Just a couple of weeks back, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was brimming with confidence. After all, he had dented the BJP’s powerful Lingayat vote bank by recommending a separate religion for Lingayats and by introducing a Kannada flag, he had carved out a Kannada identity to take on the BJP’s Hindutva narrative. After a pan-Karnataka trip with Rahul Gandhi, he seemingly had the high command’s total confidence, and above all, he had successfully converted the battle for Karnataka into Siddaramaiah Vs Modi. The Siddaramaiah – Rahul Gandhi duo had everything under control – or so they thought.
But now, with hardly a month left for the big day (May 15th) – the date of counting, Siddaramaiah’s plans seem to be in tatters. What has changed for the ‘Kannada strongman’ who planned to ride on Kannada sentiments to victory?
Even without Modi entering the fray, the BJP seems to be on an ascendancy. A pre-election survey by India Today shows the BJP at 35% rapidly growing from the 19.9% it had got previously. India Today, of course, gave a seat prediction which showed a hung assembly with Congress at pole position. But BJP at 35% with JDS splitting into Congress votes, should come comfortably close to victory. In the past, too, BJP has won with a lesser vote share than Congress. And all this, without Modi even starting his campaign.
The more terrible news for Siddaramaiah comes from his own constituency Chamundeshwari where Intelligence reports suggest he is on a weak wicket. He has been trying to contest from one more constituency in North Karnataka, but the high command has shot it down.
HD Kumaraswamy has been campaigning hard in Mysore, and his campaign in the CM’s constituency has seen strong support. The wily old fox, former PM H D Deve Gowda has declared war on Siddaramaiah (even referring to him in the singular) and has tied up with Mayawati with the intention of destroying Siddaramaiah’s backwards-Dalit-Muslim vote bank. And every extra vote JDS will get will help the BJP. It is expected that the BJP will field a weak candidate in Chamundeshwari to help the JDS beat Siddaramaiah.
The Lingayat card seems to be have backfired, with slow realization dawning that being tagged as a minority religion will only help the powerful politicians who run educational institutions. Also, the Veerashaiva mathas who are strongly opposed to the separate religion tag, have declared war on Siddaramaiah, who now seems unlikely to get any benefit from his game plan.
The controversy over MLA Harris’ son Nalapad, has given a poor picture of the law and order situation in the state. Add to this, unending civic woes in Bangalore, frequent power cuts and the slowly growing water shortage problem is unlikely to endear Siddaramaiah to urban voters.
Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao’s vicious attack on UP CM Yogi, asking people to beat him with chappals is unlikely to help the situation. Yogi belongs to the Nath tradition and has close links to the Vokkaliga community, who will be most displeased. Vokkaligas anyway have no love lost for Siddaramaiah, who has given preference to his Kuruba community over Vokkaligas in job postings and other areas. If that wasn’t enough, Siddaramaiah went ahead and called BJP, RSS men as “Hindu Terrorists”.
It seems unlikely that Congress can take away Lingayat votes from BJP and Vokkaliga votes from JDS. Adding to their woes, their own Dalit and backward vote bank are under attack from Shah and Gowda. The entry of MEP, a new Muslim party has only multiplied troubles for the Siddaramaiah – Rahul Gandhi duo.
Add to all this, the chaos over ticket distribution! Congress could not finalise its first list of seats for many days thanks to a bitter feud between Siddaramaiah and Kharge. Old Congressmen like Moily are upset over neo-Congressis like Siddu getting more seats. No sooner has the first list was released, than huge dissidence has broken out.
Perhaps the worse alarm bell for Congress is Karnataka – Siddaramaiah nemesis is yet to come! Modi’s previous visits saw the tag ‘ten percent govt’ highlighting Congress corruption. In a whirlwind campaign, Modi is expected to take on Siddaramaiah head on and expose his failure on all fronts.
All these added together can lead to only one result – a defeat for Siddaramaiah!
Whether BJP crosses the 113 majority mark depends on Modi, but one thing seems to be very clear, Siddaramaiah’s reign is over. He himself may lose his constituency and it is unlikely that Congress will get more than 80-85 seats. In the event of a hung assembly, Deve Gowda’s first condition for a coalition will be to keep Siddaramaiah out of the picture.
So it seems like it is all over for the Karnataka Chief Minister, barring the actual counting of votes!