Buoyed by the success in urban local body elections and overall mood favouring the Congress, many partymen and its supporters are enthusiastic about unseating the BJP in the May 5 Assembly elections.
But the party can hardly overlook two factors in coastal Karnataka: the presence of huge RSS cadres, and the gains the Lotus party had made in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections compared to the 2008 Assembly elections.
The RSS, which held a meeting in Mangalore recently, is apparently aware of the fact that prospects of retaining power are dim. And it has stepped in to vigorously campaign. A document of the RSS, which held a mega meet for its volunteers on the city’s outskirts recently, reveals that it has more than 82,000 cadres in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi.
The case in point is the defeat of the former Union Minister and seasoned politician B. Janardhana Poojary in the Lok Sabha elections from Dakshina Kannada at the hands of BJP candidate Nalin Kumar Kateel, a newcomer in electoral politics.
Though Mr. Poojary was tipped to win and the party was jubilant all along but as the voting day approached, there were some naysayers too, the RSS is believed to have upped the ante in the last few days by intensive door-to-door campaign, with the cadre given specific target.
Mr. Poojary lost by more than 40,000 votes. Secondly, an analysis of percentage points of votes garnered by political parties in 2009 in the 19 assembly segments of the three coastal districts shows that the BJP had strengthened its position. Its share of the polled votes in 2009 was more than 6.5 percentage points higher in 2009 than in 2008. In the same period, the Congress’ gain was a mere 3.5 per cent of the polled votes.
However, what bolsters the Congress’s image is that the bye-elections to Udupi-Chikmagalur threw up a surprise when its candidate K. Jayaprakash Hegde defeated BJP’s V. Sunil Kumar in 2012 by nearly 46,000 votes. Four of the assembly segments of this constituency – Kundapur, Udupi, Kapu, and Karkala – are in Udupi district and the rest (Sringeri, Moodigere, Chikmagalur and Tarikeri) are in Chikmagalur district.
While the 2009 Lok Sabha poll numbers are not encouraging for the Congress, one has to wait and see whether anti-incumbency factor against the ruling BJP will fetch enough votes for the key opposition party and give it an edge over the more systematic campaigners of the saffron party on May 5.