Bengaluru: The record voter turnout of 69 per cent in 14 Lok Sabha constituencies of Karnataka on Thursday, April 18, is being interpreted by both the BJP and Congress-Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) combine as being favourable to them respectively but the jury is still out.
“Whatever be the result, the stakes are high for the Congress-JD-S-allies, as a defeat in their own bastions may spell trouble for the 10-month coalition government in the southern state,” a political analyst told IANS on Friday.
Over 80 per cent turnout was recorded in Mandya, 77 per cent in Hassan and Tumkur and 76 in Chikkballapur and Kolar.
Of the 14 seats, the Congress contested in 10 and JD-S in 4, while BJP did in 13 and supported multi-lingual south India actress Sumalatha Ambareesh, who contested as an Independent against Nikhil Gowda of the JD-S in the prestigious Mandya seat.
“The high turnover in Hassan, Mandya and Tumkur is a clear indication of the voters favouring our candidates in favour of Modi as the people are fed up with the allies, their bickering and the lacklustre performance of their government in the state,” BJP spokesman G. Madhusudhan told IANS.
Similarly, although the voting percentage was the lowest in all the 3 Bengaluru seats, the BJP is hopeful of retaining them as it did since 2004, in view of Modi’s popularity with the urban voters, especially the young, techies and women.
“As Bengaluru’s infrastructure and civic amenities remain woeful despite the 5-year Congress rule and its coalition regime since a year, the low voter turnout reflects the apathy of its citizens for voting,” Madhusudan added.
“The series of tax raids, indifference of the coalition government to the city’s civic woes and absence of bonhomie between the cadres of the allies have put paid to the efforts of the Congress in wooing the electorate vote for its candidates. The BJP had won in the city despite lowest turnout even in the past,” Madhusudhan reasoned.
In the 2014 elections, out of the 28 seats from across the southern state, BJP won 17, the Congress 9 and the JD-S 2. Out of 14 seats which went to polls on Thursday in the first phase, the BJP and Congress had won 6 each and the JD-S two.
“Contrary to what the BJP claims, the higher turnout in most of the seats will favour us, as we avoided division of our secular votes by fielding joint candidates against the BJP, which may have benefitted from triangular contests in the past and taking advantage of our differences with the JD-S,” Congress official K.E. Radhakrishna told IANS.
The Congress and BJP also hope to retain the remaining seats, as both have again fielded their outgoing members from their respective constituencies such as Kolar (SC), Chikkaballapur, Chitradurga (SC), Chamrajanagar (SC) and Bangalore Rural, from where the Congress won and Mysore and Udupi-Chikmagalur from BJP won in the 2014 general elections.
In prestigious Mandya constituency, though Nikhil’s father and state Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy claimed voters would not betray the party as its loyal supporters, the highest polling percentage indicates the participation of a large number of youth, women and a legion of Ambareesh fans in the battle of the ballot.
What would have been a sure win for 28-year-old Nikhil, an upcoming Kannada film star, has turned into a ‘mother of all battles’ with Sumalatha, 55, in fray as a widow of Kannada rebel star Ambareesh, who still has a huge fan-fallowing among the youth, women, farmers even after his death 4 months ago on November 24 in Bengaluru.
“As Sumalatha is considered to be the daughter-in-law of Mandya after marrying its son of the soil (Ambareesh), sympathy, respect and love for him would have made most of his fans, women and farmers to stamp her ‘Trumpet’ symbol as a reward for his dedication and service to them,” said the analyst.
In contrast, the JD-S has counted on its committed voters among farmers and traders, as a majority of them belong to the politically dominant Vokkaliga community, to which the powerful Gowda clan also belongs, with party supremo H.D. Deve Gowda as its patriarch.
“We are very sure of retaining Mandya as it has been our pocket borough for over two decades and as evident from the victory of our legislators from all its 8 assembly segments in the May 2018 elections,” JD-S official Ramesh Babu told IANS a day after the polling.
The JD-S retained Mandya in the November 2018 by-election, necessitated by the resignation of its member C.S. Puttaraj on winning in the May 2018 assembly polls and becoming a minister in the coalition government.
With the vote count a month away on May 23, it’s a testing time for the allies on the outcome, as the chemistry between the Congress and JD-S cadres was missing to woo voters to press the party’s symbol in the electronic voting machines (EVM).
A similar challenge stares the JD-S in its other bastion – Hassan – where Deve Gowda’s another grandson, Prajwal, is a joint candidate of the allies, pitted against a former Congress minister-turned BJP contestant A. Manju.
Nikhil is also a grandson of Deve Gowda and Prajwal is the son of state PWD minister H.D Revanna, elder brother of Kumaraswamy and second eldest son of the party’s supremo and former Prime Minister for 10 months (June 1, 1996 to April 24, 1997).
Though Deve Gowda has represented Hassan for a record 6 times since 1991, his decision to pitch Prajwal to retain the seat did not go well even with the JD-S cadres and its committed vote bank.
As the Congress cadres stayed away from the campaign and refused to work with their JD-S counterparts, the verdict will tell if the going was tough or smooth for Prajwal and the allies, as the BJP sought a vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi the name of development.
With Gowda contesting from Tumkur, where the politically strong Lingayat community and the Other Back Class (OBCs) outnumber the Vokkaligas, an adverse verdict for him may spell doom for the regional party and the fledgeling coalition government.
The BJP has fielded B.S. Basavaraj, who represented Tumkur in the Lok Sabha from 2009-14 and lost to Congress member S.P. Muddahanumantha Gowda in the 2014 general elections.
As the Congress decision to allot Tumkur to the JD-S as part of its pre-poll tie-up denied Muddahanumantha Gowda a chance to re-contest, its cadres did not campaign for Deve Gowda nor mobilised voters for him at the booth level.
By Fakir Balaji