As Karnataka votes in the legislative assembly election on May 5, the fate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s 'first government in south India' will be sealed.
Only its most ardent supporters believe the party has a chance of returning to power.
Trends in the recently held urban local body elections and pre-poll surveys give the Congress an edge.
The party hopes to get a majority in the 225-member House (election is to 224 seats, one Anglo-Indian is nominated) or solicit support from Independents and/or BS Yeddyurappa, former chief minister and BJP’s bête-noire who formed the Karnataka Janata Party.
Rebellion in the Congress after nominations were filed could mar its chances.
However, senior Congress leader S Siddaramaiah said most of the 35 rebels withdrew their nominations in support of official candidates after 'they were consoled'.
Yeddyurappa may emerge as the kingmaker. “His KJP will slow down the race between Congress, BJP and JDS at various places,” said A Narayana, assistant professor of Azim Premji University. KJP leader V Dhananjay Kumar said, “Our aim is to kill BJP. If we can't form government, we will support others”.
The BJP is bothered by one scam after another, powerful leaders spending time in prison, the Yeddyurappa-spearheaded split among other issues.
The illegal mining scam, illegal land denotification scam and the Below Poverty Line card scam are proving to be fodder for the opposition in their campaigns.
Its leaders like Yeddyurappa, mining baron G Janardhana Reddy, Katta Subrahmanya Naidu, and Krishnaiah Setty have been behind bars.
The taint will carry over into the election, said party insiders. The moral policing issues in coastal Karnataka, mainly Mangalore, may also hurt the BJP.
Yeddyurappa’s exit impacted the party in two ways: first, he tore away a group of 20-25 MLAs which will impact the percentage of votes for BJP on those seats and, second his split consolidated the powerful Lingayat community vote behind him rather than the BJP.
Even BJP leaders say “there is little hope of coming to power without the Lingayat vote”.
The BJP now campaigns that the post-Yeddyurappa party is “clean”. BJP state chief Prahlad Joshi said, “BJP has not accepted defeat…We have a chance because people are fed up with the Congress-led central government”.