to win the battle INC, BJP, JDS, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Maharastra Ekikarana Samiti (MNS), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Mahila Empowerment Party (MEP). The election 2018 is mostly a fight among INC, BJP, JDS.

It is very important to understand the demography, cultural, and ethnic dynamics of Karnataka to understand the election dynamics. The Karnataka can be divided in four distinct regions for political analysis – North-West Karnataka – Mumbai Karnataka, North-East Karnataka – Hyderabad Karnataka, Coastal Karnataka, and Old Mysore and Bangalore

North-West Karnataka – Mumbai Karnataka

The Mumbai Karnataka is a stronghold of BJP. In all six districts – Belgaum, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Dharwad, Gadag, and Haveri, we witness a very close fight between INC and BJP. In a few seats JDS also has presence and can challenge the dominance of INC and BJP, but this dominance is a function of the individual strong candidate rather than the party.

Mumbai Karnataka is a Lingayat dominated area which is considered as the backbone of the BJP. The astute politician Siddaramiah is trying his best to break the monolithic BJP vote bank by fueling the idea of giving a separate religious status to Lingayats. It is expected that this move will help INC win a siezable Lingayat vote share. It is widely predicted that the seats in the Mumbai Karnataka would get divided between INC and BJP. The other dominant force in the region is Marathi influence, and Mahadayi issue.

The popularity of BJP in the Mumbai Karnataka region is function of mass leaders such as B S Yeddyurappa, Jagadish Shettar and Prahlad Joshi, and the foundational work done by the RSS. Moreover, the pro Muslim image of INC would also help BJP consolidate vote share in this region. A detailed analysis of all six districts – Belgaum, Bagalkot, Bijapur , Dharwad, Gadag, and Haveri will help us understand the situation better.

Belgaum  has 18 assembly constituencies. In 15 constituencies there has been a bipolar contest between BJP and INC and in 3 constituencies Maharastra Ekikarana Samiti (MNS) has strong presence. In these 3 constituencies there is a straight fight between MNS and BJP. BJP is quite strong in this district. In 2013, the divided BJP got eleven seats – BJP (9), KJP (1), BSRCP (1), with roughly forty percent votes share. This election, if BJP manages to consolidate Hindu (Kannada and Marathi) votes it can easily win 12 seats, INC will have to be happy with 4 sets, and 2 seats may go to independents or MNS.

Bagalkot has 7 assembly constituencies. In these 7 constituencies we have witnessed bipolar contest between BJP and INC. It was BJP’s fort in 2008 with 47 percent vote share, but the numbers changed in 2013 and the party had to settle with only 1 seat. The united BJP has once again gained the trust of the voters and pushed INC to the corner. The Parivarthana Yatra by B. S. Yeddyurappa was well received by voters here and this election, if BJP maintains the momentum gained by the Parivarthana Yatra can easily win 5, if not all 7 seats.

Bijapur has total 8 assembly constituencies. Once again in this assembly constituency we witness a bipolar contest between BJP and INC. In 2008 BJP had won 5 seats but the equation changed in the 2013 election. This time, INC may again challenge the dominance of BJP in this area by fueling the Lingayat religion movement, but the BJP local leadership is capable of managing the show. This election BJP may win 5 seats and 3 may go to INC.

Dharwad has 7 assembly constituencies. In this assembly constituency we once again witness bipolar contest between BJP and INC. JDS also has presence in one seat by the virtue of strong local leader. In 2013, the united BJP enjoyed roughly 40 percent and INC had 37 voteshare; and in 2008 BJP had 47 percent, and INC enjoyed 39 percent voteshare. The historic numbers are testimony to the fact that voters’ first preference is BJP. The BJP understands voter’s sentiment in this district and can win 5 seats and INC and JDS can get one each.

Gadag has 4 assembly constituencies. In all four assembly constituency we witness bipolar contest between BJP and INC. BJP had swept all 4 seats in 2008 and lost all 4 in 2013 due to division of votes between BJP, KJP and BSRCP. The Parivarthana Yatra was well received by voters here and this election, if BJP maintains the momentum gained by the Parivarthana Yatra, and keep the local leaders united can easily win all 4 seats.

