In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt
The recently concluded Karnataka Assembly elections were more in the limelight because these elections were followed by elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and were supposed to set the tone for the upcoming election season later this year.
Karnataka polls were held on May 12 across 224 constituencies. Besides being a tone setter for the state elections later this year, it is also looked upon as a show starter for the 2019 general elections. By far, It has been a challenge for both the BJP and the Congress in their own ways. On one side, the Congress is keen on becoming the leader of the anti-BJP formation and on the other side, the BJP, a win in Karnataka would have given it a foothold in the south, where its presence is less than significant. This could have helped them change their perception of what in south has been of a ‘Hindi’ north Indian phenomena and a tag that sticks despite the party having established governments from the North-East to the western States.
Why Karnataka is important?
The Congress under the leadership of Siddaramaiah in Karnataka relied upon the topic of sub-nationalism and Tamil Nadu-style welfarism, whereas the BJP under leadership of BS Yeddyurappa and the aggressive rallies of PM Narendra Modi, depended heavily upon a centralised (or northern) leadership for cues. The point from here on was whether the Modi-Shah combine could gain victory for the BJP in a southern state or not. Another promising contender were the Janta Dal (Secular) due to their extent of cutting down into anti-BJP votes.
The Congress, however, was more or less dependent upon its traditional support base from Muslims, Dalits and OBCs, while the JD(S) and BJP leaned for support towards the Vokkaligas and Lingayats, respectively. Siddaramaiah’s, earlier this year, supported a separate Lingayat religion. This may reorganise the Lingayat votes into the 3 parties. The BJP is most likely to accuse the Congress of religious division by phrasing ‘dividing Hinduism’; instead of ‘anti-corruption’. However, their plank may shift to more arousing issues during the home stretch.
Socio-economic issues prevailing has not yet received due attention in the intense battle. The distress over the cultivable land remains a concern even as large parts of the State is under water shortage. Particularly, the disappointment is regarding the lack of focus on jobs in what is called the ‘Silicon Valley’ of India and has stuck upon a crossroad with the declining IT-BPO sector. Whether it is Karnataka or the nation as a whole,the voters rewarded those who left behind identity politics and shift their focus to the long prevailing issues of jobs, development, dignity and rule of law for all.
In the first poll, 76% citizens said they wanted the incoming state government to move all govt-citizen transactions online and make them cashless with a view to reduce corruption. 13% said the anti-corruption/lokayukta machinery should be strengthened and enforced. 9% want accountable citizen interfaces mandatory for all government departments while 2% want CCTV cameras to be installed in all government offices and premises.
The public healthcare system in the state has been in a crumbling situation. Government hospitals do not have adequate capacity or doctors to meet the needs of the patients. Therefore, the Second question asked what the top priority of the incoming state government in the area of healthcare should be. 55% said it should be improvement in infrastructure and services in government hospitals and 35% said it should be reduction in cost of private healthcare services. 6% want new government hospitals while 4% want private healthcare services to be enabled in all parts of the state.
Bengaluru city contributes the most to the GSDP of the state but it’s civic infrastructure is in shambles. The state has done very little to focus on improving municipal and civic services in any other city in the state. The next question asked what should be the top most infrastructure priority of the incoming state government of Karnataka. 49% said it should be to improve municipal and civic services, 26% said it should be to improve water availability and 25% said it should be quality upgradation of existing roads.
The IT sector based in Bengaluru drives the employment in the state, the rest of Karnataka does not contribute much to the employment rate of the state. For the past two years the rate of employment in IT sector has been affected adversely resulting in job losses which has affected the industries dependent on the IT sector. The loss of jobs in IT sector has also affected sentiment within the state. Hence, employment is an important area that people are concerned about.
In the area of job creation, 85% said that the incoming government should work on cutting red tape & corruption, so more businesses can start or expand. Another 10% want incentives to be created for startups and SMEs while 5% want them to attract more manufacturing companies.
Last Elections: 2013
Some notable facts during the 2013 elections were:
A close look at the results of the last elections held in 2013, in the state reveals that as many as 49 seats were won by fewer than 5000 margins. Of these, 29 had margins of fewer than 3,000 votes, and 12, fewer than 1,000 votes. In the earlier elections in 2008, which saw five parties in the field, 64 seats had margins of fewer than 5,000 votes.
The future awaits
As Karnataka forms a joint government of JDS and Congress, it will be interesting to see what type of governance and future they give to the people of Karnataka. An increase in voter turnout was expected as compared to last elections which was 71.29 per cent. The nation and Karnataka would witness the leadership that they select either the current CM or a new face. The voters have selected a candidate that can focus upon the prevailing issues in the state. Now the question is how well the CM candidate perfoms and how how effectively BJP plays its role as a oppositions as this will be a stepping stone for the upcoming elections in other states later this year and of course the general elections 2019?
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