Political analyst and academic Sandeep Shastri, whose recent work ‘Karnataka politics: the road taken, the journey ahead’ looked at the political trends in the State, spoke to The Hindu about the Assembly elections on May 5.
A: How are the upcoming polls significant in the political scenario in Karnataka?
It is a litmus test for all parties. It is a test for the BJP which had come to power on the promise of being different. It is going to the polls as a hugely weakened party. The BJP will have to ask itself if it frittered away the popular sentiment that brought it to power and if it is really a cadre-based party.
The question before the Congress is whether it is wooing voters simply on an anti-incumbency wave or if it has something positive to offer. That will define and decide its position.
The Janata Dal (Secular), which was in a position of power in a bi-party combination, is pushed to the third position. It will have to ask itself if it can assert its position in the old strongholds and make new inroads.
The poll is also important as it will define the nature of political competition in the State. Karnataka has generally seen a bi-polar competition. Does the trend of bi-polarity get confirmed or does the State see a competitive multi-polarity? This election is likely to provide an answer.
How will small players — the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) and BSR Congress — influence the results, particularly considering that their performance in the just-concluded urban local body elections was not spectacular except that they split votes?
Both would be essentially spoilers. The KJP has a limited agenda: to show the BJP (especially the national leadership) that the party can do little without the former Chief Minister B.S. Yedyurappa. The BSR Congress too is limited to Bellary and its neighbouring regions and its formation is linked to the inability of its leaders to achieve their political ambitions within the BJP. They hope to be king-makers. If trends are any indication that also seems a distant dream for the simple reason that if no party is able to get a majority on it own, the party closest to the mark is likely to garner support of Independents (who are likely to be elected in large numbers) rather than break bread with smaller parties.
With the Lok Sabha polls due in 2014, what would be the significance of the Karnataka Assembly results on the larger national politics?
The State is going to the polls a year ahead of the general elections. The trend is Karnataka is expected to continue in the Lok Sabha election from the state. For the Congress and the BJP, Karnataka is critical for adding the maximum numbers from the principal party to the UPA and NDA. Whoever wins in Karnataka, it would be a morale booster in the run-up to the Lok Sabha poll.