New Delhi: A pre-poll survey conducted by the Kannada outlet Eedina says that Congress appears to be headed for a clear and comfortable majority, much beyond the 113-seat mark, in the forthcoming Karnataka assembly elections.
The assembly elections will be held in a single phase on May 10. Counting will be done on May 13.
The survey predicted that Congress will win 132-140 seats with a vote share of 43%. And, this could be Congress’s best performance in the last three decades, it added.
BJP is predicted to win 57-65 seats, with a vote share of 33%. For comparison, BJP won 104 seats in the 2018 assembly elections.
However, note two important points here: first, BJP has never won a majority in the state on its own, and Congress always had a better vote share. Secondly, BJP came to power in controversial circumstances, by toppling the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government 14 months after elections in 2019.
The survey added that BJP could witness its worst performance in the last two decades, except 2013 when the party was split. For the JD(S), too, this could be its worst performance, it added.
“It’s clear that corruption and incompetence are the main reasons for which the BJP is being thrown out if the opinion polls come true,” Dr. Vasu H.V., coordinator of Eedina survey, told The Wire in an interview on April 27, Thursday.
“At the same time, there’s yet another angle to it that the oppressed communities and Ahinda in Karnataka, which comprise Dalits and [people belonging to the] backward [caste/communities] are more in favour of the Congress for quite sometime…And, more poor [people] are voting in favour of Congress. So, price rise and other issues, the economic decline in the last three to four years, post-COVID-19 developments, all [of these factors] have resulted in this opinion poll. There are also many welfare programmes the Congress has identified with.”
Yogendra Yadav, a renowned psephologist and a political scientist, concurred. He told The Wire, “As you go from the rich to the poor, Congress’s vote increases. It’s a pyramid. In the case of BJP, the pyramid is upside down. As you go to the poorer sections of the society, BJP’s votes shrink.”
Saying that caste is not the only thing to discuss during elections, he said, “With each caste community, rich and poor make a difference. Within the Lingayats, the poorer Lingayats tend to vote a little more for the Congress. Within the ‘upper’ castes, the same story. On the other hand, within Dalits and Muslims, the richer Dalits and Muslims tend to vote a more for the BJP.”
He said the rich and the poor issue is driving this election. “That’s why the Congress is very carefully targeting poor and the very poor,” he added.
During the interview, Dr. Vasu pointed out that coastal Karnataka, which includes Udupi, the epicentre of the hijab controversy, is a BJP stronghold.
On April 28, Friday, Eedina, in its press release, elaborated, “In terms of regions, the survey shows that the Congress may sweep the northern regions of Hyderabad Karnataka and Mumbai Karnataka, while the BJP may hold its lead in coastal and central Karnataka. In the south, the BJP may improve its vote share, but not win many seats. The JD(S) is also likely to lose seats in South Karnataka to the Congress.”
The survey was conducted from March 3 to April 21 in 204 constituencies across Karnataka. A total of 41,169 persons were randomly selected from the electoral rolls and were interviewed at their residence by trained citizen journalists of the Eedina network, said the press release.
Just a few days ahead of the assembly polls in Karnataka, reports of voter data theft and manipulation by private companies have emerged. The News Minute reported on April 26 that a private company openly advertised on its website that “it has sensitive information including mobile numbers and WhatsApp numbers of voters. The company provides login access to potential clients who can then enter the site and buy information and services of their choice for as little as Rs 25,000.”
Sources in the Election Commission of India (ECI) told the news outlet that the “format of the data on sale is similar to the data stored on ERONET, a government portal with ECI data on voters that only election officials can access”.
The owners of the company are yet to be traced, the report added.
The Election Commission of India officials are investigating whether the company could have been used to bribe voters by depositing money into their accounts using UPI, the report said.
In November last year, another news investigation had revealed that the Bengaluru civic body had given permission to a private NGO to collect voters’ data. Following the TNM report, Congress, the main opposition party in the state, had demanded chief minister Basavaraj Bommai’s resignation.
Another report shows how electoral lists are being manipulated in Karnataka. TNM reported on April 25 that the names of more than 7,000 voters are set to be deleted from the electoral roll of Shivajinagar constituency in Bengaluru.
The issue started in October 2022 when a group of BJP “sympathisers”, per TNM, claimed there were 26,000 fake voters in the area, and that many had moved out of the area. The list mainly consisted of Muslim names as Shivajinagar is a Muslim-dominated area.
Following the complaint, ECI issued notices to 9,159 people and asked them to submit their residency proof. “While 22 residents have been granted a reprieve after submitting proof of their continued address, the fate of the remaining voters hangs in the balance, leading to accusations of voter harassment and a violation of the fundamental right to vote,” the report said.
The TNM investigation also found that hundreds of voters, particularly Muslims and Dalits, in the Shivajinagar constituency were in danger of having their names removed from the electoral roll.