What may have denied the BJP its full-fledged royal victory is the wrath of the scorned Andhraite who got brethren in Karnataka to “avenge” by defeating the party that short changed Andhra Pradesh and left it begging for funds.
The BJP and its leaders are loath to admit it, but the traditional campaign of the Telugu-speaking people and leaders of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Congress from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh among the Telugu-speaking voters in Karnataka hit the target. It inflicted defeat in some crucial and very closely contested seats and frustrated the BJP and its powerful electoral machinery. The BJP ended with 104 seats, eight seats short of the magic number.
In Bangalore itself, the BJP could have won more seats, at least six more, but its chances were put paid by the anger of the Telugu-speaking voter, who was organised into fighting the “enemy” – Modi government for slighting the Andhraites and denying justice on a host of issues. The TDP and its local unit in Karnataka ran a spirited campaign and supported the Congress, in tune with the political belief that an enemy’s enemy is a friend. Besides, in Raichur or Kolar or Chikkalballapur areas too, the sizeable Telugu speaking voters had made a significant dent in BJP’s chances. In closely fought contests, even a few hundred votes made a difference between victory and loss and that showed in the final tally.
Mohan Chowdary, president, Karnataka Telugu Sanghala Aikya Vedika (United forum of Telugu associations of Karnataka) a confederation of some 20 active cultural and social associations, took upon a political role and campaigned to the best of their ability to defeat the BJP. “We held street meetings of association members, worked the phones and used the social media to spread the message, to teach a lesson to the party that betrayed Andhra Pradesh,” Chowdary said.
The main issue was the denial of special category status to Andhra Pradesh that left little funds for building the new state from a scratch, so to speak, and absolutely no funds to build a new capital city, he said. In fact, AP Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu was contemplating crowd funding to get funds to build the state and the response from the Telugu-speaking diaspora is encouraging.
Although Chandrababu Naidu himself did not campaign in Karnataka, he sent key campaigners to whip the Telugu pride among the people with an Andhra-connect.
More effective was the role played by the IT Employees Forum. Techies hailing from Andhra Pradesh as well as Telangana joined hands to mount a social media campaign to highlight the step-motherly treatment the BJP-led central government was giving to Andhra Pradesh.
Issues were aplenty, said Kameswara Rao, a private sector IT employee, citing the denial of special category status to Andhra Pradesh, insufficient funds to build new capital city of Amaravati, denial of separate railway zone for Vishakapatnam. More firepower on these issues was provided, ironically by the Congress leaders Raghuveera Reddy and Madhu Yakshi Gaud, who toured the state many times.
Then there was Andhra Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister KE Krishnamurthy, who even though was on a personal trip, appealed to the people not to vote for the BJP.
BJP leaders refuse to acknowledge this as one of the factors that could have made the difference between the tantalisingly close to majority but too far from the number to form the government and an outright victory that the party seemed marching with solid leads established in 120 seats by noon.
“But we pulled them back to 101,” crowed Chaudary, claiming some of the claim for stopping the BJP.
Political analysts, however, are not ready to buy this argument, saying there was no empirical evidence of the same.
Shastri, political analyst and pro-vice chancellor of the Jain University said, “There is no empirical evidence of such an occurrence of Telugu anger, which is not visible even in Andhra Pradesh. The basic premise of this Telugu anger is something that I do not accept.”
But the Telugu-speaking populace was gloating over the BJP defeat that in many associations, there were celebrations after BS Yeddyurappa announced his resignation in the assembly on Saturday.
“We had worked very hard,” said the president of the forum of associations. There are at least 40 assembly seats which have a sizeable Telugu-speaking population. Veera Kanakamedala, chief of the Bengaluru TDP Forum, said, “It was only natural for us to work to defeat the BJP after it cheated Andhra Pradesh.”