Karnataka exit polls suggest no major anti-incumbency against Siddaramaiah, JD(S) to play key role

Although exit polls in Karnataka have thrown up a variety of possible outcomes, certain broad trends have emerged.

- Firstly, there is no visible anger against the Siddaramaiah government. There is no strong anti-incumbency sentiment, independent of whether the Congress retains the state or not. Most exit polls predict a hung Assembly. The fractured verdict, as per the prediction of exit polls, reveals that the electorate is not decisive in rejecting the incumbent government. A few polls even predict that Siddaramaiah will retain power. One possible explanation for this is the massive welfare agenda of the Congress government. As growth has increased in this millennium, governments flush with funds have begun implementing several welfare schemes, which are often described by critics as populist policies. This is resulting in a trend wherein anti-incumbency is not always a given.

- While the JD(S) may or may not be the “kingmaker,” it is expected to emerge as a key player. Though the party has lost ground, it is still a force to reckon with in Karnataka. The political relevance of the party indicates that caste-based political loyalties still hold sway to an extent. The performance of the JD(S) is significant in view of the polarised contest between the Congress and BJP. The exit polls are unanimous in predicting that although the strength of Deve Gowda’s party has declined, it may still be able to win a substantial number of seats. These can prove to be crucial if there is a hung Assembly. But contrary to speculation, the JD(S) may not have enough strength to demand the chief minister's post for Kumaraswamy as it is likely to be way behind the BJP and Congress. Only some magic arithmetic would make either of the national parties desperate enough to agree to a chief minister from the JD(S). Such a possibility would be politically awkward and unstable.

BS Yeddyurappa and Siddaramaiah. PTI/Getty images

BS Yeddyurappa and Siddaramaiah. PTI/Getty images

- Although Karnataka has witnessed a triangular contest at the macro level, the contest at the ground level is more or less between the Congress on one side and the BJP or the JD(S) on the other. This is due to the social and geographical distribution of the political influence of the BJP and JD(S). The BJP is popular in north and central Karnataka while the JD(S) is strong in the Old Mysuru region and southern Karnataka. While BJP enjoys the support of Lingayats despite Siddaramaiah wielding the separate religious identity card, the JD(S) is rallying the Vokkaliga community voters. Thus, the BJP and JD(S) are not competitors in the political and electoral arena of the state. There seems to be an undeclared understanding between the BJP and JD(S), giving the Congress anxious moments. The BJP reportedly fielded weak candidates wherever the JD(S) had winning chances against the Congress. The JD(S) reciprocated with a similar choice of candidates.

-Narendra Modi has found it difficult to demonstrate an extraordinary performance in an election where he is pitted against strong regional satraps — such as Siddaramaiah. Narendra Modi's magic did not work in the Delhi and Bihar Assembly elections, where Arvind Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar challenged Narendra Modi. Similarly, despite a pro-Modi national mood, the BJP did not fare well in Telangana , West Bengal etc. where regional satraps challenged it. More recently, the BJP had to bite the dust as Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati — two strong leaders in Uttar Pradesh — joined forces. Thus, it may not be easy for Modi to dislodge Siddaramaiah despite the state’s history of voting out incumbents.

-The BJP's slogan of Congress-mukt Bharat is far from fulfilled. This is evident from the Congress’ improved performance in Gujarat and the sleepless nights the BJP has had to undergo to counter the Congress in Karnataka. It is an indication of things to come for the saffron party in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where it has to face anti-incumbency. The results of bypolls in Rajasthan and local body polls elsewhere reveal the trend that Modi in 2018 is not the Modi in 2014 . The Congress' popularity had suffered significant erosion at the hands of the Modi-led BJP. However, it remain the only pan-Indian challenger to the BJP and is expected to benefit from a possible anti-Modi sentiment, especially in the states where it is in direct conflict with the BJP .

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Updated Date: May 13, 2018 18:44:29 IST

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