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Siddaramaiah or BS Yeddyurappa for CM? It’s a close race

THE ASIAN AGE. | DR SANDEEP SHASTRI
Published : Apr 24, 2018, 2:27 am IST
Updated : Apr 24, 2018, 6:42 am IST

The JD(S) Chief Ministerial aspirant H D Kumaraswamy’s name was the preferred Chief Minister by two out of every ten respondents.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah campaigns on Monday.
 Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah campaigns on Monday.

How popular are the Chief Ministerial candidates of the three main political players?  Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is the preferred choice of three out of every ten respondents surveyed in the JAIN-Lokniti CSDS pre-poll survey with the BJP Chief Ministerial candidate, B S Yeddyurappa following closely behind with the support of one-fourth of the respondents.

The JD(S) Chief Ministerial aspirant H D Kumaraswamy’s name was the preferred Chief Minister by two out of every ten respondents. Yet, the Karnataka voter seems to be clear of the fact that Chief Ministerial face of the different parties is not a major consideration for them in deciding whom to vote for.  Two of every five respondents said that party was the key factor and close to half the respondents said that the candidate in their constituency would be kept in mind when deciding their vote preference.  This trend clearly indicates that the race is still wide open. BJP voters are more likely to give preference to the candidate while Congress voters focused more on the party.  Close to one of every five JDS supporters were swayed by the Chief Ministerial candidate with the candidate in the constituency being the key factor for a significant number.

On the government performances and how that translates into voting preference, three fourths of those who were fully satisfied with the government wanted to give the ruling party another chance.  At the same time, three fourths of those dissatisfied with the government were clear that it did not merit a second chance. A large majority is satisfied with the state government, which could help boost the Congress’ chances. But voters are also satisfied with the central government led by Modi and they might want to reward it by voting for the BJP.

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Two in every three voters are satisfied with the Modi-led government and a majority of them did not want the ruling party in the state to be given a second chance.  It is in this sense that this election could well become a Siddaramaiah vs. Modi election.

While the Congress government in the state appears to have gained some approval for its performance in the last five years, its record in three key areas: controlling price rise, corruption and unemployment does not seem to find much favour with the electorate. This fact could prove critical in a keenly fought electoral contest.

The Congress campaign in Karnataka has attempted a strong focus on local issues.  The BJP on the other hand has made its central leadership the focus of attention. Many in the BJP would argue that the real campaign of the BJP would begin when the Prime Minister hits the campaign trail. Both factors seem to be playing on the minds of the voter. Some of the local issues raised by the Congress have drawn some traction. Three of every five support the ideas of the state having its flag.  Two of every three see Tipu Sultan as a great son of Karnataka. While endorsing signages in public places in Kannada, the preferred second language for the same was more likely to be English than Hindi.  

A critical element of the Congress strategy in this election was the move to accord a minority religion status to the Lingayats-Veerashaivas. This move was clearly to drive a wedge in the strong support that the BJP enjoyed in this important and influential dominant caste. As the piece by Shreyas Sardesai shows,  this move has not truly dented the support for the BJP among the Lingayats-Veerashaivas.  Only one of every four was planning to support the Congress party.

If this trend were to continue till election day, the Congress would secure a smaller percentage of Lingayat vote as compared to what it received in the 2013 Assembly polls. Thus, a key gamble of the Congress does not seem to be paying off at the current stage.

Further, this move could also have implications for the Congress support among other social groups. In the case of the other dominant caste - the Vokkaligas, one has seen a three way split between the major parties in the recent past. The pre-poll survey indicates the JDS seems to be garnering a lion’s share of this vote with the balance being split between the BJP and the Congress.

More importantly, the BJP appears slightly ahead of the Congress in its support among the Vokkaligas.   This trend could be critical in deciding the electoral outcomes.

A month before the Karnataka polls, the public mood as evidenced from the JAIN-Lokniti CSDS pre-poll Survey appears to be strongly divided with no single party having a decisive advantage.  Much would also depend upon the ability of JDS to hold on to its vote share. As the campaign gains momentum, things might change, but for now, the fate of both the main contestants hangs in balance — literally.

Tags: siddaramaiah, b s yeddyurappa, lingayat