Fear of fractured verdict haunts Karnataka

March 25th, 2008 - 11:44 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi
(Letter from Bangalore)

Bangalore, March 25 (IANS) As the Election Commission prepares to announce election dates in Karnataka, the people are worried over a possible fractured verdict like in 2004 that sent governance in the last four years for a six. Ironically it is the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), which stands to gain the most from a split verdict although it brought down two successive coalition governments it formed — first with Congress help and then with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) assistance.

The BJP is all charged up with the expectation that it will substantially improve on its 2004 showing when it emerged as the single largest party with 79 seats in the 224-member house.

It was its highest tally in the state assembly and helped it to taste power in the country’s south for the first time, though in coalition with the JD-S.

H.D. Kumaraswamy, son of JD-S president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, led 49 of the 58 party legislators to forge an alliance with the BJP in February 2006 promising to share the chief minister’s post for 20 months each.

Kumaraswamy did not keep his word. Although he later agreed to support BJP candidate B.S. Yediyurappa as chief minister, he soon withdrew support, forcing the collapse of the BJP government. Karnataka saw President’s rule from Nov 20.

“The JD-S betrayal will be one of the main campaign planks,” said Arun Jaitley, who will oversee the BJP’s battle. He was in charge in 2004 as well.

“We will get absolute majority. There will be no fractured verdict. The people of Karnataka have seen the price they paid for instability,” he added.

The BJP is projecting Yediyurappa as its chief minister. The party says the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s failure at the national level to check soaring prices will also be a major campaign issue.

Narendra Modi, who led the BJP to a grand victory in Gujarat in December, is likely to be one of the party’s star campaigners.

Yediyurappa and other state party leaders are saying at public meetings that they will follow the Gujarat model of development to put Karnataka’s economic growth back on the rails.

The Congress too is harping on stability. It has brought back former chief minister S.M. Krishna to take on the JD-S led by Deve Gowda, a fellow Vokkaliga community leader, and to project an urban, IT friendly face to the voters.

“We will fight the election on the stability plank since people suffered during the coalition rule, particularly during the JD-S-BJP regime,” said Krishna after resigning as Maharashtra governor and becoming chairman of the Election Management and Coordination Committee of the party.

The Congress is not projecting any leader as its chief ministerial candidate.

Krishna led the Congress to a comfortable win in 1999 and became chief minister. He could not repeat the performance in 2004 when the party won just 65 seats.

Both the Congress and the JD-S are weak in northern and coastal Karnataka where the BJP has established a strong base.

Though state Congress chief Mallikharjun Kharge is from north Karnataka, the party has steadily lost ground as those parts lag behind south and coastal Karnataka in various fields - economic, social and educational.

Though coastal Karnataka has progressed well in all these sectors, the BJP has been able to make inroads by aggressively pushing its Hindutva and anti-terrorism plank.

As the temperature in several north Karnataka districts hovers at over 40 degrees Celsius, all parties fear a low turnout.

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