Karnataka state’s urban electorate has not shown consistent preference for a single party in last 2 decades. The challenge for the Congress is to win over urban voters and for the BJP, it is vice-versa. The battle is a keenly contested one with the congress trying to retain power.
South Karnataka has been the fortress of Congress. Rural & urban divide will affect the results. Congress has a strong foothold in maximum constituencies. Although the Congress in the State is a competition to BJP, their central leadership may hurt them. A loss will rob Congress of one of two major states which is still in their kitty. Lack of coordination between government and party in popularising the government’s welfare schemes and Corruption charges against senior ministers are the major drawbacks.
BJP has always been weak in South Karnataka. It has never been a dominant party in Karnataka like the Congress, which has a significant presence in every district. BJP has doubled down on divisive Hindutva and coarsened the political discourse. This does not work in Karnataka which is a liberal, peace loving State. BJP wants to continue its victory run motivated by the recent election results of Gujarat & Himachal Pradesh in Karnataka too. Communal polarization factor may be a game-changer in the State. Karnataka is the only State in South which has had a BJP Government. BJP is going all guns blazing to take another State from the Congress to make India ‘Congress mukth Bharath’.
Even as the Congress & BJP are fighting it out to snatch victory in the impending high-prestige Assembly election in Karnataka, there is a 3rd force JD(S) which could play a crucial role in the event of a hung assembly. As for JD(S), its strength is now confined to a few district of Kaveri basin. It has been pursuing new political partnerships to try and strengthen its position in weak constituencies. JD(S) has also been part of previous attempts by regional parties across States to put up a “Third Front” as an alternative to the two national parties. The JD(S) is not realistically in a position to achieve a simple majority on its own as it has lost ground in recent years.
It would be an extremely tough call to take as to who would win this bastion. All the major parties have problems galore. The manner in which internal rifts would be sorted out will be very crucial to the chances of both major parties. Interestingly, the State has shown a trend of replacing the ruling party after 5 years. However, the voting patterns have always been influenced by caste and community considerations in Karnataka. And, often Karnataka has voted much against the “expected lines”.