The importance of Karnataka – Hindustan Times

The importance of Karnataka - Hindustan Times

Karnataka is seen as an outlier in the political map of South India for its willingness to back the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In all of 130 Lok Sabha seats in the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Kerala and the Union territory of Puducherry, it is the 28 constituencies in Karnataka that the BJP banks on to prevent a washout in the South: In the 2019 general elections, the BJP won 25 of these 28 seats and its tally from rest of the region was a mere four seats, all from Telangana. On Friday, 14 of the Karnataka constituencies, among them the urban seats of Bengaluru and Mysuru, will vote; the outcome will be crucial to the BJP’s pursuit to win a third consecutive term with an enhanced majority.

Channapatna: AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge with Karnataka Deputy CM D.K. Shivakumar during a public meeting in support of party candidate D.K. Suresh for Lok Sabha elections, in Channapatna, Monday, April 22, 2024. (PTI Photo)(PTI04_22_2024_000143B)(PTI)

On paper, the BJP is on a formidable wicket in these seats for two reasons: One, urban centres, as well as the coastal seats in the state have historically backed the BJP; and two, the party has an alliance with the Janata Dal (Secular), which retains pockets of influence in the region. However, the party lost office last year, and the Congress may be riding high on its success in the assembly polls and the popularity of the welfare schemes implemented since by the Siddaramaiah government. The general elections, clearly, will see a face-off between two sets of welfare guarantees piloted by two popular leaders, Siddaramaiah and Narendra Modi. For Siddaramaiah — and DK Shivakumar — the two pillars of the Karnataka Congress, this phase is a battle to guard their home turf. On the other side, the political relevance of the Deve Gowda clan, which has fielded three family members, is on test: The Old Mysuru region, which votes on Friday, is Gowda ground and dominated by the Vokkaliga community, which now has an alternative to the Gowdas in the leadership of Shivakumar and his brother, DK Suresh, the only Congress winner from the state in 2019.

The assembly elections were a wake-up call for the BJP as its high-voltage Hindutva campaign with a pronounced anti-Muslim edge turned out to be disastrous — the Congress won 135 of the 224 assembly seats. It appears to have gone back to the communitarian politics pioneered by its tallest state leader, BS Yediyurappa and even denied seats to some of the Hindutva poster boys. On test are the tactical skills of Yediyurappa, the cadre base of the JD(S) and the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. For the Congress, Karnataka, the home state of its chief Mallikarjun Kharge, is a vehicle of hope: A good show here will help the party increase its numbers in the Lok Sabha.

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