PUNE: Sonali Dalwale, in her late twenties, has been a media person for almost a decade and has returned from a hectic Karnataka election season. She was in Karnataka for more than two months, working as an election campaign manager for the Karnataka unit of the Congress. She spoke to Sakal Times on what she observed at the ground level, what transpired during the elections and what caused the triangular lockdown.
“Karnataka, unlike Maharashtra, is not industrialised on a large scale. The constituency that I worked in, in southern Karnataka near Mysore, was broadly agricultural and rural in its composition. That meant that the election was focused on agricultural issues and identitarian voting patterns,” says Sonali, adding, “The people are not very expressive or demanding and they are content with their way of life.”
“The people were extremely well aware politically and almost every other person we met during our surveys and group discussions had the know-how of the composition of his constituency, from caste to religion,” She explains, adding, “Northern Karnataka is largely Lingayat dominated, while the southern part is dominated by Vokkalikas, followed by a large voter blocks of Dalits and Muslims. Kannadigas feel isolated from North India due to language and Dravidian identity.”
While explaining her observations on voter perceptions, Sonali says, “The Siddaramaiah administration had popular support but had become complacent in its last year. The long-term projects and policies implemented by the government failed to capture the popular imagination of the people,” adding, “On the other hand, Prime Minister Modi’s charisma had taken hold of the youths and the middle class.”
When asked whether they, as campaigners for the Congress, expected the triangular situation, she explains, “Yes, we were almost sure of such a situation. The Congress had the votes of the oppressed castes but failed to appeal to the upper castes. The Lingayat card that it played turned out dicy, the Janata Dal (Secular) had campaigned strongly for Vokkalika votes and the BJP consolidated non-Muslim votes.”
“We were also told by many local villagers and voters that they had received large amount of money for their votes. This was a rampant trend in the elections, but the major problem for the Congress was that of perception,” She says, adding, “Even traditional Congress voters were impressed by the projection of the PM’s image. That is how Karnataka ended up becoming a triangular lockdown between the Congress, JD(S) and the BJP.”