As usual there were extensive surveys of how the people of Karnataka would vote for the Assembly elections and, as usual, the results were mostly off the mark. The closest to arrive at the final results was the Suvarna channel which in its Exit Poll survey predicted that the Congress would get between 69 and 74 seats, the BJP between 104 and 114 seats, the JD(S) between 35 to 40 seats and others between six to ten seats.
There was a good deal of bragging from political parties. Thus, KPCC president Mallikarjun Kharge said Congress will bag between 105 to 115 seats, BJP'sB.S. Yeddyurappa said his party will win 140 seats and JD(S) spokesman Y.S.V. Datta said his party will win ?at least 70 to 75 seats. Famous last words. Three surveyors were in the picture: NDTV, Deccan Herald & CNN IBN and Suvarna. Deccan Herald was living in a dream world of its own. It predicted 86 seats for the Congress, 79 to BJP, 45 to JD(S) and 14 to others. There was a lot of talk of the possibility of a hung Assembly.
Deve Gowda must have been dreaming that once again he would be the one to call the shots. The elections showed him the door. And one hopes that it will be the final undoing of the most unprincipled party ever to fight elections at any level in India. Deve Gowda is a disgrace not only to the Gowdas and to the country, but to the very concept of democracy. The Election Commission must not have allowed the JD(S) even to stand for elections.
Then there was the matter of the discrepancy between the percentage of votes won and the percentage of seats won by the respective political parties. The Indian Express (May 17) blamed it on the ?misleading voting system? which it described as ?extremely distorted?. As the paper figured it out, the BJP actually polled less than the Congress in votes but got an extra 30 seats. However the paper praised the BJP for making an early start unlike the Congress, for making region-specific promises and eschewing potentially divisive ones on religion. Deccan Herald (May 26) called the elections a ?land-marks? event, and said the JD(S) seen as the principal ?villain? has been ?shown its place?, insisted that ?it is not only a victory for the BJP, but a vote of confidence in its leader B.S.Yeddyurappa and pointed out that ?clearly, the people had made up their minds that they had enough of coalition governments and wanted stability and good governance?. The Times of India, in two successive editorials (May 26 to 27) noted that ?finally, the BJP has moved from being bridesmaid to bride in Karnataka?, springing open the doors to ?the Gateway to the South?.
The BJP, said the paper ?was seen not only as a party wronged, but also as one that deserved a chance to govern?. The paper said that ?the significance of the BJP'svictory in Karnataka extends beyond the State? and shows that the BJP is now ?on par with the Congress, a national party with governments across the country?. It also advised the Congress ?to engage itself in intensive soul-searching?. The Hindu (May 26) said ?evidently the last thing the people of Karnataka wanted was another period of political uncertainty? but advised the BJP to be ?humble in victory?. The paper said that although the BJP ?did play the Hindutva card during several stages of its growth in Karnataka, it owes its present success mostly to its positioning as a vaible political alternative to the Congress?.
Some of the best analyses of the Congress debacle in Karnataka are edits in The Hitavada (May 27) and The Tribune (May 27). Both were sharp and merciless in their assessment of the Karnataka State Assembly elections. The Hitavada said that the BJP'swin is significant not just for its own sake but for the ramifications it has for the state and national politics. With a government of its own in ?the most happening state of the south? said the paper,? the BJP has established a beachhead from where it could now hope to spread?. It said not without truth that the comrades in Kerala and the Dravida parties of Tamil Nadu ?must already be feeling the heat of the BJP wave?. The Hitavada said the election outcome is also ?significant for the rejection of an opportunistic politician with suspect integrity? like Deve Gowda who had set ?benchmarks in unprincipled politics?.
What is important to note is the amount of serious thought that is going on not only in the media but in many intellectual circles on the significance of the BJP success in Karnataka. What is noticeable is an intense interest in the BJP'sbreakthrough in the South. As for the rest, time alone can tell.