Bengaluru: Blatant corruption, nepotism, aggressive Hindutva agenda and caste politics that overtook the election mood in Karnataka culminated on 12 May. It stood out starkly more than ever before. Five crore voters were up on Saturday to decide the fate of ruling Congress, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (Secular), though only 70 percent of them showed up according to the Election Commission’s data. The three big parties are expecting to make a decisive mandate of crossing the halfway mark of 112 seats and set course for 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The election was devoid of any dominant issue, unlike in 2013, when corruption and land scam cases took the centre stage, which led to the saffron party taking a hit. If this election was any different from the previous one, it was in the alternate narrative that Congress built by positioning chief ministerial candidate Siddaramaiah as the poster boy to counter the trio of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP party chief Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who through the course of the campaign reduced state leaders like BS Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar Hegde to formalities.
By not fielding any Muslim and Christian candidates, the party that runs 21 states in the country has sent out an immature message. Congress leaders too, in a bid to counter the Hindutva card, visited religious mutt leaders and temples.
While Yeddyurappa laid low, he has been confident of forming the next government. By getting the state Cabinet to give Lingayats the religious minority tag, Siddaramaiah gave BSY a minor jolt. From handling the inter-state Cauvery crisis to opening Indira canteen for the poor and doling out farm loan waivers, Siddaramaiah has tried to project himself as a messiah of the masses while hoping to dilute the anti-incumbency factor.
However, Congress has failed to handle the urban mess in Bengaluru. From last-minute approval of road projects to mishandling sewage problems and lake development initiatives, citizens did not get a fair deal. However, the capital’s response would be telling.
The Rajarajeshwari Nagar incident, where over 10,000 voter cards were found in a flat allegedly owned by aides of incumbent Congress MLA Munirathna, leading to the postponement of polls in the seat, made a mockery of democracy. A day before the election, many complaints were received by the election body about cash-for-votes.
The saffron party highlighted the issue and is expecting to grab at least half of the 28 assembly seats in Bengaluru. They did not capitalise on the entry of erstwhile Congressman and ex-chief minister SM Krishna in BJP, but those who were jailed and thrown out of the party during the last term received a nice treatment this time.
Congress banked on its "corruption-free" administration but left more to be done in strengthening its workforce at the booth level during campaign days. It also faltered by compromising on the party’s ideology by giving tickets to at least 10 MLAs who defected to Congress from JD(S), BJP and other local parties. The Grand Old Party proved that it is no better compared to other parties on this.
Except for Rahul Gandhi, the national party president, no other national leaders were given importance and generous time on stage along with Siddaramaiah. This is also a litmus test for Rahul before the 2019 elections, and the result may also break or make the confidence of a prospective third front.
On 15 May, the election results will finally show just what did really matter to the people who queued up outside polling booths on Saturday to elect their MLAs. It will reveal who they prefer on the throne in Karnataka.
(The author is a Bengaluru-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters)
Updated Date: May 13, 2018 09:16 AM