Haveri has total 6 assembly constituencies. In this assembly constituency also, like all other assembly constituency of Mumbai Karnataka region, we witness bipolar contest between BJP and INC. BJP is very strong in Haveri and had won 5 seats in 2008 with 42 percent vote share. In this assembly constituency, if BJP mange to get right candidate, it can repeat 2008 performance and can win at least 4 seats.

The Mumbai Karnataka region has contributed to the success of BJP in 2008 and mostly would do the same in the upcoming election. The Parivarthana Yatra by B. S. Yeddyurappa was well received by voters in this region. If BJP maintains the momentum gained by Parivarthana Yatra and INC fails to ignite the separate religious status to Lingayats BJP has huge advantage over INC. The number may change if INC manages to fuel the separate religious status to Lingayats card well.

 

North-East Karnataka – Hyderabad Karnataka

The Hyderabad Karnataka has six districts – Bidar, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Raichur, Bellary, Koppal. As this part of Karnataka has Hyderabad influence there is some amount of Telugu dominance in this region. It will not be wrong to say that in this region Dalit, Minority, Reddy-Vokkaliga, and Lingayats are key influencers. The region has 40 assembly constituencies with strong mix of Dalit, Minority, Reddy-Vokkaliga, and Lingayat voters.

The Hyderabad Karnataka has good representation of strong leaders from both the national parties. On the one hand Hyderabad Karnataka is dominated by the BJP leaders like Reddy brothers, and B Sriramulu on the other it is home to one of the tallest INC leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Anil Lad. Both national parties have good representation of the strong mass leaders who are committed to making the difference in their respective constituencies. As we understand that both parties have tall leaders and strong vote bank. All the six districts – Bidar, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Raichur, Bellary, Koppal of Hyderabad Karnataka would witness close contest between INC and BJP. In Hyderabad Karnataka, INC may win 13 seats, BJP may get 26 seats, and rest may go to JDS and independents.

In the last few elections both national parties BJP and INC have managed to win a good numbers of seats. It will be interesting to see the outcome of the 2018 election results of Hyderabad Karnataka region and the same will also decide the fate of the next government in the state.

Bidar has total 6 assembly constituencies. The district has been witnessing bipolar contest between BJP and INC for last few elections. The JDS can challenge the national parties for a few seats and play an active role of a spoiler. In the last election the united BJP managed to get 38 percent and the united INC (after Karnataka Makkala Paksha joining INC) had 34 percent share. If BJP maintains the momentum gained by the Parivarthana Yatra and works on consolidation of Hindu vote bank it can easily win 4 seats, leaving 2 seats for INC.

Gulbarga has 13 assembly constituencies. In Gulbarga, Yadgir needs a special mention as this district was created by BJP government and the party enjoys strong hold here. The Gulbarga district once again will witness bipolar contest between BJP and INC except in 1 seat where JDS has a strong candidate. In the last assembly election INC had 36.1 percent and united BJP had 36.9 percent vote share. Moreover, the united BJP has emerged strong in this district and had performed very well in Zilla panchayat elections while in the last parliamentary election INC won the Gulbarga seat. The fight here is very close and an election win will mostly be function of the right candidate selection. Just like Bidar, in Gulbarga also if BJP maintains the momentum gained by the Parivarthana Yatra and work on consolidation of Hindu vote bank it can easily win 7 seats here leaving 6 for INC.

Raichur has 7 assembly constituencies. In Raichur, 4 out of 7 seats are reserved for ST category and 1 for SC that would make the election results of the district interesting. The district has mostly witnessed bipolar contest between BJP and INC except in 2 seats where JDS has strong candidates. In the last assembly election united BJP managed to get 47 percent and INC got 37 percent vote share. It is important to note that out of 47 percent vote share of united BJP, 17 percent was managed by the Badavara Shramikara Raitara Congress Party (BSRCP) of B Sreeramulu. Now that B Sreeramulu, who is considered as a one of the tallest ST leader In Karnataka back to BJP, the party can win 4 seats leaving 3 for INC and JDS.

