With several exit polls forecasting an overwhelming BJP victory in Karnataka, speculation is rife that the Congress-JD(S) coalition will not survive. Most exit polls give the saffron party 20-22 seats out of the total 28. This has triggered a debate over the question of votes transfer between the Congress and the JD(S) and a comparison with the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) combine in Uttar Pradesh.
Exit polls also predict that Nikhil Kumaraswamy will lose the Mandya seat to independent Sumalatha, wife of the late Ambareesh.
While the poll pundits don’t buy the numbers put out, the general impression is that the BJP could emerge victorious in 16-18 seats.
If the Congress-JD(S) combine gets less than 10 seats, then it indicates that the vote transfer between the two parties did not work well, unlike in Uttar Pradesh where it is believed that the SP-BSP combine seems to bring down the BJP’s numbers.
It can be said that the complacency of the Congress-JD(S), that stems out of being in power in the state; lack of co-ordination on the ground during campaigning, and rift between the leaderships of both the parties resulted in the combine not faring well at the hustings.
Psephologist Sandeep Shastry, whose estimate for the BJP remains at 16-18, says results in the two contentious seats - Mandya and Mysore in the old Mysore region – could be a classic example of the vote transfer analysis.
“The parties that bitterly fought against each other in the past decided to come together to keep the BJP out. But in Mandya, as a one-off case, both the BJP and the Congress workers came together and campaigned for independent candidate Sumlatha. That shows that the rank and file of the Congress did not want to support a JD(S) candidate,” Shastry said.
“In turn, in the Vokkaliga stronghold of Mysore, the JD(S) did not throw its weight behind the Congress candidate C H Vijayshankar, a Kuruba, despite being aware of the need to pull together to secure victory,” he added.
Shastry further said that it showed their ill-will towards each other and their inability to surmount it.
The BJP on the other hand, strategised its campaign well. If it focused on nationalism in the urban pockets of South Karnataka, it pointed fingers at the failures of the Congress-JD(S) alliance in the Old-Mysore region and dwelt on the Lingayat issue in the north, he added.
“In Uttar Pradesh, the SP and the BSP are out of power and therefore realised that they would be further marginalised if they don’t get enough numbers. So, they worked together to keep the BJP at bay. But in Karnataka, the coalition remained complacent on account of being in power,” Shastry further aid.
Harish Ramaswamy, another political analyst opined that if the Congress-JD(S) gets restricted to single-digit seats, it would change the total scenario – for worse.
“For the JD(S), the loss may not impact much. But for the Congress, it would mean, the party will struggle to survive as many cadres will shift to the BJP. That would put the grand old party Congress in a fix, in the days to come,” Ramaswamy said.
On the issue of vote transfer, he said while the SP-BSP combine had earlier been in place, it was tested for the first time in Karnataka. He added that the coalition should have done more than just addressing joint rallies.
The state BJP unit celebrated the exit poll numbers, which favoured the party. Party president B S Yeddyurappa said it was clear that some big names will suffer a setback and that the party will win about 22 seats, as expected.
Sathyan Puthoor, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee secretary, said an investigation should be ordered to check how most of the exit poll numbers matched the numbers that the BJP projected initially. “Politics at the ground level is much more partisan and prejudiced. That said, we will get more seats than projected,” Puthoor said.
When asked about the co-ordination between the alliance partners, he agreed that there wasn’t full cooperation on the ground. Ruling out the possibility of the coalition running into trouble, he further said that his party doesn’t believe in exit poll numbers.