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Factionalism to hit saffron party

All eyes are set on the election results of Karnataka assembly on 8 May. The questions raised are; will any party get an absolute majority or there be a hung house? The trend in the recent assembly elections has shown that the people prefer one-party rule and do not vote for a hung house. This was demonstrated in successive Uttar Pradesh elections.

The same was the trend in Bihar election and recently held Punjab and Himachal Pradesh polls. In Bihar, Nitish Kumar romped home comfortably; in Himachal, the Congress sailed through comfortably and in Punjab, Akalis retained power.

Judged in this backdrop, there is remote possibility of a hung house in Karnataka. Which party will then get a majority is the million-dollar question. The BJP is down and out; the BJP’s loss is the gain for new entrant and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s KJP. But the former Karnataka CM is unlikely to get anywhere near a simple majority. Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda’s JD-S is likely to get 34-44 seats; far short of a majority and Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP) and Independents together may end up with only 14-22 seats.

The only party that remains in the fray is the Congress, which has the potential to get a majority. It is projected to get a simple majority in the 224-member Karnataka Assembly elections, ousting the only BJP government in South. Having been edged out in the only state, the party ruled south of the Vindhyas, the BJP will cease to exist in South; it will be confined to North only. Congress is set to get around 117-129 seats. The party’s strength at present is 71. The BJP, which bagged 104 seats in the 2008 polls, may get only 39-49 seats in the just concluded elections results of which will be known on Wednesday.

The projection conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) also says that the ruling BJP is likely to lose substantial ground in the just concluded Assembly polls.

The survey shows that Congress is likely to secure 37 per cent vote-share, a two per cent gain compared to its 2008 performance. The poll suggests a significant fall in BJP’s vote share compared to its performance in the last Assembly election. The BJP is likely to get only 23 per cent votes, 11 per cent fall compared to 2008.

In its political debut, KJP is likely to get an estimated seven per cent votes. The JD-S may finish third but with a marginal gain in its vote share. While Yeddyurappa is expected to come a close second garnering 10 per cent votes, chief minister Jagadish Shettar comes last with six percent votes.

Hit by infighting and a three-way split, the ruling BJP, which came to power for the first time in Karnataka by riding a sympathy wave in 2008, is now fighting for survival. It appears that the BJP’s best-case scenario is a sizeable tally that could help them forge a post-poll alliance to form the government and checkmate the Congress.

While the architect of the BJP’s victory in 2008 and former CM Yeddyurappa has severed its links with the parent party and become the state president of the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP), its former minister and key member of the influential Bellary Reddy Brothers, B Sriramulu, has quit to float his own political outfit – the BSR Congress.

The impact of the split was felt in urban local bodies in which the BJP bagged only half the seats that the Congress did. The  JD-S equaled the BJP performance. The BJP came to power promising stability and good governance, but failed to deliver them because of infighting. Factional feuds brought the government on its knees, precipitating at least 10 crisis situations.

The government has seen three chief ministers, which took a toll of administrative efficiency. The trouble started quite early.

In a show of blatant political quid pro quo, the party had to stake out support from five independents to form the government, and in exchange made them ministers. Opposition MLAs were also lured to beef up government’s numerical strength but had to be placated with ministerial berths and broad championships.

This strategy, known as Operation Lotus, created a sub-group in the BJP government that was not wedded to its ideology. Loyal party workers were put off, as nearly half of those wielding power were non-BJP members. It is mostly these MLAs, coming from other parties, who formed the support base for Yeddyurappa who was asked to quit as chief minister after he was indicted by the Karnataka is Lokayukta’s report on illegal mining. Most of these MLAs have followed him to the KJP.

Yeddyurappa is confident of a crushing defeat of the BJP. His expectation is that the BJP would not get more than 50.

He is also of enacting the kingmaker’s role after the election. He says ‘without me no party can form the next government’. (IPA)
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