The Lok Sabha election scenario in Karnataka is getting clearer by the day although it may take another fortnight for the dust to settle after disturbances in the Congress–Janata Dal (Secular) camp over the seat-sharing agreement and their rival the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) still scouting for candidates for a few of the constituencies.
Given the delay in the political parties finalising the list of candidates, campaigning is expected to be restricted to a brief three weeks unlike in the past when it would be well over a month. Consequently, the expenditure incurred by candidates and the political parties is expected to be much lower unless they indulge in extending freebies and doles to voters, particularly those in the lower echelons of society for whom elections have a different connotation.
The Congress and the JD(S) have finalised the seat-sharing agreement by virtue of which the Congress will contest in 20 of the 28 seats and the JD(S), in eight seats which are all in the Vokkaliga-dominated belt. The BJP — which has set a 22-seat target and claims that it is confident of achieving its goal, although it is way higher than its 2014 election performance (when it won 17 seats) — is expected to contest all the 28 seats. All the 15 incumbent members of the Lok Sabha of the party have been assured ticket while the candidate for Bengaluru South seat will be Tejaswini, wife of the former Union Minister Ananth Kumar who passed away sometime ago.
Credit should go to the former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah for resisting the attempts of the JD(S) to contest the Mysuru Lok Sabha seat although the party in return has been given the Tumakuru seat, which incidentally has an incumbent Congress MP in S.P. Muddahanume Gowda, who had crossed over to the Congress from the JD(S) only a few years ago. The former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, who has parted with the Hassan constituency in favour of his grandson, is believed to have expressed a desire to contest from Tumakuru, which is also dominated by the Vokkaliga community. This is another safe seat for the JD(S).
An interesting feature which will show up over the coming week will be the crossing over of some prominent Congress leaders to the BJP while it may not be so of BJP and JD(S) stalwarts changing their loyalties in favour of the Congress. This is one of the primary reasons for the delay in the BJP finalising its list of candidates, particularly with reference to some of the constituencies in north Karnataka districts.
The dissidence in the Congress, which has been brewing for several months, is expected to spill over in the elections to the Lok Sabha in many ways. Apart from some Congressmen changing parties, there are also some of them who may covertly campaign for BJP candidates and this will be particularly witnessed in the constituencies where Congress legislators do not see eye to eye with JD(S) candidates. Many of such leaders had joined the Congress in recent years since they were disenchanted with the JD(S) leadership.
(The writer is Senior Fellow, The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy)