Karnataka Assembly polls are scheduled to be held on 10 May next and the result will be announced on 13 May. The tenure of Karnataka 224-member Assembly will be ending on 24 May 2023. Currently, the ruling BJP has 119 MLAs, Congress has 75 and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) of H D Deve Gowda 28. Before the General Election in 2024 and ensuing assembly elections in 3 big states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the result of Karnataka assembly elections would definitely have wider political ramification.
The ruling BJP has positioned itself against the main opposition party Congress, with the JD-S hoping to play a key role in government formation in case a hung verdict is thrown up. The three capitalist parties in the state have dusted themselves up and have been readying to come before the people in new avatars and with customary loud and flashy promises. It does not matter to them, whether, they have fulfilled their earlier promises or not. What they want is to charge up the political atmosphere with usual stitching together political jamborees like Vijaya Sankalpa Yatra, Prajadhvani Yatra and Pancharatna Yatra respectively in an attempt to woo the people once again. While the Congress and JD-S are making tall promises, BJP is blaring from the roof top its so called ‘achievements’. In the meanwhile, many politicians are lobbying for tickets, many are lavishly hurling freebies, and many are switching sides to seek their fortune in the upcoming election throwing to the winds even a miniscule of morality. Internal squabbles, a hallmark of vote-based bourgeois parties, are also surfacing in all three major contesting bourgeois parties.
The ignominious politics of money power
The ruling BJP is wanting a second consecutive term and has set itself a target of bagging 150 seats. With the change of CM in July 2021 when former CM B S Yediyurappa made way for the incumbent CM Basavaraj Bommai, the BJP had aspired to achieve a palpable facelift for itself. But that could not be realized. 2018 election threw up a fractured mandate. But then a hurriedly cobbled coalition between the JD-S and the Congress who had fought against each other in the election took the reins. But in 2019, he BJP under Mr. Yediyurappa grabbed power in 2019 by engineering defection from the ruling coalition. 17 MLAs from the then ruling coalition were subsequently poached by the BJP seemingly with the lure of lucre and power. The turncoats resigned and got re-elected on BJP ticket through by-election. This was nothing but a most disgraceful and immoral politics of engineering defections to grab power which is shamelessly boasted by the victorious BJP as ‘Operation Kamala’ (Operation Lotus).
Surfeit of anti-people policies and sufferings of the people
While the BJP and the Congress are busy taking jibes at each other and providing lists of their past achievements and future programmes of ‘‘serving people’’, the toiling masses of Karnataka find their lives being dragged to the dregs irrespective of who had been in power. Like other parts of the country, soaring price line is making people of Karnataka bleed white. In every sector, be it education or health or availability of jobs, the situation is pathetic. Crores of students across the state are feeling the neglect of the government in the matters related to educational facilities, ensuring adequate number of classes, conduction of examinations, fees structure, course curriculum etc. The guest lecturers at colleges are in the streets battling for their salary and service conditions. 2.5 lakhs posts are lying vacant. They are either being abolished or left vacant for years.
There has been a sharp increase in the number of people seeking employment under the MNREGA. This is a clear indication of how severe unemployment problem is. Job generation rate in the private sector too is very low. Permanent gainful employment is vanishing and is replaced by contractual workers at very low wage without any job security, let alone other facilities. The life of the workers has become more insecure than ever before. Rapid fall in the budgetary allocation to MNREGA, Agricultural Sector, Public Distribution System, Education and Healthcare and rise in prices of essential items, petrol-diesel-LPG are tearing people into shreds. The health system collapsed during the multiple waves of Covid19 pandemic under the weight of inefficiency, maladministration and enormous corruption. Many precious lives were lost and livelihoods destroyed. The unorganized workers and migrant labourers bore the maximum brunt of the Covid19 onslaught. Post-Covid 19, job loss in IT sector is reported to be quite high.
The poor and marginal farmers in the state were subjected to untold misery. As many as 4,257 farmers committed suicide in the last five years in Karnataka. In fact, Karnataka stands second at all India level in farmers’ suicide. A farmer from Gadag district in north Karnataka had spoken out in November last about the shocking payment he received at an APMC market in Bangalore for a huge harvest of onion. He said that he had spent more than Rs 25,000 to grow and transport the onion to Bangalore. But the wholesaler who bought the onions priced them at Rs 200 per quintal but went on to deduct Rs 377.64 towards freight and added Rs 25 as porter charges for the entire load. As a result, the total came up to only Rs 8.26. The frustrated farmer lamented that he earned only Rs 8.26 for 205 kilograms of onion after travelling 415 kilometers to Bangalore’s Yeshwantpur market.
