The return of the pendulum

Not only that, even the unofficial betting trends have now started changing. Odds which were being placed on the Congress party have now come down to a trickle, but as of Thursday evening, it was the Congress party that was still ahead. But the confidence with which bets were being placed on the Congress have given way to extreme caution as campaigning draws to a close.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi

After several pre-poll surveys over the past few months showed the Congress as storming back to power in Karnataka, the pendulum seems to have started its return to the other side.

Not only that, even the unofficial betting trends have now started changing. Odds which were being placed on the Congress party have now come down to a trickle, but as of Thursday evening, it was the Congress party that was still ahead. But the confidence with which bets were being placed on the Congress have given way to extreme caution as campaigning draws to a close.

With each passing day bringing bad news for the Congress party on various fronts at the national level — the Coalgate scandal, the Chinese incursions and the Sarabjit murder in a Pakistani jail — observers noticed a trickle-down effect in the minds of the people of Karnataka.

However, the pendulum has not swung decisively to the other side: Pointers now are that the state is heading for a well and truly hung assembly.

Even a survey conducted for the BJP by the Mumbai-based Prabhodhan Research Group, the BJP is now set to gain at least 81 seats, while the Congress party tally has come down to 95 seats.

That this was essentially war between the BJP and the Congress also became clear with the Prabodhan survey indicating that the Janata Dal (Secular) getting about 27 seats, KJP eight seats, the Reddy brothers’ BSR Congress Party five and independents bagging eight seats out of a 225 seat assembly (of which one seat is for a nominated member of the Anglo-Indian community.

As compared to the earlier polls, the trends for the JD(S), KJP and others were more or less the same.

A survey carried out in January this year had shown the Congress getting about 133 seats, but this figures started coming down and by March, was predicted that the Congress would get anywhere between 112 and 126 seats.

It was widely expected that the BJP would lose in the state because its image had taken a beating thanks to former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s shenanigans and the corruption muck that appeared to have stuck to the ruling party.

Indeed, the people of Karnataka were angry with the goings in a party that they had voted as an alternative to the Congress and the “third front” like the Janata Dal (Secular) and its earlier avatars.

The anger was well and truly deserved by the BJP, but by December, Yeddyurappa was out and formed his own Karnataka Janata Paksha with an avowed stance to destroy the BJP.

He tried his level best to rope in several ministers who were seen as close to him; in the end only two crossed over.

As the Congress was being shown as gaining tremendously, many deserted the BJP to join the main opposition party in the state assembly.

With Yeddyurappa and others out, and the BJP shouting from the rooftops that the party had been cleansed of corrupt elements, the anger started dissipating slowly, but there was nothing to indicate that the voters would return back to the BJP in droves.

UdupiNet started noting that the people of Karnataka were also watching developments that were taking place in New Delhi. The image of the Congress was also getting battered — even more seriously than that of the BJP in Karnataka — and like many other Indians, they also sat up to take note of that new messiah: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi’s SRCC talk (and later at other fora) became a hot topic and there was a wish that Karnataka should have someone like Modi as the chief minister.

In fact, the Open magazine carried out a nation-wide survey and found that the people would prefer Modi over anyone else, including Rahul, if he were the candidate for prime ministership. What is of interest is that Modi was a choice even in the southern states, including Karnataka with an impressive figure 55 as against26 for Rahul.

The Karnataka BJP was hoping on Modi to campaign extensively in the state, but the Gujarat chief minister kept them on tenterhooks. The Congress started a whisper campaign that Modi was loathe to come to Karnataka since the BJP was a sinking ship.

But on April 28, Modi addressed a well-attended meeting in Bangalore and this charged up the BJP cadres and a large section of the voters.

On Thursday, Modi followed it up by two back-to-back meetings, the first in Mangalore in coastal Karnataka, and the second at Belgaum in North Karnataka.

Modi’s meetings were a hit and his Bangalore address was relayed live over the internet and was displayed on a mobile big screen in other places, including Udupi.

If a survey was to be held today, it would have shown the BJP gaining even more, almost equal to if not more than the Congress party.

Another factor that worked against the Congress — which has the uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory — was the infighting that severely damaged its prospects.

There were several claimants for the chief ministership — the party has not seen such an open, shameless desire for power from amongst its leadership anywhere — and many rebels entered the fray in several constituencies.

Some like former chief minister and party veteran S M Krishna openly expressed his unhappiness with the party for having sidelined him totally while distributing tickets.

What has also damaged the Congress severely that their charges of corruption against the BJP could not stick since it gave tickets to three high-profile mining barons, whose companies were indicted by the Supreme Court.

The party also had all their big guns in the battle for Karnataka: party president Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. However, their speeches did not have the fire and brimstones that were expected of them, tired as they were with the continuous flak they were facing from all sides in New Delhi. In fact, it was reported that people had started moving out even before Manmohan Singh could finish reading out his speech at one election rally.

The main topcis they covered were corruption, power generation and development.

But they failed to impress since they were also seen being as corrupt if not more than the BJP in Karnataka.

It is not to say that Modi was the BJP’s lone campaigner in Karnataka. In fact a galaxy of leaders such as L K Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, campaigned extensively.

But credit must be given to Modi for not only effectively demolishing the Congress party, but also painting a shining image of the post-Yeddyurappa BJP in development terms.

Only Modi could successfully bring back the BJP’s image as a pro-development party, though the others, including the state leadership, tried hard to convey the good work that their party had done.

One this is sure, though. Modi has definitely given sleepless nights to the Congress leadership and tonight, even if they fall asleep after a couple of tiring weeks, they would have nightmares in which Modi would appear to them as Gabbar Singh or Thakur Baldev Singh!

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