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Karnataka Votes Today, Will Set The Path For 2019

The poll is even more crucial for the Congress party: Karnataka is the last big state left under its control following a series of losses.

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A state of 60 million people, Karnataka is home to the Information Technology hub of Benguluru and was ruled by the BJP once before.
Congress may have to taste defeat in Karnataka, VOA
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Millions of voters in India’s southern state of Karnataka cast ballots Saturday to choose a regional government in a poll expected to set the stage for national elections next year.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party hopes to wrest the key state from the opposition Congress Party and sustain a streak of impressive wins since it swept to power in 2014.

The poll is even more crucial for the Congress party: Karnataka is the last big state left under its control following a series of losses.

“Psychologically, in the perception battle, that both the Congress and BJP are going to mount, this is going to be very, very critical,” said Neerja Chowdhury, an independent political analyst.

Springboard for BJP

A state of 60 million people, Karnataka is home to the Information Technology hub of Benguluru and was ruled by the BJP once before.

The runup to Saturday’s vote saw both Prime Minister Modi and Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi swing through the state in a high decibel campaign.

Political analysts say a victory for the BJP will not just boost its prospects when it seeks a second term in office in 2019, it would also give it a key foothold in southern India. Although the party has expanded its presence significantly since it came to power in 2014, it remains largely confined to northern and western India.

A state of 60 million people, Karnataka is home to the Information Technology hub of Benguluru and was ruled by the BJP once before.
Counting of Karnataka polls will be done on 15th May, VOA

“It will acquire the reputation of a pan India party if it manages to get power in Karnataka,” Chowdhury said.

The race is expected to be a tight one. The BJP has been somewhat on the back foot in recent months as it comes under pressure for not delivering on key promises of firing up the economy and creating millions of jobs for India’s young people. It is also under criticism for failing to control fringe Hindu groups.

Political analysts say a defeat for the BJP would re-energize the opposition Congress party, which hopes to lead an alliance of regional parties against Modi next year and signal that it is on a revival path.

Do or die for Congress

On the other hand, a loss for the Congress would be a huge setback for the grand old party that has ruled India for much of the 70 years since independence.

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“For Congress it is a do-or-die battle, if they lose Karnataka, they would have lost every state that went to the polls since 2014,” said Sandeep Shastri, vice chancellor of Jain University and coordinator of Lokniti, a political research group. Compared with the 22 states that are now controlled by the BJP and its allies, Congress only rules four.

The polls will also gauge whether the popularity of the Indian leader goes beyond the Hindi heartland where he is credited with helping the party pull off several victories. Modi has won a reputation as a formidable campaigner, but his personal charisma remains untested in the south, where most people do not understand the Hindi language and where his election speeches had to be translated for the crowds.

Opinion polls have forecast that there may be no clear winner. Votes will be counted Tuesday. (VOA)

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Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Intact

JDU knows that this 15-16% votes is not enough to help the party and for the BJP too, only the 17% votes of upper castes are not sufficient

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Nitish Kumar with Narendra Modi.
Nitish Kumar with Narendra Modi.

By Sagarneel Sinha

There have been lots of discussions among the political circles that JDU led by Bihar Chief
Minister Nitish Kumar is upset with the BJP and trying to send signals to erst allies — RJD and the Congress. This led to speculations that Nitish may once again join the Grand Alliance (GA) leaving the NDA camp. Already, RJD’s new commander Tejasvi Yadav has clearly stated that Nitish led JDU will not be welcomed in the GA. Despite all the odds, if (suppose) GA partners accommodate Nitish, he wouldn’t be the driving force of the alliance as in 2015. Also, Nitish cannot afford to go alone like in 2014 when his party fetched only 2 seats!

Then which is the correct way for JDU? It is to go with the BJP in the upcoming 2019 polls.
JDU’s advantage in this case is the present situation of the BJP. Currently, the saffron party is not in a strong position as the party would be facing anti-incumbency from a strong RJD led alliance in the state. BJP’s traditional voters are the upper castes who account for 17% of the electorate. This votebank is not enough for the party to help to win elections. The main opposition party — RJD still commands over a larger votebank than BJP. RJD is still a dominant force among the Yadavs and the Muslims who account for 31% of the population. It means BJP has to minus the 31% votes and rely on the rest — 69%. Out of these, 16% are the Mahadalits — a large portion of whom generally hail Nitish Kumar as their leader. Also, there are Kurmis, an OBC group consisting of 4% votes — considered as the supporters of JDU. Nitish Kumar himself is also a Kurmi.

Nitish Kumar Invited to Join NDA by Amit Shah After JDU-BJP Tie-up in Bihar
Nitish Kumar Invited to Join NDA by Amit Shah After JDU-BJP Tie-up in Bihar.

JDU knows that this 15-16% votes is not enough to help the party and for the BJP too, only the 17% votes of upper castes are not sufficient. However, if these votebanks are joined together they form around 31-32%. Plus, to gain the extra votes, both the parties have the option to rely on the personal charisma of Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, there is a power tussle between the two allies to get a respectable share of seats.

This power tussle is because of a strong BJP which earlier used to be a junior ally. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections changed the political scenario of the state where BJP emerged as the largest party in terms of vote share and seats. JDU knows the reality of a new emerging BJP, though it is pushing hard to gain a respectable share of seats for the Lok Sabha elections. Instead, Nitish Kumar has another option — giving the bigger chunk to the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections and the latter playing the junior partner for the 2020 assembly elections if held timely. Given the current situation in the country, in a crucial state like Bihar, BJP can hardly reject JDU as the later still commands over 15-16% votes — a very crucial votebank for winning maximum seats in the 2019 polls. Importance of JDU can also be explained by BJP president Amit Shah’s visit to Patna to have breakfast and dinner with Nitish Kumar. Though in politics there are no permanent friends or foes, so any perfect prediction is impossible. But given the current situation, JDU and BJP parting their ways seems unlikely as both the parties are in need of each other as already highlighted by Amit Shah that the two allies would fight the Lok Sabha elections together. Smiling face of Nitish Kumar was also an indication that the meetings with Amit Shah were fine.