Bellary has a total 9 assembly constituencies. In Bellary also we would witness bipolar contest between BJP and INC. In Bellary 5 out of 9 seats are reserved for ST and 2 for SC category. Moreover, Bellary is B Sreeramulu’s home district and is power center of B Sreeramulu and Reddy Brothers. In last assembly election united BJP managed to get 37 percent and INC got 34 percent vote share. In Bellari, under leadership of B Sreeramulu and Reddy Brothers BJP would win 7 seats if not all 9 assembly constituency seats.

Koppal has 5 assembly constituencies. In Koppal once again, we would witness bipolar contest between BJP and INC except in 1 seat where JDS has strong candidates. In the last assembly election united BJP managed to get 43 percent and INC got 35.5 percent vote share. As BJP was a divided house INC won the last election in the district but the voters here are not happy with most of the INC MLAs. It looks like the voters would go back to the united BJP and the same reflected in the result of parliamentary election. The BJP would win a minimum of 4 seats if not all 5 assembly constituency seats.

The outcome of the 2018 election results of Hyderabad Karnataka region would mostly decide the fate of the next government in the state. This is the only region where the fight between INC and BJP would be very close and critical. The other regions the outcome is mostly defined and very little can be changed. In my views, BJP will dominate the results by winning 26 seats of Hyderabad Karnataka with help of political powerhouse – B Sreeramulu and Reddy Brothers leaving 15 seats for INC, JDS and independents.

Coastal Karnataka

Coastal Karnataka has three districts – Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupi. These three districts have 19 seats. The Coastal Karnataka is the stronghold of BJP. At present all the three MP seats are held by BJP. However, in 2013 assembly elections INC did extremely well in this region winning most of the seats.

The last assembly election BJP was a divided house but now all the three factions have got united and the party is expected to do well. It is widely predicted that BJP in the Coastal Karnataka will mostly win 12 seats leaving 7 for INC and others. JDS has very little presence in the Coastal Karnataka and can only depend on the charisma of independent leaders to add value to the party.

Dakshina Kannada (Mangalore) has 8 assembly constituencies. The Dakshina Kannada constituency has witnessed bipolar contest between BJP and INC in the last few elections. The Dakshina Kannada district has been a strong INC bastion but many INC leaders including Janardhana Poojary are unhappy with the CM and district in charge minister on their minor appeasement policies. This may help BJP consolidate its position in Dakshina Kannada. In the last assembly election united BJP managed to get 40.9 percent and INC got 48.7 percent vote share. It is very easy to predict that BJP can easily win 4 seats leaving 4 for INC. if BJP manages to polarize the election then it can add 2 more seats to it tally.

Udupithe  has 5 assembly constituencies. Udupi has witnessed bipolar contest between BJP and INC in past and the upcoming election won’t be an exception. BJP had swept this district in 2008 but it lost its ground in 2013 assembly election. In last assembly election united BJP managed to get 35 percent and INC got 48 percent vote share. The united BJP in 2018 is a strong house and with mass leaders like Haladi Srinivas Shetty and Jayaprakash Hegde in their fold. This election BJP can easily win 4 seats, if not all.

Uttara Kannada (Karwar) has 6 assembly constituencies. Uttara Kannada like two other assembly constituencies would also witness bipolar contest between BJP and INC except in 2 seats where JDS has strong candidates. In the last assembly election united BJP managed to get 28.6 percent and INC got 28.9 percent vote share. This election BJP is trying hard to consolidate its position riding on the pro-Hindu sentiments and appeasement politics of INC. This election BJP can easily win 4 seats leaving 2 for INC.

If the candidate selection is managed well Coastal Karnataka is clearly going BJP. The task however will not be very easy as INC will try its best to maximize its number. As of now, BJP in the Coastal Karnataka may get 12 seats leaving 7 for INC and others.

Old Mysore and Bangalore

Bangalore is a part of Old Mysore region but the voting pattern of Bangalore is very different from the rest of Old Mysore region. Bangalore is a cosmopolitan city, with highest concentration of educated and migrant middle class in the state. It has for long been the stronghold of BJP. Moreover, the major local community of the city – Brahmins normally favor BJP.

