Home India Politics Cricket and curbs rob colour from Karnataka poll

Cricket and curbs rob colour from Karnataka poll

By V.S. Karnic, IANS,

Bangalore : Searing temperatures in the day, Twenty20 cricket in the evening, campaign curbs and the absence of a single emotive issue to stir people… the combination of many factors have turned the electoral battle for Karnataka into a drab affair.

There is a silver lining though – the restrictions on posters, cutouts, banners and buntings have spared Bangalore and other major commercial and educational centres such as Mysore, Mangalore, Shimoga, Hubli-Dharwad and Gulbarga of the garbage that piles up after every election.

Polling for the 224-member assembly is being held in three phases. The first phase May 10 will be for 89 constituencies, round two May 16 for 66 seats and finally May 22 for 69 seats. Counting is on May 25.

The outcome of the polls is expected to have a bearing on national politics in so far as the timing of the general elections to parliament is concerned, central leaders of the two major contenders for power.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will spend only a day each in the state for the first phase of the poll. While Gandhi arrives May 7 to address two meetings, Manmohan Singh comes the next day and is slated to address one meeting.

Congress general secretary and Gandhi’s son Rahul Gandhi is campaigning for the party for the first phase.

From the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), senior leader L.K. Advani Friday addressed three meetings, one near Bangalore and the other two at Mysore and Chamarajnagar. He will be here again Tuesday to address a rally in Bangalore.

BJP president Rajnath Singh Monday spoke at three rallies including one in Hassan, the stronghold of Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda. On Tuesday, he will speak at Ankola in north Karnataka.

However, Sushma Swaraj of the BJP has been making frequent visits and has already addressed several meetings. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has addressed a public meeting in coastal Karnataka in the last week of April.

Congress and BJP leaders say these short visits by their central leaders are adequate to boost their parties’ prospects since local issues tend to dominate the assembly poll and vigorous campaigning by state leaders and candidates would be more effective.

Besides the Congress and the BJP, the other major players are the JD-S and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) led by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati.

Farmers, their loan burden and their constant demand for free power supply to irrigation pumps dominate the manifesto of all the parties fighting the poll battle.

All three major players — Congress, BJP and JD-S — have promised a better Bangalore. Bangalore city and urban district now have 28 seats as against 12 after the borders of assembly constituencies were redrawn.

The three major parties have promised foodgrain, particularly the staple food rice, at Rs.2 a kg for the poor, free power to farmers and loans to them at three percent per year interest.

The Congress has assured Rs.500 billion in investment over five years for betterment of Bangalore’s infrastructure, which has come under huge strain following the daily influx of people into this boom town.

With no let up in inflation, rising prices dominate the political discourse among the political parties and discussion among the public.

Since no political party has a clear answer on how to check rising prices, the debate is lost in accusations and counter-accusations.

The absence of charismatic leaders with an all-Karnataka appeal, the problem of rising prices, crumbling infrastructure, the perennial power shortage and the political instability of the last four years have helped throw up one overarching desire among the electorate – a stable government that lasts its full term of five years.

As the badly bruised Bangalore and the 10 districts surrounding it — Bangalore Rural, Tumkur, Chikkaballapur, Kolar, Ramanagaram, Mandya, Hassan, Kodagu, Mysore and Chamarajnagar — prepare to vote May 10, Deve Gowda’s JD-S and Mayawati’s BSP are rattling not only Congress and the BJP but the electorate as well.

The JD-S and BSP are confident that the elections will again throw up a hung verdict and that the BJP and the Congress will run to them in their bid for power.