Karnataka assembly elections: Why the urban, rural balance for any party is crucial
The chant by the BJP following the victory in Gujarat was, " ab ki baar Karnataka." There are plenty of factors that would be at play in this hard fought election which incidentally is not only between the Congress and BJP like was the case in Gujarat.
The Gujarat result was an important one for the BJP and many party workers said that the verdict had boosted the morale of the workers in Karnataka.
While caste equations would be at play and the with the Lingayat issue dominating the narrative, one would also need to other factors. The BJP has a traditional urban vote bank while the rural areas have been split between the Janata Dal (S) and Congress.
Striking a balance between the urban and rural voters would be key to the prospects of any party. For the Congress, Siddaramaiah, the Chief Minister of the state would lead from the front. In the case of the BJP it is B S Yeddyurappa and H D Kumaraswamy would do the honours for the JD(S).
The Congress campaign has been centric on local issues. These are key issues especially in the rural areas, which the party plans on retaining. The JD(S) too has towed a similar line. For the BJP it would be a mix of both. While Yeddyurappa is their strongest leader, there would be a lot of dependancy on national leaders of the party especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
The BJP would look to further consolidate its urban vote. However the party is taking nothing to chance. The urban voters have not been entirely consistent in their voting pattern. There are 70 urban and 154 rural constituencies in the state. Out of this 28 urban seats are in Bengaluru city alone while the rest are spread across the city city municipal corporations, town municipal corporations and town panchayats.
This surge in the number of urban constituencies was thanks to the delimitation exercise of 2008. This exercise changed the narrative to a large extent and it could not be said that elections are won only on rural votes.
The BJP during its campaign is blending both the rural and urban issues. In the 2008 election when the BJP came to power, it had won 17 out of the 28 constituencies in Bengaluru urban. In the 2013 it won 12 in this zone while the Congress bagged 18. This itself is an indicator that no party can take the urban voter for granted.
The BJP would also look to consolidate its position in the north, central and coastal belts. The Congress which performed well in these regions would not take things to chance. In 2013, the Congress bagged over 60 per cent of the 154 seats in this region. However the Congress would be aware that in 2013 the BJP was a split unit. There was the BJP, KJP and the BSR Congress. This time the fight is under one single unit- the BJP.
The Congress would also not take anything to chance in the old Mysuru region. This is a JD(S) stronghold and the party cannot be ignored. There are several early indications to suggest that the JD(S) will be a major player in these elections. As things stand today, both the BJP and Congress are likely to need the JD(S) to form a government in Karnataka in 2018.