Gujarat Effect: Local Issues, Not GST Woes, to Drive K’taka Polls

What is the impact of Gujarat’s result on Karnataka?

5 min read
Hindi Female

After a hard-fought campaign, the Gujarat verdict is out. Now all eyes are on Karnataka, the last standing bastion of Indian National Congress.

Though victorious, BJP getting less than 100 votes has given the Congress party a morale boost in Karnataka. The drop in the figures, Congress says, stands testimony to the fact that the Modi regime is not invincible. However, for the BJP, the Gujarat elections are reassurance that Modi can make do with his last-minute appearances.

On the strategy front, the effects of issues such as GST and Demonetisation and the influence of Patidar movements have been watched closely by Karnataka’s politicians. By the end of the day, the consensus is that Karnataka elections will be fought on local issues more than national ones.


Who Gets a Morale Boost?

Early on Monday morning, the buzz in the capital was not about who won, but the number of seats won. BJP Karnataka, which is yet to gain momentum against the Congress, needed a convincing win in their leader’s home state. At the same time, Congress wanted a reduced victory margin in the BJP’s stronghold of Gujarat to prove that the opposition BJP is vulnerable in Karnataka.

What is the impact of Gujarat’s result on Karnataka?

In terms of numbers, anything more than 110 would have been considered a morale booster for BJP and anything less than 100 is what the Karnataka Congress was hoping for.

Even though the morning trends had Congress cheering, by afternoon, sweet distribution began at the BJP office in Bengaluru, as the lead was projected to be 109. But by early evening, when the lead fluctuated between 97-99, the celebrations fizzled out.


Congress to Stick With Siddaramaiah’s Strategy

Karnataka Congress has been putting its efforts into projecting the pro-poor policies of the Siddaramaiah government. Government programmes such as Anna Bhagya (free rice), Ksheera Bhagya (free milk for students), Pashu Bhagya (cattle subsidies and assistance), Aarogya Bhagya (free healthcare), Mythri (monthly pension for transgenders), Manswini (monetary help for poor, unmarried and divorced women) and a farm loan waiver, have been successfully implemented during the last one year.

He has also raised the issues of state flag and Hindi imposition to project himself to be a crusader for Kannada culture. More than gaining votes, these two agendas expected to be used in case a Modi wave gained traction in the state.

What is the impact of Gujarat’s result on Karnataka?
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

However, Siddaramaiah’s trump card is the caste census, which is yet to release. The state government is allowed to increase percentage of quota for backward communities if the caste census shows a higher number of backward communities. Siddaramaiah is expected to release the census figures close to the election and increase the reservation for backward classes to 70%.

The question during the Gujarat elections was whether demonetisation and GST loom large over Siddaramaiah’s plan. However, these two issues failing to make a dent has ensured that Congress will be following Siddaramaiah’s strategy.


Lingayat to Be Karnataka’s Patidars?

What is the impact of Gujarat’s result on Karnataka?
The Lingayat community is one of the largest vote banks for the BJP.
(Photo: Arun Dev/The Quint)

The demand for a religious status for Lingayat community was part of Siddaramaiah’s strategy. The Lingayat community is one of the largest vote banks for the BJP and by giving the promise of a new religion, Siddaramaiah is trying to get some Lingayat votes for Congress.

Parallels are being drawn between the Lingayat and the Patidar movements and their impact on the poll results. While it has been argued that the Patidar movement has not affected the BJP in a big way, Congress has certainly made some gains because of the indirect support from Hardik Patel. In Karnataka, where religious mutts have a say in political decisions, the support from some mutts is expected to be a gain for Congress.


The Modi Effect

The Karnataka elections, which were traditionally fought on local issues, saw a change with the Modi wave. Modi’s popularity in some parts of the state did see candidates getting votes in Modi’s name. A big takeaway from the Gujarat election was that the effectiveness of Modi remains and his rallies in Gujarat over the last leg of the campaign impacted voting patterns, to the BJP’s benefit.

What is the impact of Gujarat’s result on Karnataka?
File Image of PM Modi 
(Photo: PTI)

BJP leaders in Karnataka are confident that in their fight in Congress’ last bastion, Modi’s presence will play a crucial role. As many, if not more, political rallies than in Gujarat are expected to be addressed by Modi during the Karnataka campaign.

However, many in Congress differ – the insider advantage Modi had in the Gujarat polls will not work in Karnataka, they say.


Brace for More Communalism

If BJP had won with a large margin, it would have been a morale boost for the Karnataka BJP.

To revive an unsuccessful election campaign, BJP emarbked on two more pushes. BS Yeddyurappa, who despite his corruption charges is a vote puller, started a subtle Karnataka Parivartan Yatra, while his younger colleagues focussed on aggressive, communal politics. Among the two strategies of the BJP, communal politics caught more eyeballs than Yedyurappa’s yatra.

What is the impact of Gujarat’s result on Karnataka?
Communal violence incident in Karnataka.
(Photo: The Quint)

In the last one month, at least 5 incidents of communal violence were reported from coastal Karnataka and BJP leaders were at the forefront. The communal strategy of the BJP has managed to polarise several parts of coastal Karnataka and it is expected to result in vote gains. In the coming days, the BJP is expected to intensify its communal agenda to make up for the hit to morale from the Gujarat elections.

However, for the BJP, communal politics will work Uttara Kannada, Dakshin Kannada, Udupi, Chikkamagaluru and parts of Shimoga district – these four districts have traditionally been where the communal agenda has worked best. Whereas cities like Mysuru and Bengaluru have not fallen easy prey. Which means that the BJP is going to need more than communalism alone to win the state.


Karnataka’s Third Party Plays Spoiler

Karnataka is no Gujarat. While Gujarat holds two-party elections, Karnataka has Janata Dal (Secular), led by former prime minister HD Deve Gowda in addition to the BJP and Congress. The JD(S) takes a considerable slice of the vote pie. Apart from countering each others’ strategies, Congress and BJP will have to keep tabs on their third rival. If Congress and BJP don’t get a majority, JD(S) will play kingmaker.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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