For somebody like me who has been in the thick of election campaigns for the last 39 years – from 1980 to 1991 as an activist and from 1992 till now as a journalist – the just-concluded bypoll blitz has not only been interesting but has also thrown up a wide spectrum of experiences.
In any election, there is usually a strong and dominant issue, be it for the ruling party or for the Opposition. While the ruling party goes all out to strengthen its government based on its performance, the Opposition will be equally determined to throw out the government based on its perception of non-performance. There has never been a situation where there is a bankruptcy of issues, either for the ruling party or for the Opposition.
However, the by-elections to the state assembly from 15 constituencies going to polls on December 5 (Thursday) presents a disturbing contrast if we look at the issues highlighted by the ruling BJP and the Opposition JD(S).
While Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa – the most dominant star campaigner by all means for the BJP – articulated his party’s campaign-theme quite effectively catching the imagination of the people, the Opposition Congress and the JD(S) were found wanting on many counts. Yediyurappa told the people in straight, simple and effective words; “Vote for BJP to enable me complete my promise of ensuring rapid all-round development for which political stability is a pre-requisite. A single-party run stable government is what Karnataka needs.”
The chief minister sounded convincing and logical and going by the response he received at the 70 to 75 rallies he addressed and 20 plus road shows, it looks like people have responded positively to his campaign-theme. Whether the massive crowds seen at the rallies and road shows will really convert into votes is to be seen on December 9 when the EVMs are opened. But it is for sure that this stormy petrel of Karnataka politics has achieved a big headway in setting the agenda as well as the tone for his party’s leaders and also for the Opposition.
The Congress party and former chief minister Siddaramaiah in particular took up issues such as payment of Rs 30 crore to the disqualified MLAs for jumping ship – which anyone could find difficult to prove – and Yediyurappa going to jail on corruption charges (he has since been acquitted by the court). The JD(S) leader and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy took up a rather bizarre issue of the disqualified MLAs allegedly involved in a Honey Trap – thinking it would become an election issue.
In conclusion it would be logical to infer that the BJP had something meaningful and concrete to tell people and seek votes while the Congress, with all its experience, was found wanting as it could not come up with a cogent argument or convincing logic. The less said the better about the JD(S), whose leaders, especially its tallest leader and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda keep doing a flip-flop on whether he would allow the Yediyurappa government to fall or not after the bypolls.
S.A. Hemanth Kumar is a senior journalist...