(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 18, 2008
FIRST PHASE OF Assembly elections in Karnataka
Elections to Karnataka state legislative assembly are being held prematurely due to the sordid drama that unfolded during the collapse of Janata Dal (Secular)-BJP coalition government in October 2007. The previous elections were held in 2004.
The BJP left no stone unturned to hold on to the reigns of power in Karnataka using JD(S) as the stepping stone between 2004 and 2008. Finally, it accepted a junior partnership in a coalition government for 20 months. After the collapse of the alliance government, BJP campaigned all over Karnataka on the plank of “betrayal” to gain sympathy of people, particularly lingayats to which caste its chief ministerial candidate Yeddiyurappa belongs. Lingayats constitute 23 per cent of the population in Karnataka.) It struggled to get elections declared at the earliest to gain from this “sympathy” factor.
But the 89 constituencies in southern Karnataka which went to polls on May 10 in the first phase have shown that it is not an easy task for the BJP. Several attempts by Sangh Parivar to gain a foothold in this region dominated by peasant cultivators have failed. The communal divide which BJP wanted to engineer in the rural areas have not yielded fruit. The issues that they tried to raise like the so-called Tippu Sultan’s oppression of Hindus, conversions etc did not attract people. The Virat Hindu Samaveshas they orgnaised in this region last year were plagued with poor attendance. Despite spending crores of rupees they are not meeting with success in their aims.
The main fight even this time in the rural areas of this region is between Congress and JD(S). In the cities it is a three way contest between Congress, JD(S) and BJP. However, it may be kept in mind that Bangalore metropolitan area, which now has 28 seats (it had 18 seats in 2004) and around 40 seats together with the suburban region can tilt the balance. In the last elections, Congress had won most of the seats here although both the parliamentary seats were won by BJP.
After the declaration of elections BJP is trying every trick and using all foul means to distort the election process to facilitate its victory. For the past few decades it has reaped a rich harvest from the communal divide it has created in Karnataka. Besides all India issues like Ayodhya etc, it has invented many local issues to achieve this purpose like Idga Maidan issue of Hubli. In recent years it has raised the issue Bababudangiri (a sufi shrine), cowslaughter, issues of various mosques, khabarstans, dargas in small town and villages also. Communal disturbances in Mangalore and Bangalore cities, Virat Hindu Samajotsavas during Golvalakar centenary were some of the well-known fallout of their communal agenda.
CPI(M) had one MLA in the previous assembly. As the Party inside and out side the assembly raised many questions regarding land grabbing by land mafia in and around Bangalore city, and by mine owners, on corruption scandals, besides the raising issues of agrarian crisis, PDS, attacks on working class the vested interests affected by these are pumping money to defeat it in the constituency. BJP has put up a film actor. There are certain new areas added. Ahobli from where Party used to get about 10,000 votes has been deleted in the delimitation. But Party’s works at various levels and development works taken up have helped gathering new sections. The Party is confident of retaining the seat. In other constituencies also new sections of people particularly working people belonging to minorities, OBC’s and Women are more receptive to our contest particularly in Mangalore and Gulbarga rural.
CPI(M) election campaign was inaugurated by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury by addressing a massive gathering of ten thousand people assembled on the occasion of filing of nomination papers in Bagepalli by former MLA G V SriramaReddy. On the same day he addressed a meeting in Bangalore where Karnataka state committee’s electoral appeal was also released. He said that elections in Karnataka will have an all India impact as BJP is hell bent on winning in Karnataka and making it a gateway into south India. If it wins it will have impact on Loka Sabha elections next year and the character of the next central government. BJP which is the political arm of RSS is advocating Gujarat model in Karnataka. It will only mean heightening of communal tensions, caste conflicts and also having linguistic divisions. Another Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat toured three constituencies during the first phase of elections and addressed public meetings. She also addressed a series of five meetings in Gulbarga rural constituency. She raised the issues of price rise and how both BJP and Congress parties have same economic policies, which has affected peasantry, working class and other common people. Polit Bureau member K Varadarajan, Central committee member T K Rrngarajan and Vasuki addressed public meeting in Kolar gold fields. Polit Bureau member Kodiyeri Balakrishnanan, central committee member and MP, Karunakaran, MLA from Manjeswar in Kasaragode district, Kunhambu, Lok Sabha MP Abdulla Kutty and others campaigned in Mangalore and Mangalore South constituencies.
Restrictions imposed by Election Commission have affected campaigning. House to house contacts, distribution of pamphlets; small group meetings are being conducted by squads of activist and candidates.