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.
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 – Mumbai Karnataka, Hyderabad Karnataka, Coastal Karnataka, and Old Mysore and Bangalore. Each of these regions has a very different voting pattern and has always voted as a distinct group.
Mumbai Karnataka – Belgaum, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Dharwad, Gadag, and Haveri, has historically witness a very close fight between INC and BJP. It 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. 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. The Mumbai Karnataka region has contributed to the success of BJP in 2008 and mostly would do the same in the upcoming election. In Mumbai Karnataka, INC may win 16 seats, BJP may get 28 seats, and rest may go to JDS and independents. Hyderabad Karnataka – Bidar, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Raichur, Bellary, Koppal has Hyderabad influence. In this region Dalit, Minority, Reddy-Vokkaliga, and Lingayats are key influencers. Both INC and BJP has strong regional leaders in this region. 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.
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. In Hyderabad Karnataka, INC may win 13 seats, BJP may get 26 seats, and rest may go to JDS and independents.
Coastal Karnataka – Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupi is presumably the stronghold of BJP. This is yet another region where BJP enjoys the fruit of work done by the RSS. Moreover, the pro Muslim image of INC would also help BJP consolidate vote share in this region.
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.
Old Mysore and Bangalore holds the key to the government formation in the state. 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. In Bangalore, there has been a direct contest between BJP and INC. Bangalore Urban has 28 assembly constituencies out of which BJP may win 14 seats, INC 12 seats, and 2 seats many go to JDS.
Rest of the Old Mysore region has 81 assembly constituencies which are dominated by Vokkaliga, and Kurba. 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 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. In the Rest of Old Mysore INC may get 25 seats, JDS may win 32 seats, and BJP may get 27 seats.
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. In my views INC may get 73 seats, JDS may win 35 seats, BJP may get 107 seats, and rest may go to independents. I won’t be surprised if BJP manages to get majority of its own. The overall effort made by the INC and JDS are not in the direction which can challenge the BJP dominance. Till recently it was good to say that efforts made by BJP was not commendable but they were better than the INC and JDS but in the last leg of campaign PM Narendra Modi’s aggressive reach out has changed the dynamics.
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.