Anxiety filled weekend for poll-weary Karnataka

May 24th, 2008 - 9:52 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party

Bangalore, May 24 (IANS) People and political parties in Karnataka are living an anxiety-filled weekend after staggered balloting for a 224-member assembly ended without indications of a clear winner. Unlike in the past when astrologers were sought after to know how the stars are aligned in favour of or arraigned against a political leader or a party, this time both print and electronic media largely ignored them — with the media itself forecasting a possible repeat of the 2004 scenario when no party won a clear majority.

The exit polls by some TV channels in association with leading dailies confirm the fear of a split verdict. Two of them have placed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the Congress and close to crossing the halfway mark of 112 seats.

The third has predicted the Congress emerging as a single largest party but nowhere near the 100-seat mark.

These widely differing projections, lack of a single emotive issue to sway the voters, lacklustre electioneering, absence of leaders with pan-Karnataka influence, multi-cornered contests are all adding up to make the run up to Sunday’s vote count a worrying time.

The met department has also not been helpful. It has predicted possible heavy rains. True to the forecast, Bangalore turned gloomy by Friday evening with overcast skies and frequent showers, at times very heavy.

The BJP and Congress have dismissed pre-poll and post-poll findings and asserted that they will form the government on their own.

Even Janata Dal-Secular, whose president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda had said earlier that no one can form a government without his party’s support, has also talked about forming a government on its own!

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and her predecessor Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party are also in the poll battle. Neither of them is expected to win significant number of seats. But both are feared as they can eat into other parties’s vote share.

The Congress fears that BSP may take away sizeable Dalit votes, like in 2004.

The BJP is wary of the Samajwadi party, not because it has established a strong base in Karnataka but because it is indeed a one-man show, that of former Karnataka chief minister S. Bangarappa.

Bangarappa, a former Congresssman, was with the BJP in 2004 and this is believed to have helped the party to a great extend to emerge as the single largest entity with 79 of the 224 seats. Bangarappa, 76 and in failing health, has not only quit BJP but has made it his life mission to defeat the “communal forces”.

He is taking on BJP’s chief ministerial candidate B.S. Yediyurappa in Shikaripura in Shimoga district, about 330 km from Bangalore.

The Congress and JD-S have withdrawn their candidates to help Bangarappa in his new mission.

Congress and BJP leaders acknowledge, privately, the possibility of neither crossing the half-way mark of 112 seats.

What they dread most is getting stuck at or close to 100-seat mark, forcing them to run to the JD-S to form the government as independents and small parties together are expected to win between 20 and 30 seats.

The Congress, which recorded a thumping victory in 1999 bagging 134 seats, suffered a heavy defeat in 2004 winning just 65 seats. The JD-S did surprisingly well winning 58 seats and the two came together to form the first coalition government in the state.

In Januaray/February 2006, Deve Gowda’s son H. D Kumaraswamy walked away with over 40 JD-S legislators to align with BJP and bring down the Congress-led ministry.

After being chief minister with BJP support for 20 months, Kumaraswamy, aided by his father put several conditions to make way for Yediyurappa as agreed in 2006. The alliance fell apart and Karnataka was went for an assembly election a year ahead of schedule.

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