Bengaluru: With barely five days left for the Karnataka Assembly polls, a pre-poll survey- Lokniti-CSDS-ABP news poll, indicates that the Congress is inching ahead and increasing the gap with its principal rival, the BJP. A big dampener for the Congress however is the finding of the survey that the move of the Congress government to play the Lingayat card by recommending religion status for the dominant community, has not helped much in drawing Lingayat voters away from the BJP-their preferred party in past elections.
Interestingly, a Jain University-Lokniti-CSDS poll done earlier, had indicated that the electoral contest was extremely close with no party likely to secure a majority on its own. But once the selection of candidates was completed and the campaign got into full swing, the Congress appears to have secured an edge over its rivals, the BJP and JD(S), says the survey, conducted in the last week of April and the first few days of May.
What should warm hearts in the Congress camp is the seat projection done by Rajeeva Karandikar of the Chennai Mathematical Institute based on the Lokniti-CSDS data which indicates that the Congress is ahead of the BJP and is likely to win 92-102 seats in the 224 seat Assembly though it will be still short of the half way mark by a few seats. The BJP is set to win 79-89 seats while the JD(S) will be a distant third with 34 -42 seats. The ruling party seems to have an edge in all regions of the state-Hyderabad-Karnataka and Coastal Karnataka and Mumbai-Karnataka except the Old Mysuru region in south Karnataka where it is trailing behind the JD(S), led by former PM H.D. Deve Gowda.
Interestingly, in the earlier Jain University-Lokniti-CSDS poll, the BJP was reported to be in the lead in Coastal Karnataka and Mumbai Karnataka while the current poll shows that the Congress has wrested the initiative in both regions. A factor that is likely to help the Congress is the clear split in the anti-Congress vote between the BJP and the JD(S). The Kuruba vote (of Siddaramaiah's community) is with the ruling party as is the minority, Dalit and tribal vote, says the survey. While the JDS is the preferred choice for a significant chunk of Vokkaliga voters, the Congress has made some inroads into this dominant caste too.
The move of the Congress to secure minority religion status for the Lingayat community does not seem to have impacted voters of this dominant caste who still prefer the BJP. The survey also indicates that in the state assembly poll voters give priority to state issues. When it comes to the most preferred choice for CM, the Congress again seems to have an edge with the most preferred choice being incumbent, Siddaramaiah, who enjoys a six percentage point lead over the BJP's CM nominee, B.S. Yeddyurappa. The JD(S) nominee, H.D. Kumaraswamy is third with five percentage points.
Given the important role that Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is now on a poll blitzkrieg across Karnataka, could play in the campaign, the survey sought public opinion on his and CM Siddaramaiah's popularity ratings and found that the PM was ahead by four percent points. Seven of every 10 respondents were satisfied with the performance of the state government. However, respondents think corruption and prices of essential commodities have increased in the last five years while the Congress government's record in generating employment opportunities too does not seem to have found favour with the people. With the BJP asserting that its real campaign will revolve around the election speeches of the Prime Minister, it remains to be seen if the trend changes in the week before the poll.