This incident bears glaring testimony of plight of peasants in Karnataka. Pertinent to mention that Karnataka farmers declared a strike from 16 December 2020 to 31 December 2020 in Bangalore to voice peasants’ grievances against passing of anti-peasant laws. In the background of the Central Government having been compelled under pressure of historic peasant movement to repeal the three black farm laws, Mr. Bommai, just before taking over as CM in July 2021, had said that the amendments to land ceiling Act, APMC Act would be reviewed. He had promised in September 2021 that the income of small and medium farmers would be doubled. But nothing happened. The government has remained mum on minimum support price (MSP) for all agricultural produce. Even after series of protests, the government has turned a blind eye to the issues pertaining to payment of dues to the sugarcane growers and farmers’ loan problems. During the December 2022 Belgaum legislative session, unprecedented number of protests of people from all sections of the society bore mark of restlessness in the people. Fearing escalation of the protest, the BJP government had deployed 5,000 more policemen to Belgaum for maintaining ‘law and order’.
Neck deep in Corruption
The BJP government is inundated neck deep in corruption. Recently, a BJP MLA Madal Virupakshappa and his son were arrested in bribery cases. The Karnataka High Court rejected another plea to quash Lokayukta investigation on another BJP MLA. Police recruitment scam, Assistant Professors’ recruitment scam and varieties of irregularities in Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC) are some few of the cases that have come out in the open.
The corruption of former BJP chief minister Yediyurappa, everyone is aware of, had attained so high a level so much so that the BJP high command had been compelled to remove him from chief minister’s post. In September last, under the directive of Karnataka High Court, the Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge Court ordered an FIR to be registered and investigation taken up on a private complaint alleging corruption by Yediyurappa and his family members. Yediyurappa’s son BY Vijayendra and Cooperation Minister ST Somashekar have also been named in the Lokayukta FIR after the High Court restored the case based on a private complaint by activist TJ Abraham. The case was about awarding of contracts by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) to a construction company when Yediyurappa was the chief minister and Somashekar was BDA chairman, allegedly for flouting the procedure. Neither CBI nor ED was asked to probe the cases against Yeddyurappa.
Now the same BJP top brass is falling back on its Yeddyurappa making him a key poll mascot, along with Prime Minister Modi, as it shores up campaign in poll-bound Karnataka. This is a glaring instance of how ‘the BJP rides on corruption’. The BJP government earned the epithet ‘40% government.’ when the Contractors’ Association charged it with enormous corruption in every department.
The aggrieved contractors wrote a letter to PM Modi last year detailing the allegations. But it was of no avail. A senior minister in Mr. Bommai’s cabinet had to resign when a contractor committed suicide being unable to bear with the pressure of bribe demands. Hard on the heels of the contractors, two private schools’ associations in the state also wrote to the PM about corruption. But, as expected, no action has been initiated! Corruption was also reported during Congress regime, but magnitude has been no match to what the BJP rule has recorded.
Communalism is the life-breath of Sangh Parivar
Ever since the BJP had come to power in the state, the ruling party BJP, an avid pursuer of arch communal Hindutva doctrine, has all through kept the communal issues brewing. Diatribes against Hijab, Halal, Ayaan Muslim traders, beef eating, love jihad, conversions, religious freedom, inter-faith marriages, etc., have repeatedly hogged the headlines during last 3 years rule of the BJP in the state under two chief ministers. Examples are aplenty to reinforce the belief that the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar are so ideologically bankrupt that they have no other way but to bank on intensifying communal divide with a view to polarizing Hindu votes in their favour. In absence of necessary political consciousness, people especially in the coastal Karnataka region did fall prey to relentless fomenting of communal issues and anti-Muslim hatred during the Bommai regime and the BJP reaped success in diverting their attention from the burning issues of life. Recently, the BJP has indulged in distorting the history of Tipu Sultan to drive a wedge between Vokkaliga community and Muslims.
In Karnataka, a relatively liberal democratic atmosphere prevailed even up to the beginning of current century which kept communal politics at bay to some extent. Till 1994, the BJP could not even field candidates in all the 224 seats and make its communal agenda, its poll plank. In fact, it was not possible for the BJP to make inroads in the state with its communal agenda until 2006.
The BJP tasted power, for the first time by entering into an ‘unholy’ alliance with the JD-S, hitherto its rival. Greed for power united the two. In 2008, Karnataka saw an extreme political opportunism when once again the BJP having not been able to get majority, lured to its side the independent MLAs with the offer of ministerial berths and state was witness to naked purchase of MLAs allegedly with the ill-gotten wealth from the illegal mining of iron ores. Now, ‘Operation Kamala’ and ‘Resort politics’ are the main slogans of the BJP all over the country Karnataka included.
