Karnataka polls will set the trend for 2009 general election

April 15th, 2008 - 9:43 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party

New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) In this season of discontent with voters battling price rise and increasing inflation, the Karnataka poll next month could be an important political bellwether, particularly for the Congress which finds itself on the backfoot in these crucial months before the 2009 general election. With inflation hitting a 41-month high of 7.41 percent and the first round of elections on May 10 in Karnataka less than a month away, political parties have started building up their arsenal.

The BJP, which has already made price rise its focal point of campaign inside parliament, said prices would be at the core of its strategy to woo voters.

“The Karnataka elections are an important way station,” said Arun Jaitley, the BJP general secretary in charge of Karnataka.

“Inflation, price rise and the loan waiver scheme for farmers are going to be our campaign issues,” Jaitley told IANS.

“We will have to tackle price rise,” admitted B.K. Hariprasad, senior Congress leader from Karnataka.

The poll outcome will indicate the music that the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition may have to face in the general election, if inflation and price rise continue their onward march.

But the Congress is hoping to gain in the Karnataka assembly and Lok Sabha polls from the bill pioneered by the UPA government providing 27 percent reservation for backward class students in higher educational institutions. The additional quota was last week upheld by the Supreme Court.

“We should benefit because we have led the reservation issue,” said Hariprasad.

This is the first election taking place after the completion of the process of delimitation of constituencies.

The two major political parties, the Congress and the BJP, are however playing down any possible impact the newly carved constituencies may have on their electoral fortunes.

“I do not think the BJP would gain from the delimitation exercise,” Hariprasad said.

Playing even safer, Jaitley said, “Only results can tell (whether delimitation will have any impact).”

In Karnataka, the Congress is also on a weak wicket with a faction-riven state party unit and too many leaders aspiring to be in the chief minister’s seat.

The BJP is upbeat, hoping to cash in on the sympathy factor triggered by the betrayal of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in November, when it pulled the rug from under the party’s week-old government.

Jaitley said, “Stability of the state government will be one of our main campaign issues.”

“The Karnataka polls are significant not only for the state but for the whole country,” said Kunwar Danish Ali, secretary general of the JD-S, a party that has been playing the role of a kingmaker in the assembly poll and is hoping for further leverage this time.

“If the Congress and the BJP are defeated in Karnataka or if they fail to form a government on their own strength, it will indicate that the people are looking for a third alternative,” said Ali.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which, political analysts say, will emerge as a key player in the Lok Sabha poll in case of a fractured mandate, has officially said it will go it alone in the Karnataka poll.

The Congress however suspects that there could be a tacit understanding between the BJP and the BSP to hurt its Dalit vote bank.

In last year’s assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the BSP spoilt the Congress’ chances by undercutting the party’s support among the Dalits. Congress leaders are apprehensive that the pattern will repeat itself in Karnataka.

Apart from Karnataka the other states going to the polls this year include Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The states going for assembly polls at the time of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections are Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Mizoram.

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