Why BJP will get 18 (or more) seats in Karnataka

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: By all reckoning, it is now clear that the Congress and Janata Dal Secular have not been able to halt the BJP juggernaut in Karnataka in the 2009 general elections. Period.

The supremacy of the BJP, as reflected when it was voted to power in the assembly elections last year, is expected to be reflected in the Lok Sabha elections too.

In the LS elections held for the first time under the aegis of the saffron government, the BJP is expected to pick up around 18 of the 28 seats. With some pluck, it may even pick up a few more to put Karnataka in line with BJP as among the bastions of the BJP at the national level.

Considering the fact that the BJP had won 18  seats in 2004 when it was in opposition in Karnataka, it may look as if the BJP has not been able to derive any extra advantage of being in power in the State. But viewed in the context of the disadvantageous position in which the BJP had landed after the delimitation of the constituencies, this is to be considered as an achievement and as a bonus for a party in power.

In 2004, the BJP had won 18 seats as against eight of the Congress and two of the JDS. This was before delimitation of the constituencies. In the assembly election held after delimitation last year, the BJP indeed was voted to power but it found to its chagrin that there had been some change in the ground-level situation in the parliamentary segments.

Its hold in the parliamentary segments had come down from 18 to 12, and it could pick up one more namely Chikodi, thanks to the by-election in one of the assembly segments (Hukeri) to end up with lead in 13, which was still far fewer than the 18 seats it had won five years ago.

The score card which read 18-8-2 in 2004 had come down to the 13-11-4 after the by-election and in the cumulative votes tally after the string of eight by-elections to the assembly, the BJP for the first time pushed the Congress to the second position for the first time in the electoral history of the Karnataka.

It now appears that the BJP has been able to up its tally in the LS elections too, notwithstanding the five per cent drop in the poll turnout, which in actual terms would mean around sixteen lakh voters staying away.

The BJP’s fortunes in the LS elections hinges on two essential factors, the first one being the addition of around ten lakh new voters and the second on the BJP raking up substantial support from “others” category of voters, namely the non-Congress/ non-BJP/ non-JDS section of voters who participated in the assembly elections.

As far as new voters are concerned, the increase has been an average of more than 38,000 for each parliamentary constituency. The track record of elections held since 1999 has it that the Congress has not been able to secure a single extra vote and has as a matter of fact suffered erosion in its votes’ tally and the BJP has been the main beneficiary of the additional support by the new voters.

In the 2008 assembly elections, the BJP had a lead ranging from as low as 4,000 in Bangalore North to as high as over a lakh in Davanagere and Shimoga, in thirteen LS constituencies. The support by the new voters is expected to consolidate the lead further in Chikodi, Belgaum Bagalkot, Bellary, Haveri, Dharwad, Kanara, Davanagere, Shimoga, Udupi, Bangalore North, Bangalore Central and Bangalore South.

In the 11 parliamentary segments where the Congress had a lead ranging from 5,000 in Dakshina Kannada to one lakh in Chamarajanagar, the role of new voters may prove to be disadvantageous for the Congress. This is especially so in the constituencies of Bijapur, Raichur, Bidar, Koppal, Dakshin Kannada, where the lead is less than 25,000. In Gulbarga, Mysore, Chikballapur and Kolar, where the lead is more than 50,000, the Congress may become vulnerable.

As far as the JDS is concerned, it is a mixed bag. In Tumkur, where it has to battle with the BJP, the new voters may swing the pendulum away from the JDS in favour of the BJP. In Bangalore Rural, the three parties are almost on an equal footing and the support of the new voters would help the BJP close the gap with its rivals to provide a photo-finish outcome. In Hassan and the Mandya, where it is battling with Congress, the BJP has a hard grind even with the support of the new voters.

And as far as the role of other voters in the 2004 elections is concerned, of the 38 lakh in this category, twenty lakh had voted in the parliamentary election, with the BJP walking away with three-fourths of the support. In the 2008 election the number stood at 33 lakh.

It is not possible to estimate at this moment what would be the size of this category of voters and the role played by them, which can become clear only when the counting is taken up.

What is clear at the moment is that the voting turnout has been low. The low turnout in the parliamentary election whenever it is held separately has been a regular phenomenon in Karnataka. But this time, it has been lower than anticipated.

Past records have shown that a lower turnout does not necessarily mean erosion of support base for the principal contenders. They are known to get the core support that they have got in the assembly election and wait for the additional support from the “others” category of voters.

While the average drop has been around five per cent, the figure for the individual constituencies varies. Barring Bellary and Bangalore Central, it has dropped in all other 26 constituencies, the range being as low as 0.5% in Dakshina Kannada to as high as 15% in Belgaum, Chitradurga, 12% in Bijapur, and 10% each in Kanara and Tumkur.

In actual terms, 244 lakh voters out of an electorate of 410 lakhs have exercised the franchise. The turnout has been seventeen lakhs less than 2008. The BJP and the Congress, it may be noted here, had raked a support of 22.23% (90.42 lakhs) and 22.21% (89.13 lakhs) respectively from the 401 lakh electorate in 2008 elections.

Going by the same percentage of support from the electorate, the BJP and the Congress, between themselves would secure a support of 44.79% in an electorate of 410 lakhs. And this works out to 183.43 lakhs out of the polled votes of 244.43 lakhs, leaving the remaining 61 lakhs being the share of the JDS and the others category of voters.

Since the JDS has been perceived not a serious contender, having concentrated all its energies in winning only hand few of the constituencies, it is not possible to apportion the share of the JDS votes in the remaining.

Whatever may be the quantum of the others category of voters, after taking away the JDS share, a major portion again would go to the lot of the BJP, as has been noticed earlier. This would be further enrich the BJP kitty further.

Also read: In a state of four crore, 33.78 lakhs hold the key