In Bangalore, there has been a direct contest between BJP and INC, but in 2 constituency JDS gives tough fight to national parties. In 2013, even with divided house BJP had managed to get 12 seats. Moreover, in 2015 BBMP polls BJP could get 100 out of 198 seats. Bangalore Urban has 28 assembly constituencies out of which BJP may expect 14 seats, INC 12 seats, and 2 seats to JDS.

Rest of the Old Mysore region has 81 assembly constituencies. In this region all the three major parties have presence but this region is dominated by the INC. The voters sentiment suggest that BJP is strong competition to INC in Chikkamagalore, Shimoga, Kodagu, Davanagere, Tumkur, and Bangalore Rural; and JDS is strong completion to INC in Mysore, Chamarajnagar, Mandya, Hassan, and Ramanagara.

Old Mysore region is Vokkaliga, and Kurba dominated area. Among the three parties who have strong play in this region, BJP is the only party that doesn’t enjoy great support of the dominant Vokkaliga community. Probably, with the induction of SM Krishna, a Vokkaliga into BJP, the party may also gain some confidence of Vokkaliga voters. JDS is strong among Vokkaligas and INC also enjoys strong support of Vokkaliga, and Kurb community.

The districts – Davangere, Chitradurga, Tumkur, Shimoga, Chikkamagalur, Hassan, Kodagu, Mysore, Chamarajnagar, Mandya, Bangalore Rural, Kolar, Chikkaballapur of old Mysore region has 87 assembly constituencies and mostly is dominated by the INC. A detailed analysis of on-ground situation of Old Mysore will help us predict that INC may get 25 seats, JDS may win 32 seats, and BJP may get 27 seats.

Davangere has 8 assembly constituencies. The assembly constituency has bipolar contest between BJP and INC except in 1 seat where JDS has presence. BJP had won 7 out of 8 seats in 2008 but the divided house could not win a single seat in 2013. In the last assembly election BJP had 35 percent and INC had 44 percent vote share. If BJP manages to select right candidates it can win minimum of 5 seats leaving 3 for the INC.

Chitradurga has 6 assembly constituencies out of which 2 is reserved for ST and 1 for SC. Chitradurga has also witnessed a bipolar contest between BJP and INC, but in this district independents have also surprised both national parties. In the last assembly election BJP had 37 percent and INC had 39 percent vote share. This election united BJP is in a quite good position. Now that the ST leader B Sriramulu is back to BJP, the party can win minimum of 3 seats leaving 3 for INC or independents.

Tumkur has 11 assembly constituencies. Tumkur would witness a triangular contest in 8 seats where BJP has presence. In another 3 it’s a contest between INC and JDS. JDS is quite strong in this district it has presence in all the constituencies. In the last assembly election JDS had 36.5 percent, united BJP had 30 percent and INC had 27.7 percent vote share. In Tumkur JDS would mostly win 7 out of 11 seats, 3 would go to BJP and INC may win 1 seat.

Shimoga has 7 assembly constituencies. Shimoga is B.S.Yadiyurappa and Eshwarappa’s home district. Shimoga is also considered as BJP’s Karnataka headquarters. In Shimoga in a few seats it’s triangular and on others direct contest between BJP and INC. In 2008, BJP had won 5 out of 7 but could only win 1 seat of B.S.Yadiyurappa in 2013. In the last assembly election JDS had 27 percent, united BJP had 36 percent and INC had 29 percent vote share. This election if BJP get right candidates can once again win 5 seats leaving 1 each for JDS and INC.

Chikkamagalur has 5 assembly constituencies. In Chikkamagalur almost in all 5 seats we can witness triangular contest.  BJP had won 4 out of 5 in 2008 but as divided house BJP could only win 2 seats. In the last assembly election JDS had 22 percent, united BJP had 35 percent and INC had 30 percent vote share. The minority appeasement politics of INC would help BJP consolidate Hindu voters and gain strength in Chikkamagalur. BJP once again would win at least 3 constituencies leaving 1 each for JDS and INC.

