All eyes are on Karnataka as the state is set for polling on 10 May for Assembly elections 2023.
When the results are announced on 13 May, the election buzz in Karnataka may die down, but the outcome will lay the foundation for the pitches of political parties in neighbouring Telangana — which is slated to head into Assembly elections later this year.
In its second term in office, K Chandrashekar Rao’s Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) is keeping a close watch on the Karnataka elections given that the outcome will dictate its narrative to take on its immediate rival in Telangana — the Congress — and the other national party that is vying to become its competitor, the BJP.
Telangana Chief Minister and BRS chief KCR’s camaraderie with the JD(S) and its leader and former Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy is no secret.
If sources are to be believed, the BRS has even helped JD(S) with resources to fight the upcoming election, yet BRS leaders believe a decisive mandate in favour of Congress will help the BRS in the Telangana polls.
“If the BJP loses in Karnataka — the only state where it has been in power in the South — it becomes the narrative of how South, as a whole, has rejected BJP. A win for BJP in Karnataka, or even a hung Assembly with the chance of BJP forming an alliance government, will give a boost to the party’s consolidation efforts in Telangana,” a senior BRS office bearer told South First.
For BRS, Congress still primary rival
Given BJP’s attempts to allegedly poach its MLAs and the massive resources the saffron party has at its disposal, the BRS sees a more secure electoral field for itself if the Congress continues to be its primary rival than the BJP emerging as its alternative.
For the Chandrashekar Rao government that faces anti-incumbency, the Congress is still — on the ground — the closest political rival with cadres, leaders and candidates present across the state.
The party’s electoral fortunes have been on the downward spiral in Telangana, but a win for the party in Karnataka will give it a fillip in Telangana, party insiders hope.
The Congress in Telangana, however, is a divided house with rifts running deep between the “old guard” and “new entrants” — the latter largely comprising leaders who have joined the Congress from the TDP in recent times and pledge allegiance to state unit chief Revanth Reddy, who himself joined the Congress from the TDP in 2017.
The rift between the two factions has been played out in the open, with public bickering compelling the party’s central leadership to change of the AICC in-charge of the state and put its house in order.
Being the primary Opposition party, the Congress should have been the beneficiary of any anti-incumbency sentiments against the BRS government in Telangana. However, the infighting in the party has cost it much ground in an election year.
The Congress bleeding leaders to other parties hasn’t helped its fortunes either. A win in Karnataka, the party hopes, will at least revive a fighting spirit among its cadres who are currently a divided lot. For a party that has consistently faced electoral defeats, a success story from the neighbouring state could help it re-focus, the Congress hopes.
BJP presence thin on the ground
The BJP, on the other hand, has been successful in bypolls in Telangana but is on a weak wicket when it comes to widespread presence, grassroots cadres, and prominent leaders.
Currently, the BJP — which has two MLAs (excluding now suspended Raja Singh) — does not even have candidates for all the 119 Assembly seats in Telangana.
A win in Karnataka means the party can move forward to consolidate more ground support with its “double engine government” pitch in Telangana as well.
With BJP State President Bandi Sanjay’s statewide yatra to consolidate ground support, and the BRS claiming that its leaders are being targeted by central agencies at the behest of BJP government at the Centre, the public mind-space of the electoral battle is already set as a “BJP vs BRS” match despite the saffron party being a distance third in Telangana’s political arena.
A win in Karnataka for the BJP will also mean more confidence for the saffron party to wean away leaders, supporters and vote share from Congress in Telangana.
Among the several leaders campaigning for BJP in Karnataka is also the party’s Telangana chief Bandi Sanjay, whose recent arrest over paper leak case has only elevated his statue among BJP cadres in the Telugu state.
Much of the strategies for the BRS, Congress and the BJP in poll-bound Telangana will be dependent on the results of Karnataka Assembly polls 2023.