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Lessons from Karnataka election results

  • Each state has to evolve its own strategy
  • It was people’s clever tactics in Karnataka that helped Congress

It is people’s victory and BJP’s defeat. This is the sum and substance  of the recent Karnataka Assembly elections. It would be a mistake to treat it as a triumph of the Congress. To imagine that it would replicate the success  throughout the country in the coming Lok Sabha elections would also be foolish. However, there is a possibility of the election results upsetting the calculations of some political parties.

While considering the people’s win, one should notice that earlier those who did not want to vote for the BJP were divided between the Congress and Janata Dal (S).  This time they cleverly set JD(S) aside and voted for the Congress. Those who did not want the BJP went for the Congress although both Congress and JD(S) were fighting against the BJP. The number of JD(S) MLAs has fallen from 37 seats in 2018 to 19 seats now. It is almost half of the earlier total. This is people’s clever tactics and nothing else. This can be a model for states which have three or four parties contesting the elections.

Only one opposition party can defeat BJP

For instance, we believe that the BJP is formidable in Uttar Pradesh. It has retained seats in Parliament and Assembly by winning for the second time in a row. There are four parties in the fray. The BSP became weak in the last elections. Congress also has been in a pitiable position. The Samajawadi Party under Akhilesh Yadav has remained a strong opposition. While the BJP had won 312 seats in the Assembly elections held in 2017, its strength had fallen to 255 in 2022. SP’s total has risen from 47 in 2017 to 111  seats in 2022. It is evident that the SP has been growing as an opposition party against the BJP in UP. The state of the other two opposition parties makes it evident. Congress has won seven seats and 6.25 percent of votes in 2017 and plummeted to two seats and 2.33 percent of votes in 2022. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won 19 seats and 22.23 percent of votes in 2017 and dropped to just one seat and 12.88 percent of votes in 2022. Both the Congress and the BSP appear to gradually lose their steam. If the people of UP wish to defeat the BJP, they have got to vote for the SP alone among the opposition parties. After losing prominence in UP, the BJP would be fading out at national level as well. For example, while the SP got 21.82 percent of votes in 2018, the percentage has increased to 32.06 in 2022. Which means, there was an increase of ten percent. One can conclude that the SP has been gaining popular support at the cost of the Congress and the BSP. Similarly, different states have  different scenarios. One has to adopt strategies that suit the states.

BJP could not alter Karnataka tradition of voting out parties

Secondly, the BJP defeat: In the recent history of Karnataka, no ruling dispensation was given a mandate for a second term. It has been the case  since 1985. Congress ruled the roost in Karnataka till 1983. Ramakrishna Hegde formed the first non-Congress government as a leader of Janata Party with the BJP’s support. It was just about the time when NTR in Andhra Pradesh struck at the Congress roots. Hegde continued till 1988. Then came SR Bommai who was in power for less than a year. After a stint of President’s rule, Veerendra Patil of the Congress formed the government in 1989. Since then the Congress, the Karnataka Kranti Ranga, Janata Dal and the BJP have been swapping power. Bangarappa, Veerappa Moily, Deve Gouda, SM Krishna, Kumaraswamy and Yediyurappa among others were chief ministers. Yedyurappa and Kumaraswamy were chief ministers for a number of times.  But the credit of completing one full term as CM in recent times goes to Siddaramaiah from 2013 to 2018. He has taken the oath on Saturday for the second term as chief minister and PCC President DK Shivakumar as his deputy. While the fact remains that the people of Karnataka did not renew their mandate since 1985, the BJP sought to change the history. It tried to create communal divide by whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment so that the Hindu would consolidate on its side. Provocative issues such as hijab, aajaan, Common Civil Code, cow protection, Tipu Sultan and lastly Jai Bajarang Bali were used to create anti-Muslim narrative. The saffron party tried to replicate everything it did in UP. The election results show that the people of Karnataka refused to get provoked. They have proved to be different from the people of UP in this aspect.

Besides the communal discord, the BJP used the divide among the SCs to woo the Madigas by bringing up the issue of categorization of the reservations. Even that did not work. Instead of showcasing the social and economic developmental programmes, the BJP sought to divide the society to benefit from the rift. Even today the strength of the BJP in Karnataka is intact.The committed votes remain with the party. It only forced the people to unite and  stand by the major opposition party. The BJP has scripted its own fall.

Congress cannot claim to have won on its own

Thirdly, the Congress win: It was handed over by the BJP on a platter. Though the concerted efforts by PCC President Shiv Kumar and Siddaramaiah helped, the Congress cannot claim to have won on its own. The NGOs helped in a big way. BJP itself helped the Congress by giving Lingayat votes. There is absolutely no difference in the economic policies of the Congress which went out of power in 2014 and the BJP that has since been ruling. However, the comments made by Rahul Gandhi recently have been different from the policies of the Congress of yester years. The former Congress president has been talking against privatization and the power of the corporate entities. The party has to announce Rahul’s remarks as its policies. The good old party has to reexamine its economic and political policies it has been following over the years. It has to accept the fact that it pampered Ambanis while in power. Jaipal Reddy who  opposed allocation of oil fileds in Godavari basin for Reliance was shifted from the crucial ministry. This is only an example.  Similarly, the fact the Rajiv Gandhi had followed  soft Hindutva policies has to be accepted and amends have to be made. We cannot expect the Congress to grow if it opposed the BJP for the sake of power. If people’s welfare and development were truly at the heart of the Congress, it has to announce the policies afresh. If the party criticizes the government since it is in opposition and then does not talk about the policies, it is difficult for the party to achieve results in other states on par with Karnataka. It is time for Congress to publicly express regrets for the past mistakes and adopt new people-friendly policies. Only then it will have a future.

Laxmaiah Mallepalli
Laxmaiah Mallepalli
Mallepalli Lakshmaiah is a special officer of Buddhavanam project and founder chairman, Centre for Dalit Studies. He writes a weekly column for Sakshi, a Telugu daily. He is a Dalit intellectual, Ambedkarite and a Buddhist.

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