The good old Arrogance will be back in action. Congress leaders, pro-Congress experts, and analysts are already linking the Karnataka outcome to Bharat Jodo Yatra and the Rahul Gandhi factor.
This will bring back the Congress party’s ‘arrogance’ vis-a-vis other opposition parties. The so-called opposition unity to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP in the 2024 parliamentary polls will come a cropper.
If Congress continues its ‘glory to Rahul’ line, ambitious regional parties will find the going challenging and comfortable. Leaders like K Chandrasekhar Rao of BRS in Telangana and Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress in West Bengal are likely to intensify anti-Congress politics.
For Mamata Banerjee, it would be relevant more as she recently lost a crucial by-poll.
The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal suffered a shocking defeat in Sagardighi which Congress nominee Bayron Biswas won by 22,986 votes. Otherwise, Congress’s score in the West Bengal assembly polls in 2021 was zero.
For Uddhav Thackeray in Maharashtra, the Congress win in Karnataka is like a double-edged sword. While the State unit of Congress will be more aggressive regarding seat adjustments, his cadres will find it difficult to go soft or shoulder to shoulder with Congress workers — whom they have always opposed tooth and nail since the inception of Shiv Sena.
In Bihar, Nitish Kumar will get a second mild shock as his leadership ambition will fall flat. Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Naveen Patnaik has already snubbed any move of a so-called Federal Front despite his separate meetings with Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee.
In the last three Lok Sabha elections — 2019, 2014 and 2009, the ivory tower experts were proved wrong in linking Karnataka’s assembly polls outcome to Lok Sabha national elections.
In 2013, the BJP lost the Karnataka polls badly, winning merely 40 seats, and the vote share declined to 19.89 per cent votes. The split in the saffron party and B S Yeddyurappa floating his party did all the damage. The Congress bounced back with 36.59 per cent votes and 122 seats, giving the then-Manmohan Singh government a fresh lease of life just a few months before Lok Sabha polls.
But in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls – the Congress saw its worst defeat. The tally had nosedived to an all-time low of 44, and the grand old party even failed to get the recognition of an opposition party in Lok Sabha.
In other state polls in 2013 — Madhya Pradesh, the BJP returned to power with a thumping victory. In Rajasthan, too, Vasundhara Raje led the saffron camp to win as many as 165 seats, and in Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh had also returned to power. In 2014, the BJP seat tally, in contrast, jumped to 282, making an increase of 166 seats, and the Congress had lost 162 seats from its previous 2009 polls.
If this was an accident, let’s take 2008 and also 2018.
In 2018, the BJP lost power in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan states. But in 2019 parliamentary polls, the saffron party crossed the magical 300 mark winning 303 seats, and the Congress could win 52 — merely eight more than its 44 tallies of 2014. The Congress yet again missed the status of LoP in Lok Sabha.
In 2018, in Karnataka polls, the BJP did well to emerge as the single largest party winning 104 seats, and the vote share was 36.22; the Congress could win 78 seats and 38.04 per cent votes. But in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the saffron party had won 25 seats out of 28 from Karnataka.
In 2008, the BJP created history, winning 110 seats in Karnataka, and the vote share was 33.86 per cent. The Congress was ousted with 80 seats and 34.76 per cent votes in its kitty, but in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, it was Congress which crossed the 200 mark giving Manmohan Singh and the UPA a second stint between 2009 and 2014.
But in Karnataka, the BJP could retain its hold, winning 19 seats out of 28, and the Congress could win only six.
A similar sentiment was felt in the run-up to the May 10, 2023, assembly elections, especially in the context of the Narendra Modi factor. Huge turnouts at PM Modi’s mega rallies and roadshows were for the people’s Prime Minister and his connection with voters; there was no guarantee that the same crowd would come to the polling station, even if they came, they would vote for the BJP.
In Karnataka, for assembly polls, the local factors always work more than the larger image of Modi at the national level. But during parliamentary polls, Modi will be rewarded yet again.
The story’s moral is that Indian voters are real masters and often fail the poll experts and even so-called poll managers among the netas. In 2004 the BJP lost the parliamentary polls. But a few months back, the Vajpayee-led BJP had formed Governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
But in 2004, the ‘India Shining’ failed.
Now that the Karnataka mandate has come, the BJP should prepare itself for the unfolding developments related to many disgruntled camps among smaller regional parties. Many of these outfits will be no more uncomfortable with a belligerent Congress basking in the glory of its success in the southern State.
Interaction with voters in recent weeks in Bengaluru, Mysuru and Belgaum suggested that between PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi — one is an ‘asset’ and a game changer. And the argument being Rahul Gandhi may be an ‘asset’ but hardly a game changer. The Congress had the advantage to win the Karnataka polls, perhaps even two years back or so when the BJP got wind of the same and played a gamble by changing the Chief Minister.
Voters in these politically well-informed segments said between BJP and Congress, the ‘local factor’ is a crucial factor.
“For the Congress the ‘local factor’ is an asset and could be a gamechanger; but for BJP the local factor has the liability of incumbency”, Ritin Sri Kumar of Bengaluru had said, adding, “PM Modi is the gamechanger and it is the ‘Modi magic’ that has the power to beat the anti-incumbency factor”.
Hence once results started pouring in, the argument gained currency that BJP was ‘already losing it or it was a tough battle’ from before, and local factors work more in assembly polls in Karnataka.
Thus, Narendra Modi and the hard work of BJP leaders might have saved whatever is saved. Local factors decided the fate of the candidates in EVMs yet again in Karnataka assembly polls.