Some areas have seen high-pitched battles. Some others have seen singular attention from a particular party. In some others, parties are hoping voters come out to cast their ballots in numbers slightly larger than before.
As people in Karnataka make up their minds to cast their vote on May 10 in the state, Bharatiya Janata Party will be looking at how four regions of Old Mysuru, Kittur (Mumbai)-Karnataka, Kalyana (Hyderabad)-Karnataka and Bengaluru city will be voting.
These are the regions where BJP feels it can improve its performance in this election. In 2018, while it did not do badly in three of these regions, it was found wanting in the Old Mysuru region where it could win only 10 of the total 56 seats of the area. Janata Dal (Secular) won 31 and Congress, 15. Hence the added focus by party leaders on this area this time.
BJP, which depends excessively on the Lingayats for its votes, has this time felt that it needs to tap more communities and regions to expand its base and influence. The party knows only too well that while the Narendra Modi factor ensures it wins the maximum number of seats in the Lok Sabha polls, it has not won the majority even once in the Karnataka assembly.
Kittur-Karnataka and other regions
As for the other regions, the backward Kalyana-Karnataka has always favoured Congress. Of the 40 seats of the area, BJP won a mere 14 while Congress bagged 21. This is also the region that Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge comes from. The seven districts of this northern belt have a good Lingayat population. The last Lingayat chief minister of Congress, Veerendra Patil, hailed from this area. However, unlike Old Mysuru and Kittur-Karnataka, BJP does not seem to have given much attention to this region in its campaigning, unlike the former two.
Kittur-Karnataka is one region which saw a spirited, high-pitched battle this time from both parties, and especially from the BJP. One of the main reasons for this is the necessity to teach a lesson. Two of BJP’s Lingayat leaders – Jagadish Shettar and Laxman Savadi – are contesting from here on Congress tickets after quitting BJP after having been denied tickets. Hence, BJP wants to defeat them.
The region bordering Maharashtra has 50 seats and BJP won 31 of them in 2018. While this in itself is an impressive show, the saffron party thinks that it can still better its performance and add to its tally while retaining the seats it won. Top leaders of the BJP campaigned and held road shows in the region and instructed cadres to work to their capacity to see that the two leaders bite the dust.
Meanwhile, chief minister Basavaraj Bommai is contesting from Shiggaon from where he won last time too.
The region is predominantly Lingayat and consists of districts of Haveri, Gadag, Dharwad, Uttara Kannada, Belagavi, Vijayapura (Bijapur) and Bagalkot. Belagavi is the biggest, with 18 seats.
Finally, Bengaluru city presents a major electoral block with 28 seats, one-eighth of the state’s total of 224 seats. BJP’s seat share in the IT hub is declining – it got 17 in 2008, 12 in 2013 and 11 in 2018 (of course, it won all the four seats in the by-elections in 2019 as four MLAs quit to join BJP while bringing down the Congress-JDS government).
Congress, on the other hand, has been doing better here – it won 10 seats in 2008, 13 in 2013 and 15 in 2018. BJP feels that since this is an urban area, it is in a better position to increase its seat share. Interestingly, 12 of the 28 seats here were won at a margin of less than 15,000 – six each from BJP and non-BJP parties.
The PM’s back-to-back road shows in this technology centre were a huge success with an impressive turn out of people. BJP leaders expect the highly visible show will translate into votes. Also, with the city having a sizeable ‘upper’ caste and middle-class population, the party thinks they will favour BJP in large numbers. In both 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP won all the three seats in the city and with comfortable margins. However, Bengaluru’s voting percentage in the last few elections was much below the state average. A high turnout is crucial for BJP.
Overall for the state, in the last few assembly elections, BJP had a better strike rate if one compares vote share with seat share. BJP had emerged as the single largest party in 2004, 2008 and 2018 and each time it had a vote percentage lower than that of the Congress. This means that it has a better strike rate of converting votes into seats. Hence, a good show in close fight seats becomes important. In the last election, there were 74 seats in the state where the victory margin was less than 10,000 votes. Congress won 37 of these and BJP, 27.
Political consultant Venkatesh Thogarighatta was quoted in Deccan Herald as saying: “Of the three parties, Congress seems more vulnerable in this election. It has 18 seats with a margin of less than 5,000 votes of which four have less than 1,000 votes.”
B.S. Arun is a senior journalist based in Bengaluru
Courtesy The Wire