Political parties have plunged into action in Karnataka following the announcement of the Assembly elections on May 5.
Unlike the election in 2008 when the failure to transfer power to the Bharatiya Janata Party by its then ally Janata Dal (S) was the main issue on which the polls were fought, there are no major issues for any of the political parties this time.
The political scene has also turned complex this time with the entry of two more outfits — Karnataka Janata Paksha of the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and BSR Congress of the former Minister B. Sriramulu — that are capable of tilting the political balance in some of the constituencies.
ULB poll results
However, the results of the recently held elections to the urban local bodies in which the Opposition Congress surged ahead by winning more number of wards than the ruling BJP and the JD (S) put together appears to have given some kind of indication about the mood of the people at the fag end of the BJP’s five-year rule marked by political instability and infighting.
Political stability and good governance were the two main poll planks of the BJP, which came to power for the first time in Karnataka in 2008 riding on the sympathy factor following the JD (S) refusal to transfer power. But the party failed to deliver on both counts, mainly due to the infighting.
In fact, the party government was gripped by political crisis about 10 times in the last five years taking a serious toll on administration besides seeing three Chief Ministers.
The trouble started for the party due to inherent contradictions triggered by the efforts to artificially increase its numerical strength in the Assembly by making Opposition MLAs to quit, become Ministers and re-contest as well as win the bypolls on its ticket.
Most of the MLAs who came through this route, code named ‘Operation Lotus”, were the ones who were capable of winning elections without the support of any party organisation as they had a strong political clout. This created heartburn among loyal party MLAs as they lost prominent positions to outsiders. Even before the elections, the party which was desperate to use the sympathy factor, allowed lateral entries to expand its base. Though most of them won and got important positions, they too remained as a separate group.
Another factor that shook the BJP was its dependence on the mine-owning Reddy brothers from Bellary who called shots in the party. The long arm of the law catching up with the Reddy brothers for the serious violations and alleged illegal mining by them was an embarrassment for the BJP as their rise in their business empire coincided with its political raise in the State.
But the main blow for the BJP came from the very architect of its victory Mr. Yeddyurappa who took away most of the MLAs who came through the ‘Operation Lotus’ route with him more than a year after he was forced to quit as Chief Minister following indictment in the Karnataka Lokayukta’s report on illegal mining. The embattled BJP now claims that it has become “clean” with the quitting of Mr. Yeddyurappa and others.
The Congress and the JD (S) too are not without problems. While there is an undercurrent of discontent and groupism in the Congress, especially over the leadership issue, the JD (S) is struggling to expand its base. In fact, both the Opposition parties, especially the Congress, failed to effectively project the failures of the BJP government as they never took up any major pro-people struggles. Interestingly, prominent leaders of both the Opposition parties too faced Lokayukta FIRs for their alleged complicity in the illegal mining scam.
Meanwhile, what has created confusion for voters is the trend of large scale party-hopping, especially by those facing corruption charges and serious allegations. Ironically, many of them had crossed over to BJP as part of ‘Operation Lotus’.
Many such MLAs and Ministers who have returned from BJP to their parent parties appear to be of the view that it is the best way to duck anti-incumbency.