Hassan has 7 assembly constituencies. In Hassan we would witness a direct contest between INC and JDS. It is home district of HD Devegowda and JDS is very strong here. In the last assembly election JDS had 45 percent, united BJP had 11.5 percent and INC had 35 percent vote share. This election we may witness rise in vote share of BJP in Hassan as BJP’s Parivarthana Yatra was received well in 4 constituencies. This election in Hassan, if JDS select candidates wisely would win 6 seats leaving 1 for INC.

Kodagu (Madikeri) has 2 assembly constituencies. In both the seats we would witness a triangular contest. In the last assembly election JDS had 19.6 percent, united BJP had 43 percent and INC had 32 percent vote share. In Kodagu, Tippu jayanthi celebration by INC would further polarize votes in favor of BJP. This election BJP is expected to retain both seats.

Mysore  has 11 assembly constituencies. In all 11 constituencies we would witness a triangular contest. It is CM Siddaramaiah’s home district. In Mysore BJP is strong in urban sets and have good presence in a few rural seats also but in Mysore there is tough fight between INC and JDS. In the last assembly election JDS had 30 percent, united BJP had 19.7 percent and INC had 40.6 percent vote share. In Mysore we can witness absolute dominance of INC and this election also the party can win 8 seats leaving 2 seats for JDS and 1 for BJP

Chamarajnagar has 4 assembly constituencies. Chamarajnagar has triangular contest among BJP, INC, and JDS and BSP alliance. In the last assembly election JDS had 9.3 percent, united BJP had 36 percent and INC had 39 percent vote share. The results of the Chamarajnagar would be very interesting as JDS and BSP had joined hands to fight the election and the prominent Dalit leader Sreenivasa Prasad have joining BJP. This election BJP can win 2 seats leaving 1 each for INC and JDS.

Mandya had 7 assembly constituencies. In Mandya there is bipolar contest between INC and JDS. BJP doesn’t have presence in this district. In the last assembly election JDS had 41 percent, and INC had 31 percent vote share. It is expected of JDS to sweep this district but can win 1 seat piggybacking on the candidates’ charisma.

Bangalore Rural has 8 assembly constituencies. In Bangalore Rural there is bipolar contest between INC and JDS. BJP doesn’t have presence in this district. In 2008, BJP had presence in 3 seats but lost the presence in 2013 election. Bangalore Rural as of now is absolutely dominated by the JDS. In the last assembly election JDS had 36.8 percent, united BJP had 11.5 percent and INC had 36.5 percent vote share. In the 2018 it is expected that JDS would win 5 seats, leaving 2 for INC and 1 for BJP.

Kolar  has 11 assembly constituencies. In Kolar there is bipolar contest between INC and JDS. This is one of the rare constituencies where independents have strong hold. BJP doesn’t have presence in this district but can win 1 seat piggybacking on the candidate’s charisma. In the last assembly election JDS had 31.5 percent, united BJP had 9 percent and INC had 27.8 percent vote share. In the 2018 it is expected that JDS would win 3 seats INC 4 seats, BJP 2 seat and 2 seats for Independents and others.

A detailed analysis of on-ground situation of Old Mysore and Bangalore will help us predict that INC may get 37 seats, JDS may win 34 seats, and BJP may get 41 seats. This is the region which is traditionally a strong hold of JDS and INC but BJP has managed to make inroads in many districts of the region uprooting JDS and INC. The strong identity politics is helping BJP on the one hand and hurting INC and JDS on the other. INC and JDS can still change the dynamics of the game in the region but as of now the effort made by INC and JDS are not in positive direction.

The current status

As of now this election result is mostly tilting towards BJP. The overall effort made by the INC and JDS are not in the direction which can challenge the BJP dominance. It is not that efforts made by BJP are commendable but they are better than the INC and JDS. It is a classic case where BJP is not winning on their strengths but INC is losing this election on its weakness.  It will be not wrong to say that, INC once again is offering BJP a state on silver platter.