JD(S) is the X factor in Karnataka
The fortunes of the two national parties, the BJP and Congress, will depend on the performance of the JD(S), a regional partyeditorials Updated: Apr 27, 2018 13:18 IST
The Karnataka election campaign has picked up intensity. If Narendra Modi is speaking to party leaders and workers on video, Rahul Gandhi is doing roadshows. If Amit Shah is aggressively building the party organisation down to the booth level, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has launched a campaign with very strong sense of regional assertion. The intensity of the campaign reflects the high stakes for both national parties in this poll.
For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a win is necessary to counter the growing perception that the party is facing serious political challenges and discontent; it is also needed to enter the south, the one region where it has not been able to make a breakthrough. For the Congress, a win is essential to counter the perception of decline, for the party is already reduced to ruling only four Indian states. It will also boost Mr Gandhi’s leadership credentials soon after he has taken over as president and give the party resources which are needed for the subsequent set of state elections and the general elections in 2019. Both parties have thus thrown all their energy, personnel, leadership, and might in the assembly election.
The outcome of the elections, however, may well depend on the third party in the fray. Erroneously thought of as only a bipolar state, Karnataka has a third force in the form of the Janata Dal (Secular), led by former PM HD Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy. Reports from the state, and opinion polls, suggest that the contest is very close in the state, the assembly could well be fragmented, and JD (S) could emerge as a key swing force.
The party is hoping to win a substantial section of the Vokkaliga community; it has tied up with the Bhaujan Samaj Party (BSP) and hopes this will help them win a section of the Dalit vote; and it is projecting itself as a secular party to win a section of the Muslim vote. This is precisely what the BJP is hoping too: for all these three segments otherwise have a stronger association with Congress. Any split in Dalit, Muslim, and Vokkaliga votes helps the BJP. The Congress has, for this reason, been castigating the JD(S) as a B team of the BJP. In yet another quirk of Indian electoral politics, the fortunes of the two national parties will depend on the performance of the third regional party. And that constitutes the X factor in the Karnataka elections.