Decent support in southern Indian states saves face for Congress

Congress Party members wave flags at a recent rally. The party, which is facing defeat nationwide, has got a face-saving support in two southern Indian states. --PHOTO: AFP
Congress Party members wave flags at a recent rally. The party, which is facing defeat nationwide, has got a face-saving support in two southern Indian states. --PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - India's Congress party, starring at a dismal outcome at the just concluded elections, seem to have received some face-saving support in southern states of Kerala and Karnataka, with exit polls predicted a decent performance in both states where it currently runs state level governments.

The exit polls by Indian television channel CNN-IBN and CSDS-Lokniti predicted the Congress would win up to 16 seats of the 28 seats in Karnataka while the party-led alliance would get up to 14 of the 20 seats in Kerala.

The support level is starkly different from that seen across the rest of the country, where Congress is facing the wrath of the electorate over rising prices, corruption and poor governance after almost a decade in power.

The anticipated poor showing also boils down to other factors like anti-incumbency and stalled economy amid widespread support for business-friendly politician Narendra Modi of opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which had lost Karnataka to the Congress at state polls last year.

However, apart from Kerala and Karnataka, other southern states do not offer too much hope for the Congress, which had been hoping to make up the numbers in the south where it has traditionally picked up a large chunk of the seats.

Exit polls also predicted a setback in Telangana, a state carved out of Andhra Pradesh last year, where the party was hoping to score brownie points and make a headway for bringing it into existence, despite opposition, as the country's 29th state.

The formation of Telengana has instead helped local party Telengana Rashtriya Samiti, which for long had been fighting for seperate state.

The exit poll by Indian television channel Times Now gave the Congress only four seats and the TRS nine seats of the 17 seats in the state.

In Tamil Nadu too the Congress made little impact according to exit polls with the biggest winner being state chief minister J Jayalalithaa of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

gnirmala@sph.com.sg