Perhaps the most fiercely fought elections will be seen by Karnataka this time around. According to some pre-election polls, similar amounts of popularity is apparently shared by both Chief Minister Siddharamaih of the Congress and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP. However, which leader would come out victorious remains to be seen.

BJP won 17 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state the last time elections were held there in 2014. Congress had won 9 seats. The seat difference however does not reflect the difference in vote share with BJP and Congress bagging 43 percent and 40.8 percent vote share respectively. And compared to what it got in 2009 general elections, the vote share of the BJP in 2014 was 1.37 per cent lower.

And during this assembly elections, BJP need to transform the popularity of prime minister Modi into actual votes at the state level. This can be cause of concern for the BJP because in the 2013 assembly elections, the vote share of the Congress was 54.46 per cent. But in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Congress lost out on 14 percent of the vote share.

This means that Karnataka was an aberration for the BJP in the larger context of the 2014 victorious network. The quality of the electorate apparently is the primary challenge for BJP. It has been observed that the electorate in Sough Indian states tend to make smart choices. It also suggests that there is clarity among the electorate about its choice of leadership in the state and at the center.

A possible anti-incumbency against Congress is one aspect that could help the BJP. Anti-incumbency favoured the Congress in 2013. And added to this is the fact that first time voters account for 14 per cent of the total electorate in this assembly elections and that is a voter segment where Prime Minister Modi is very popular.

This is something that has obviously been factored in by the BJP and is reflected in the 10 election rallies that are planned to be addressed by Modi. However, for the moment, the focus of the agenda for the BJP appears to be on the Siddaramiah government and the chief minister personally, for spreading communal hatred in the election environment. The entire BJP organization is expected to be put in motion by the rallies of the prime minister.

There are allegations that short term assembly election aim was the driver behind the Congress state government’s decision to recognize the Lingayats as a separate religion from Hinduism. It is being equated to the creation of the state of Telangana just before the 2014 general elections by the Congress

The election machinery of the BJP has been put into use in full swing throughout the state of Karnataka in a bid to effectively counter such a strategy. In fact, it has been over a year now that the Association of Billion Minds – one of the teams of election consultants for the BJP, has been active in Karnataka. However, the very complex arithmetic of castes in Karnataka is one aspect that the BJP election machinery and think tank has to effectively manage apart from including development in its agenda for the assembly elections.

BJP has a two-fold task with respect to caste-votes: keep the Lingayats supporting the party which they have traditionally done and get a fair share of the OBC votes. A combination of the two can help the party get over the line.

(Adapted from fristpost.com)