If you want to know how to complicate an easy thing, you better ask the Congress high command in New Delhi. Karnataka voters were strongly in favour of the Congress just a month ago. Urban local body results also proved that Congress was on the upswing. Sensing certain victory, all kinds of people started lobbying for Congress tickets and the so called high command in Delhi started behaving in a highhanded manner, also playing favourites.
The Congress has been out of power for the past 7 years. Even though it lost the 2004 polls, it retained power in alliance with the JDS until January 2006.
Everybody knows what this election means for the Congress. If it loses the third straight election in Karnataka, it will be the end of the grand old party in the state, once its stronghold.
It is true that people across the state are fed up with BJP rule. Yeddyurappa's angry exit from the party to launch his own KJP and the exodus of its MLAs and workers has considerably weakened the ruling party. Yeddyurappa was the Congress' nightmare when he was in power, now his exit has made this election much easier for Congress.
HD Deve Gowda's family firm the JDS is also facing internal rebellion in some districts, a situation most helpful for the Congress. Then, what's the problem? The Congress party itself is the problem. As eminent psephologist and political analyst Prof. Yogendra Yadav says, the Congress is very good at turning certain victory into certain defeat. Many state Congress leaders with bloated egos and their bosses in New Delhi who have no connect with ground realities, seem to have worked overtime to complicate an easy election, all in the last one month.
There have been serious allegations of the sale of tickets, highhandedness, brazen favouritism and above all ill treatment of the state's two largest and most powerful castes - the Lingayats and Vokkaligas.
The Congress has fielded many rejected faces, real estate mafia dons, relatives and chelas of central leaders in many winnable seats. It does not need a Rocket scientist to predict that the Congress is going to lose most of these seats.
Former Union Minister CM Ibrahim is persona non grata in his hometown Bhadravathi in Shimoga district. He fled Bhadravathi in 1983 when the angry public prevented him from filing his nomination papers. One of his brothers was brutally murdered and another brother faced serious allegations of attempted rape when Ibrahim was a Union Minister in 1997. Yet he's got the Congress ticket from Bhadravathi. This when the sitting Congress MLA is very popular and a Lingayat. He is now contesting as a rebel and the Lingayat stronghold of Central Karnataka may vote against the Congress to teach Ibrahim another lesson.
It's clear that to massage the ego of CM aspirant Siddaramaiah, the Congress has given Ibrahim a ticket. There are others. AICC General Secretary BK Hariprasad has fielded his own elder brother and a retired trigger happy ACP BK Shivaram from Malleshwaram. It is not a secret that two others contesting from Bangalore city Manjula Naidu and Muniratna are also his favourites.
Bangalore with 28 Assembly seats in Corporation limits and eight more in the outskirts, was in favour of the Congress till recently. But the wrong selection of candidates in many seats is likely to cost the party dearly.
The Congress decimated the Bellary Reddys in their stronghold Bellary in the urban local body polls. Former Minister and Congress strongman M Diwakara Babu took on the Reddys, suffered and saved Congress fortunes here. But the party ticket has gone to a one time friend of the Reddys, mining baron Anil Lad. It has led to a Cong revolt in Bellary and surrounding districts. Congress workers openly allege that the ticket has been sold.
KPCC president Dr G Parameshwar is also facing serious charges of giving tickets to his chamchas and chelas with an eye on the Chief Minister's chair. SM Krishna, a tall Vokkaliga leader who is acceptable across Karnataka has been sidelined. It has sent a wrong message to voters in the old Mysore region and will benefit the JDS in a big way.
Film star Ambareesh is not a force in Mandya but the Congress has given tickets to his supporters ignoring SM Krishna followers. Insiders say the JDS will exploit the situation and the Ambareesh led Congress may well bite the dust.
A Congress' victory is directly linked to JDS' performance in this most important region. If the JDS manages to win around 40 seats and the BJP manages to win another 25 seats, Congress won't reach the halfway mark of 113 in the state Assembly. The 'Cleansed' BJP is doing everything possible to win at least 60 seats in the state. It is hoping that the JDS will win at least 40 so both can come together to form yet another coalition government and keep the Congress out.
There is a direct fight between the Congress and BJP at many places in coastal, Mumbai-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka. The JDS is a marginal force in some areas and does not even exist in some others. Yeddyurappa's KJP has replaced the BJP in at least 8 districts in these regions. If the KJP eats into BJP votes, the Congress can win a lot of seats by default. If the BJP manages to hold its ground in these areas, the game's over for the Congress.
It is true that there is a strong anti-BJP wave across the state. But, there's no pro-Congress wave either. The JDS and KJP may benefit from this factor. There's a huge difference between being the single largest party and being able to get at least a simple majority. Even if the Congress gets 90-100 seats, there's no guarantee it will be able to form a government. The JDS prefers the BJP over Congress any day. Yeddyurappa can't be a trusted ally and can return to BJP any day.
There can be only three scenarios once the counting is over.
The Congress gets a simple majority, BJP loses 60-70 seats, JDS won't be able to cross 40 seats and KJP stops at 10-15 seats.
Or the Congress reaches 100 seats and forms government with Independents and the KJP.
Or it will be badly fractured mandate like 2004 and any alliance can come to power.
AICC Vice President Rahul Gandhi should realise that he can't run the Congress like an NGO with aides like Madhusudhan Mistry and Jitendra Singh.
Tried, tested and always failed AK Antony type can't think realistically and offer practical solutions.
April is the cruelest month in Karnataka. It is peak Summer. May 8th could go either way for the Congress.