In conflict we thrive: The delight & despair of ticket allotment

With the major political parties declaring their nominees for most of the seats, the stage seems to be set for the final crucial three weeks of the electoral campaign in Karnataka. When one looks at the candidates nominated by the different political players in the state, a few issues become clear.

In the first instance, all political parties have made it crystal clear that, at the end of the day, ‘winnability’ is that one factor that decides and defines the allotment of the party ticket. There can be an intense debate on what all go into creating that ‘winnability’ , but that is best left to another analysis.

Secondly, the lack of internal democracy in every party was visibly evident in the manner in which the candidate list was finalized. There appeared to be very little participation by the ‘rank and file’ of the party and the mysterious ‘surveys’ – on which there is hardly any transparency or accountability, decided the fate of many prospective candidates. The resultant rebellion in each party was a natural corollary to the secrecy that shrouded the process of selection of candidates. This time around the rebellion appears to be more vocal and visible in all the political parties. This may be account of the fact that prospective candidates who lost out felt that a last ditch effort at demonstrating their support may yet pay dividends or at least an emotional outburst and protest would assuage the feelings of those many followers who were waiting in the fond hope of the cascading benefit if their leader got the prized ticket!

Thirdly, in the run up to the declaration of candidates, the internal contradictions and ‘groupism’ in the party, dramatically came to the fore. While in most cases the ‘groupism’ was linked to loyalty to a particular leader it often took the form of ‘old timers’  vs ‘new comers’  or ‘hardcore loyalists’ vs ‘politically expedient recruits’.  Fierce battles and intense lobbying was witnessed by party leaders to get their favourites accommodated.  In the Congress, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah seems to have had his way while in the BJP the ‘micro-management’ by the Central leadership has left the state level leaders in doubt on who seems to have gained the upper hand in ticket distribution.

Fourthly, all the three major parties have welcomed with open arms, those who decided to change their party labels and the prominent among them have also secured the ticket to contest the elections from their preferred constituencies. Much to the discomfort and dismay of veteran party leaders, the Congress has accommodated most of those who migrated to it from the JD(S). In some cases, Congress leaders who had lost the 2013 elections were denied tickets to accommodate the new entrants. The BJP’s challenge was different. With many from the KJP and BSR Congress returning to the parent party with the Chief Ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa, these was a keen tussle for tickets between those who contested the 2013 elections on KJP, BSR Congress and BJP tickets. At the end of the process, the BJP did succumb to pressures and as nominated many controversial candidates purely on the principle of ‘winnability’.  Those who lost out vented their frustration and in some cases jumped ship to contest on another party label. The JDS has delayed the announcement of its final list to accommodate all those disgruntled elements from the Congress and the BJP who had no qualms in donning the JDS colours! It would be interesting to see the response of the voters to those candidates who now represent new labels. Experience has shown that unless they are veteran leaders with a strong support base in the constituency, they do not find favour with the electorate.

Finally, political dynasties have clearly come to the fore in all political parties though with varying degrees of intensity. The top leadership in all the parties seems to be providing the inspiration! This again is a clear reflection of the lack of internal democracy in parties where leaders are able to jockey support for key members of their families.  This has also resulted in some heartburn on two accounts.  Party workers who were ticket aspirants felt let down as they had no godfathers to back them. Secondly, those leaders who failed to get their family members a nomination have been left seething with anger.

As candidates file nominations, the city is witness to massive roadshows as a demonstration of the popularity and support.  Public inconvenience notwithstanding, this display becomes a competitive show of strength and mobilization abilities. What candidates do not seem to realize is that such a bizarre display of power which often borders on arrogance and blatant violation of norms (when candidates were filing nominations we saw motor cycle rallies with party flags and not one rider caring to wear a helmet) does little to contribute to the public image of a party or its candidate.

This election has seen more than its share of expression of discontent and unhappiness over distribution of party tickets in all parties. Leaders have sidetracked its impact by either explaining it away as the sign of the popularity of the party and its chances of winning or as an internal matter that would be quickly settled. One has reason to believe that a lot of the protest was about posturing and grabbing the headlines or ‘breaking news’ by recourse to vandalism and violence and would settle down as the campaign begins. Yet, one is likely to see that rare case of a serious rebel candidate who can spoil the chances of the official nominee.

Past elections have shown that the key to a party’s success has been its choice of candidates and its capacity to manage disquiet over ticket distribution. For both the Congress and the BJP this is a crucial factor. In the next few days as the list of contestants in each constituency becomes clear, the damage of dissidence and infighting will be visible. In this age of ‘competitive factionalism’, the party that is able to deal with its internal contradictions more effectively will clearly have the upper hand.

Dr Sandeep Shastri is Pro Vice Chancellor, Jain University and a political analyst.


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