Despite exacerbation of communal politics, the BJP till date has not been able to form a government of its own with absolute majority. It has either shared power with JD-S or gained majority by orchestrating defections. In fact, an atmosphere of communal harmony, in the main, prevails in Karnataka. The influence of Sufi movement can also be seen in large parts of central and northern parts of the state. That is why, high decibel communal hate campaign by the Sangh Parivar forces on most communally sensitive Dattapeetha Shrine or Hubli Idga Maidan disputes could not evoke the kind of response from the people that the BJP had desired.
Casteist politics is now the BJP’s cup of tea
At present, the BJP is banking on caste equations and attempting to woo communities by offering fig leaf of reservation. The party has sent out an overt message of rejecting the Muslim votes when it took away their 4% reservation quota and distributed it 2% each additionally to the two dominant communities viz., Lingayats and Vokkaligas. Earlier, it had announced that from the 10% quota earmarked for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), 4% would go to Panchamasali Lingayats and 3% to Vokkaligas.
The distribution and redistribution of quota is not backed up by any study and hence has no basis except political opportunism. Now, people belonging to many other harried communities including Lambani, Koracha, Korama, Bhovi are also being instigated by their respective aspirant leaders to demand reservations while the fact is that reservation continues to be akin to dangling a carrot in the hands of bourgeois rulers when neither job nor proper education is available
Another deception is of ‘‘double engine government’’. PM Modi during his recent visits to Karnataka in quick successions inaugurated a couple of incomplete projects like Terminal 2 at Kempe Gowda International Airport, Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway and an extended leg of the Bangalore Metro to project those as marks of progress while these are hardly of any tangible benefit to the downtrodden millions.
Cracks and potholes reportedly surfaced in the express highway soon after PM’s inauguration showing the hollowness of the slogan of ‘double engine government’. In actuality, the BJP is on the back foot. The victory achieved by the people in the school text revision controversy, corruption scandals, reservation mess have definitely made BJP nervous. That is why, it is desperately hanging on to the image of Modi as a last resort.
Two faces of the same coin
The Congress is also not lagging behind in politics of false promises, freebies and deceits. It has announced that it would roll back the reservation and will restore 4% Muslim quota if elected to power. The JD-S led by former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, has been maintaining equidistance outwardly from both the BJP and the Congress, while also trying to expand its base beyond its traditional stronghold of old Mysuru region with populist talks on farmers’ welfare, regional development and social justice.
However, the corrupt, nepotistic rule by both the Congress and JD-S and their peddling of soft Hindutva agenda paid dividend to the BJP. The Congress party also has continuously played with sectarian politics to strengthen its perceived vote banks. In 2018, its bet on the sentimental issue of ‘Lingayat Religion’ boomeranged on it.
The Congress party is lying in ambush to regain power by encashing the BJP’s failures. The people are watching the mudslinging contest between the two parties over two major unfinished Mekedatu and Mahadayi irrigation projects Thus, all bourgeois parties are engaged in this kind of tomfoolery today.
People’s political alternative must emerge
What was necessary at this juncture was a united struggling Left alternative based on a common minimum programme of developing mass struggles. Our Party SUCI(C) took initiative in 2021 to strengthen a joint platform of 7 left and democratic parties with an aim to advance the cause of mass movements against anti-people policies and laws of the both the state and the central governments. Many movements were organized to consolidate the left alternative against nasty bourgeois vote politics. Now, at this critical time of assembly elections all the constituents of the joint left platform particularly the CPI(M) and its allies have taken the position that their primary aim at present is to ensure electoral defeat of the BJP and for that they would go to any extent of supporting any other party.
As a matter of principle, we clearly declared that we are not in support of such an unprincipled stand and repeatedly appealed to them to intensify mass movements and thereby ensure emergence of a people’s struggling political alternative. But they paid no heed to it as their principal aim is to secure few seats by tying up with the Congress or JD-S.
In the circumstances, our Party has decided to fight the electoral battle holding high the banner of struggling leftism enshrined in Marxism-Leninism-Shibdas Ghosh Thought. The slew of successful movements led by our Party as well as its class and mass fronts against NEP, unemployment, atrocities against women and upholding legitimate demands of the unorganized workers as well as poor peasants and farm labourers have attracted the attention of well-meaning people. People’s faith in mass movements are growing. People must continue to burst forth in movements against all the anti-people policies of the bourgeois governments subservient to the class interest of the ruthlessly exploitative capitalist class.
As long as due class consciousness is not dawned upon the masses, they will continue to be victims of political treachery and growing oppression. Our appeal to the thinking sections of the people is for pondering over this question and make the SUCI(C) candidates, the trusted soldiers of class and mass struggles, to reverberate the voice of those struggles inside the House.