Why Siddaramaiah is on the winning track in 2018, according to the only pollster who got Karnataka right in 2008 and 2013

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By PREMCHAND PALETY

Cfore conducted an extensive survey in March to understand the mood of voters in Karnataka. 

The Indian National Congress has a clear lead over BJP and JD(S) as of now. The party is likely to get 46% votes, a positive swing of 9 percent when compared to the 2013 election result.

This can translate to 126 seats for the Congress.

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BJP is likely to get 31% votes and would be ahead in about 70 seats. JD(S) is likely to get 16% votes and may win in about 27 constituencies. The JD(S) is experiencing a negative swing of 4% mainly because of exodus of its Muslim and Dalit votes to Congress.

In Hyderabad-Karnataka, Bangalore and Old Mysore regions, the Congress is ahead by a huge margin. In Coastal and Bombay Karnataka, it’s going to be close fight between Congress and BJP with a slight edge to Congress. In central Karnataka BJP is ahead. 

There are multiple factors for the good performance of the Congress. Prime among them is the welfare schemes of the Siddaramiah government for the socially disadvantaged sections of the society.

Among them, “Anna Bhagya”, under which every member of a poor family is given 7kg of rice per month free of cost, is most popular. It is perhaps because of such schemes that despite three years of severe drought, there have been no hunger deaths in the State.

In Bangalore, Indira canteens that serve good quality food at a very low price have been well received by the residents, especially the poor. Every morning one can see long queues in front of these canteens.

Many poor children take breakfast in these canteens before going to school.

Another scheme “Krishi bhagya” besides addressing the water shortage in rural side have also creating jobs for rural youth. Loan waiver by the government has also helped many marginalized farmers.

No wonder in the survey, 65% of the poor think that among all parties, Congress has done relatively more work for their welfare.

Similarly, a majority of farmers, Dalits, Scheduled tribes, backward castes also opine that the Siddaramiah government has done more for them when compared to other previous governments.

The state government’s move to accord minority status to Lingayats has also found favour among majority of them. 61% Lingayats support this decision though it may not bring much electoral gains to Congress.

The Chief Minister has kept most of the promises made in election manifesto of 2013. He has been very proactive in addressing voter concerns especially in areas of water management, electricity and roads.

For example, in the first two years of the present government, many areas of the state suffered from long power cuts. Now the power situation has drastically improved and there is hardly any power cut in most parts of the state.

The govt. has also been very proactive in installing clean water plants in most of the constituencies. Many reservoirs have been filled and water harvesting initiatives of the government have largely been successful. Similarly condition of roads have drastically improved in the state especially in Bengaluru.

Chief minister Siddaramiah by and large enjoys a good image which is benefitting the party. Known for his oratorical skills, he is perceived by many as an honest politician, a good administrator, protector of Kannada identity and one who stands for communal harmony and social justice.

Because of this image, 45 per cent of respondents prefer him as next Chief minister. 74% of respondents are either partially or fully satisfied with performance of government. 

At the same time BJP’s and Modi’s image have seen continuous decline over past few months. Although many of respondents of the survey were not aware of the firm owned by Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah but majority of those aware of his  business dealing believed that Amit Shah misused his power in this case.

54% respondents also hold BJP govt. responsible for the Punjab National Bank scam and subsequent escape of Nirav Modi.

The charge of corruption in the Rafale deal causing job loss to many young Kannadigas (as a result of Bangalore-based HAL losing out) is also sticking on the party.

Most respondents also believe that demonetization and GST did not have much gains, rather it  had negative impact on the economy and has drastically reduced momentum of job creation for the youth.

# 58% voters also think that BJP govt. is subverting constitutional institutions for political ends.
# 59% respondents are also of the view that BJP is imposing Hindi on the state.
# 92% support the chief minister’s action of removing Hindi signage from metro station.

BJP’s fracas with TDP is also alienating its Telugu vote base especially in Bengaluru and Hyderabad Karnataka region.

The key to BJP’s revival will be its ability to fragment the backwards, Dalits and Muslims vote base of Congress. There are primarily two ways it can happen.

One if a significant chunk of backward and dalit voters are lured by Hindutva agenda.

Second, if a significant percentage of Dalits and Muslims can be drifted to JD(S) which has already announced alliance with BSP.

There have also been media reports of the party’s ‘understanding’ with BJP to give tickets to Muslim candidates in about 50 seats. If Muslim parties like SDPI, AIMIM and MEP puts up candidates and if significant percentage of Muslims vote slips away from Congress to these parties, then BJP stands to gain.

Eventually candidate selection, booth and EVM management will also play a big role in coming elections. There is still a fortnight to go for the polls and as it is said even a week in politics is a long time.

Time as of now seems to be on side of Congress.

(Premchand Palety, Chief Executive of the research organization C fore, predicted both the 2008 and 2013 Karnataka outcomes accurately)

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