The expectations of a BJP revival in Karnataka, seen not long ago as having heralded the ‘first saffron blooms’ in the South, come with the baggage of intra-party bickering. It is over the BJP’s ways to win back old friends, who are linked to questionable deals, in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Thus, as the State gets ready to elect 28 members to the Lok Sabha in single-phase polls on April 17 — the Election Commission’s decision on the BJP’s plea to postpone the polling date due to intervening holidays is yet to be known — the impact of the supervening ‘Modi factor’ is now less clear than when the party’s prime ministerial candidate began his campaign in Bangalore, “to regain Karnataka”. True, the BJP this time has brought back into its fold the controversial former Chief Minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, whose Karnataka Janata Paksha played a critical role in the BJP’s defeat in the 2013 Assembly elections. But the re-admission of the influential leader, B. Sriramulu, and giving him the party ticket from Bellary, even while putting on hold the issue of merging his BSR Congress with the BJP, has been slammed by no less a person than Sushma Swaraj for Mr. Sriramulu’s connections with the controversial mining barons of Bellary, the Reddy brothers. A good section of the BJP’s central leadership may see this issue as ‘relatively marginal’, as Arun Jaitley wrote in his blog, but reconciliation among BJP groups in Karnataka is still in the making.
In a political landscape dominated by two communities, the Vokkaligas and Lingayats, the two other major parties, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) are also rejuvenating their social bases, sewing up more inclusive combinations that include the minorities and the OBCs. In fact, the present Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s achievement of steering the Congress to a spectacular win in the 2013 Assembly polls was largely attributed to a social justice plank that finely blended a broader alliance including the OBCs and Dalits. It is at the heart of the Congress’ strategy to sweep the Lok Sabha elections again. The JD (S) leader and former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, is also invoking all his combinatorial powers by readily allying with a miffed former Union Minister from the Congress, C.K. Jaffer Sharief, who was denied the ticket. Besides these three key political fronts in Karnataka, the enthusiastic Aam Aadmi Party is rollicking in the State capital, riding on a new semantics of tech-savvy youth in this IT-hub. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal even claimed during campaigning that his party would ‘sweep’ the four seats in the city. It would seem that for all the claims of the different parties, uncertainty reigns in Karnataka.