It has been a week since the mandate of Karnataka announced. Fed up of the instability and quite unlike the recent trend in Karnataka, the people have given a complete majority to the Congress party. It is now prudent to see the effects of this elections on the people of Karnataka and country.
Stable Government, Unstable party!
People of Karnataka gave a unilateral mandate for the congress because of their desire to have a stable Government in the State with no uncertainty. But the ironically the biggest shock of this results it seems is to the congress party itself. It can be perceived by the series of events which took place post-election result. Central party leadership looked lost, with no idea regarding the steps it must take after getting a majority, there was no plan of action. It looked as if congress had never truly expected to get majority, that too of this magnitude. No one in the party had clear idea of what was to be done post win. In reality they didn’t want to look at that eventuality, as they knew the two biggest leaders of the party: Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar were both aspirants for Chief Minister’s position. They themselves were wary of bringing the topic of Chief Minister’s candidature before elections. But after elections it was told that whosoever majority MLA’s vote, they will be chosen. But everyone knew it wouldn’t be so simple as chances of Siddaramaiah being chosen in that case was more compared to D K Shivakumar, as the latter is more of an organisational man compared to the former who is considered as mass leader. The point of the whole issue is the indecisiveness and the lack of vision in the congress party. Even though an agreement will be reached eventually, the stability of the Government will always be in question. Internal party fight will always be in the back of mind, which might problematic in cases when a strong and bold decisions are necessary to be taken.
Congress in its manifesto before elections has made some of the most reckless promises. Interestingly for the sake of credibility they issued guarantee cards for the promises. The promises include free electricity for households, Rs 2000 to all the women head of the families etc. Many experts have questioned the economic feasibility of these plans. As soon as the congress won the people have rightfully refused to pay electricity bill. This may be problematic for financial health of the state but people keeping the elected leaders and their promises accountable is a very welcoming development in a democracy. The elected leaders must know that gone are the days when they could walk away with any promises and not fulfilling it. At least now the leaders will think twice before making any sort of promise. The free electricity is easiest of the all the promises for the people to make sure they get what they were promised.
BJP and general elections
It has been tough road for BJP in Karnataka. Other than coastal Karnataka parts BJP has had problems increase in voter base with its Hindutva ideology. Not only that but it has failed to create as many mass leaders as it would have liked. As a result of which after the timely retirement of B S Yeddyurappa there was no other leader who can mobilise the masses or with organisational acumen. Even the act of giving tickets to many fresh faces has given limited dividends. Even many MPs who won in 2019 General elections are unable to win votes based on their own strength. It is therefore evident that during general election when BJP has done good in Karnataka, is due to the personal charisma of Narendra Modi. Many pundits have in the wake of the assembly elections results started to prophesise the imminent collapse of BJP in 2024 general election. But it is quite amateurish to predict general election result by looking at the state assemblies.
Voters in India have come to a point of maturity that they easily distinguish between national and state issues. Therefore look at national and state elections completely differently. It is pertinent to look at many polls and surveys that popularity of central Government and the Prime Minister is still intact. The roadshow done by the Prime minister Narendra Modi is also one of the anecdotal pieces of evidence supporting this fact. It is to be noted that when there is visible local leadership in any state, the Prime Minister for his part can swing the election in the favor of his party with fence sitters. But with no grass root presence and local leadership BJP cannot expect PM Modi to step in and do all the work, although he may not mind doing it.
Caste equation is one of the major areas of concern going into the future. BJP in Karnataka has gone from having Lingayat support to wholly dependent on Lingayat and Brahmin consolidation. The thing which helped them to rise to power has become restriction for their growth. As they were bound by it they had no other choice but to select a CM from Lingayat community, which led to them selecting a relatively weak leader, which was also one of the reasons for election debacle.
It is time for BJP which believes in Hindutva to recognise until it plays the game of caste politics, congress is always the master, as the latter has mastery over dividing the Hindus in the name of caste since independence. BJP must start to look at the issues which are the concerns of the state or which unite the Hindu community rather than dividing it.
That doesn’t mean to deny caste altogether, caste however bitter plays an important part in the election of the country and Karnataka in particular. BJP to appease certain community, when it had a golden opportunity instead of picking a strong leader who can develop into a mass leader for the future, chose Bommai who not only failed to provide decisive leadership but throughout his tenure was busy dousing fire one after another. Selection of Narendra Modi as CM in 2002 is a evidence to this point. Without considering the caste or class it took a bold decision and it is still reaping the benefits of the novel idea.
BJP must start preparing for the general elections for the next year so that this kind of result doesn’t get replicated. But the important part is starting to recognise talent which is already within its cadres and give opportunities to the ones with potential. It must look at this project with long term view. By 2028, when the next assembly elections come it must have a set of leaders who have grass root and mass appeal. They also at least by that time have a credible Chief Ministerial candidate to project, so that it can win a complete majority in the State for the first time.