Karnataka assembly polls how telugu vote may swing the ‘waveless’ election business standard news gas vs electric water heater cost per year

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With less than 10 days left before the Assembly elections in Karnataka, politicians are busy slugging it out and political pundits are coming up with varied predictions on an everyday basis. Almost all opinion polls have predicted the possibility of Karnataka giving a fractured mandate and throwing up a hung assembly. Pollsters agree that Karnataka is an extremely tough state to predict because of the different voting patterns of different regions, the caste equations, local issues etc. In the end, a swing of 1 or 2% of the votes can make all the difference.

There are several constituencies where the electoral fate of the candidates will be sealed by a wafer-thin margin of a few thousand votes. Let’s look at the 2013 election results to understand this better. In the 2013 elections, the margin of victory was less than 5,000 votes in 49 seats. In 2008, the outcome of 64 seats was decided by a margin of less than 5,000 votes. This time, with no visible wave in favor of any party, such close contests are expected in at least 65 to 70 of the 224 assembly constituencies.

A lot of airtime and print space has been devoted to in-depth pre-poll analyses of various factors and issues that may influence the verdict. While much of the focus has been on the separate religion status for Lingayats, the communal polarisation along the coast, the Cauvery and Mahadayi water wars, the ‘Karnatakada Hemme’ (Kannadiga Pride) poll plank, caste alliances i.e. Ahinda, Libra (Lingayat + Brahmin) and the Vokalliga vote bank, not many poll analysts are speaking about the ‘Telugu’ factor in the upcoming Karnataka polls.

At least 12 districts of Karnataka have a sizeable Telugu population – Tumakuru, Chitradurga, Ballari, Koppal, Raichur, Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Bidar, Bengaluru City and Bengaluru Rural. The four districts of Bidar, Kalaburagi, Kolar and Ballari have a significant share of almost 30% Telugu voters. While Bangalore Urban and Rural, have 49% and 65% Telugu-speaking population respectively, the figures for Kolar, Bellary and Raichur are 76%, 63% and 64% respectively.

Bengaluru, which accounts for 28 seats has about 25 lakh Telugu voters. Many businessmen, real estate agents, hotel owners, labourers and software industry professionals from Chittoor, Kurnool, Hindupur and Anantpur districts of Andhra Pradesh have settled in the Garden City. The presence of these Telugu voters is bound to influence the poll verdict.

Estimates suggest that these Telugu voters may be an influential factor in at least 40 assembly constituencies across the state. In the aftermath of the TDP exiting the NDA and Chandrababu Naidu blaming Narendra Modi for being insensitive towards the demands and needs of Telugus, it will be very interesting to see how they vote in Karnataka.

While it is debatable whether the Karnataka polls will have an impact on national politics ahead of the 2019 Parliamentary elections, the Karnataka verdict will surely decide the future course of politics in the states of Andhra and Telangana.

After the bitter breakup with the BJP, Chandrababu Naidu will be looking for ‘revenge’. He has accused the BJP of being a ‘betrayer’ for failing to deliver on the promise of Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh. A BJP defeat in Karnataka will be a shot in the arm for Naidu and it will help him galvanise the party cadre for the assembly and parliamentary elections in 2019. The equation is simple and straightforward – Modi’s pain in Karnataka will be Naidu’s gain in Andhra Pradesh. It will help him emerge as a ‘martyr’ and he will try his best to cash in on this sentiment.

While he has not been openly hobnobbing with the Congress, he recently appealed to Telugu voters in the state to vote against the BJP. The Telugu Desam Party’s IT cell has also been actively campaigning on social media. Several WhatsApp messages painting the BJP and Modi as the villain in the SCS saga are being circulated in Bengaluru, asking the Telugu voters to vote against the BJP.

It’s now an open secret that Chandrasekhar Rao, the maker and chief minister of Telangana, who had committed himself to the cause of ‘Bangaru (Golden) Telangana’ is now nursing national ambitions and hoping to do a ‘Deve Gowda’ in the 2019 polls.

Unlike his Andhra counterpart Naidu, Chandrasekhar Rao has been more direct and vocal in his support for the JD(S). In fact, he even offered to campaign for the JD(S) in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. He probably wants to boost his credentials as a national leader, which is perhaps why he has been showing interest in the Karnataka polls. He knows that the JD(S) on its own is incapable of forming the government, but that does not bother him. A Congress victory in Karnataka is what he does not want at any cost. If the Congress manages to comeback to power in Karnataka, it will be a threat to Rao’s pitch for a third front as it will make the fence sitters like the DMK, SP and BSP tilt towards the idea of joining a Congres-led front. It will dent Rao’s claim of being the tallest leader of the South as Siddaramaiah will surely emerge as the biggest southern satrap, if he manages to comeback to power, a feat which no Karnataka chief minister has achieved since 1985.

Further, a Congress win in Karnataka will mean Rao will have to face a resurgent and re-vitalised Congress in Telangana. When Karnataka votes on May 12, a lot will be at stake, including the political fortunes of at least three incumbent chief ministers.

Omkar Poojari is a student of Politics and Economics at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. He recently travelled through different parts of Karnataka to follow the election campaign closely. He tweets at @ Omkarismunlimit . Published in arrangement with TheWire.