Modi powers BJP revival in Karnataka

Many never bought it; and some probably would find it difficult to digest. But what is clear from the Narendra Modi-powered BJP surge in Karnataka, as the Lok Sabha election results pour in, is that the Congress had not really won the last year’s assembly elections in the state. It was more of a BJP defeat. The assembly election verdict was a vote of no-confidence in the state BJP leadership, nothing more. The Congress was more a beneficiary of the voters’ disgust with the way the state BJP conducted itself while being in power for five years.

Today’s Lok Sabha victory for the BJP in the state is a vote of confidence in the national BJP led by its prime ministerial candidate Modi to head the new government at the Centre. Make no mistake - the state BJP leadership would have to do a lot to redeem itself in the eyes of the people of the state. It would a complete misreading of the mandate, if the state leaders draw any other conclusion from this Lok Sabha election verdict in Karnataka. But B S Yeddyurappa and his quarrelling colleagues have an opportunity to redeem themselves.

What does the mandate portend for the ruling Congress under Chief Minister Siddaramaiah? One thing the party must understand at least now is that the people had not trusted it to provide a better government in the state. If that were the case the party’s share of votes in the last year’s assembly elections should have been much higher than the 36.59 per cent votes it secured. In any anti-incumbency against the ruling party, the party in the opposition which is favoured by the voters to assume power tends to secure at least 5 percentage votes more than its tally in the previous election, barring may be a highly polarised state like Kerala. What was the Congress tally of votes in the 2008 assembly elections which returned BJP to power? It was 34.76 per cent. In other words, the Congress tally went up in 2013 by less than 2 percentage points.

Usually this kind of a vote share increase should not have given the Congress a majority of 122 seats in the 224-member state assembly. But it happened so because the BJP’s tally fell below the 20 per cent mark, from its assembly election high of 33.86 per cent in 2013. Party this was because of the fact that Yeddyurappa had left the BJP to form his own outfit, apart from another splinter group of the party formed by Sriramulu which too fielded its nominees in the assembly elections.

The state Congress’ problem going in to that assembly election last year was the heavy anti-incumbency against the party’s central leadership which was heading a highly unpopular UPA-II government.

The state Congress leadership could have consolidated its position in Karnataka, given the mandate it won last year. But that has not happened. It was widely reported that one of the reasons Siddaramaiah was installed as chief minister by the party high command was because it felt he could deliver a resounding Lok Sabha election victory. But what has been apparent over the last one year was Siddaramaiah’s inability to win over people’s trust. His government has not been communicative with people. It just trusted some of its Lok Sabha election-oriented populist schemes like Re. 1 kg rice to deliver votes. This has not worked.

Thus, the Lok Sabha verdict poses a serious challenge to the Siddaramaiah government’s credibility. Of course, many from within his party would be tempted to blame him for the Lok Sabha poll reverse. But that the party does not have the luxury of waging an open factional battle. A new governor will come in place of H R Bhardwaj whom the state BJP had blamed for many of its woes while being in power. Siddaramaiah will also have to work to have a good rapport with Modi, whom he had called names during the campaign, prompting a censure from the Election Commission.


News Analysis at 11:45am from K Subramanya, Associate Editor

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