The result is likely to be an indication of voter sentiment ahead of the national elections expected in May next year.
People in the southern Indian state of Karnataka voted in an election where pre-poll surveys showed the opposition Congress party favored by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party.
Wednesday’s votes for the 224 seats in the state legislature will be counted on May 13 and the outcome is likely to be an indication of voter sentiment ahead of national elections expected in May next year.
Bengaluru, the state capital, is India’s information technology hub and the area is a sought-after workplace for young professionals.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is struggling to retain the lone southern state where it won. The BJP’s strongholds are in northern, central and western India, while opposition parties rule the other southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The BJP has been accused of running a polarizing campaign to limit its losses due to anti-incumbency, inflation, corruption allegations and poor infrastructure development in the state.
A Narayana, a political analyst, said there was voter anger against the BJP government in the state.
“If this anger somehow translates into voting, the BJP will have reasons to worry and the Congress will have reasons to rejoice,” he said.
Sandeep Shastri, another expert, says that is the case. “Congress has its nose ahead.”
A BJP victory would put Congress’s top figure Rahul Gandhi in question. If the Congress prevails, the credit will go to Gandhi’s crucial campaign for his party in Karnataka.
In the 2018 assembly elections, the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats, followed by the Congress with 78 seats and the Janata Dal (Secular) with 37. The BJP formed the government 15 months after lawmakers from other parties joined. this.
The party is grappling with a blemish on its image due to the suicide of a government contractor earlier this year and the arrest of a lawmaker who was caught accepting bribes.
The Congress built its campaign around the Karnataka Contractors’ Association’s accusation that BJP ministers and officials were demanding a 40 percent commission or a bribe for every project sanctioned by the government. BJP leaders denied the accusation.
Karnataka, with a population of 61 million, has strong caste-based voting patterns. The dominant Lingayat community constitutes 17 percent of the population and influenced the result in nearly 100 seats. It is the stronghold of top BJP leaders who belong to the community.
The BJP relies on its ties with powerful religious institutions followed by various castes and communities such as Lingayats, Vokkaligas, Kurubas, Valmikis, Nayakas and Madigas.
It is also trying to boost profits in a coastal region where religious polarization between majority Hindus and minority Muslims has deepened over a row over the wearing of the hijab (headscarf).
Last year, a government-run school in Karnataka’s Udupi district banned hijab-wearing students from entering classrooms, sparking protests by Muslims who say they are being denied rights. in education and religion.
That led to counter-protests by Hindu students wearing saffron shawls, a color closely associated with that religion and favored by Hindu nationalists.
An Indian court later upheld the state’s ban on wearing the hijab, saying the headscarf was not an essential religious practice in Islam.
According to the 2011 census, the most recent in India, 84 percent of people in Karnataka are Hindus, around 13 percent are Muslim and less than 2 percent are Christian.