As the Karnataka Assembly elections draw closer, the incumbent Congress has a clear edge over the other parties in the State, said a pre-poll survey by C-Fore, which has also predicted a better outing for Opposition BJP.

No incumbent has retained power in elections since 1985, and if the Congress is able to do so, it will be creating history of sorts.

The survey says the Congress will get 126 seats, four more than its tally in the 2013 elections, and foresaw the BJP getting 70 seats, 30 more than its score in the previous polls.

The JD(S) will suffer the most; the party will see a 13-seat drop and a negative swing of 4 per cent because of the exodus of its Muslim and Dalit votes to the Congress.

This is the second C-Fore survey in eight months. The earlier survey predicted similar results.

Karnataka Poll Survey 1

Karnataka Poll survey2

Siddaramaiah’s free hand

Political circles say an improved show by the Congress will largely be because of the free hand given to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah by the party high-command to pick candidates. This, too, is unprecendented. He is also being assisted by Kerala MP and the party’s Karnataka in-charge, KC Venugopal, a shrewd tactician known for his ability to bring different factions together.

National leaders for BJP

In the BJP’s case, it is National President Amit Shah who is learnt to be putting together the candidate list, something which has not gone down well with the State leadership. Shah has apparently sought detailed dossiers of every constituency and has formed nine-member committees to each polling booth.

Like Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been criss-crossing the State and holding public meetings, something no PM has done during earlier elections. Going forward, a pitched battle between the Congress and the BJP is expected with the top leaders from both parties visiting the State more often.

L’affaire Lingayats

While Congress president Rahul Gandhi has also been holding public rallies and visiting temples to appease the Hindus, it is Siddaramaiah who is leading the Twitter war against the BJP brass, taking on them for every major claim made. His decision to accept an expert panel’s recommendation to grant minority religion status to Lingayats and Veerashaivas is seen as a political gamble.

The Panchapeeta seers and those following the Veerashaiva tradition are learnt to be extremely unhappy with the Cabinet decision, claiming that it will divide the community. They have apparently sent a diktat to lakhs of followers not to vote for the Congress, though it remains to be seen whether it will be followed as the community already stands divided on the religion status.

How the numbers lay out

C-Fore, whose previous pre-poll surveys have never been off the mark, has said that the Congress is likely to get 46 per cent votes, a positive swing of 9 per cent while the BJP is expected to get 31 per cent votes and the JD(S), 16 per cent of the total votes.

In Hyderabad-Karnataka, Bengaluru and Old Mysore regions, the Congress is ahead by a huge margin, while in Coastal and Bombay-Karnataka region, the BJP will give the Grand Old Party a tough fight.

In central Karnataka, BJP is ahead, something the state Congress Working President, Dinesh Gundu Rao admitted as much. In an earlier interview to BusinessLine , he had said that there is a lack of cohesion inside the party there and that the party machinery is being strengthened though it may not eventually lead to tangible results as the pre-poll survey shows.

The survey says the BJP’s fracas with the TDP may alienate its Telugu vote base, especially in Bengaluru and Hyderabad-Karnataka. “The key to BJP’s revival will be its ability to fragment the backwards, Dalits and Muslim vote base of the Congress,” the survey report said.