Karnataka election, Break in Opposition unity

New Delhi: At least three of the parties that have been rooting for Opposition unity and pooling votes to keep Hindutva forces at bay have decided to contest the upcoming elections in Karnataka where the Congress is in a bare-knuckle fight with the BJP. The Bahujan Samaj Party had announced its decision to tie up with the Janata Dal (Secular) in February itself. Over the past two days, the CPM and the Aam Aadmi Party too declared their intent to join the fray. The CPM will contest 19 seats and the AAP 18 in the May 12 Assembly elections announced earlier this week.The BSP will contest 20 of the 224 seats, according to the seat-share agreement with the JDS.

All the three smaller parties in the Karnataka context – the BSP, CPM and the AAP – have been part of one or more of the efforts being made by various Opposition leaders to bring together anti-BJP forces. The CPM finalised its decision to contest 19 seats at its three-day central committee meeting, which concluded on Friday. Asked why the CPM was contesting when it polled only 2.93 per cent of the votes in the 16 seats it had fought in 2013 – and 0.22 per cent overall – sources said it was the party’s policy to fight elections on a limited scale everywhere. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who interacted briefly with journalists, said in the remaining seats, the party would give a call to support the party best positioned to defeat the BJP. Asked if this meant the CPM would give a call for supporting the Congress, Yechury’s predecessor Prakash Karat pointed out that the JDS was also there in Karnataka.

However, within the CPM there is some apprehension about the JDS, given the recent statements of former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy; especially the one accusing Congress president Rahul Gandhi of minority appeasement.

This is the kind of language the BJP uses, some CPM leaders pointed out. The AAP, which is seeking donations from the public to help it contest the elections, is projecting its campaign as “alternative politics in South India” to challenge the Congress and the BJP. Asked what the AAP’s strategy would be in other Assembly segments, Somnath Bharti, who is in charge of south Indian states, told  the remaining seats, “we will give a call to our supporters to vote as per their conscience”.What makes the decision of these two parties to contest significant is that the victory margin was less than 1,000 in 12 Assembly segments in the 2013 elections.


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