Modi popularity proves alliance arithmetic wrong

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he is presented with a garland by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders after the election results in New Delhi. Reuters photo

The BJP’s Modi ‘wave’ appears to have proved the arithmetic of the Congress-JD(S) alliance wrong, as the saffron party has swept the state by winning 25 of the 28 parliamentary seats in Karnataka.

The Congress had, for the first time, entered into a pre-poll alliance with the regional party, JD(S), with an intention to stop the victory juggernaut of the saffron party in Karnataka as far as the parliamentary elections are concerned. The alliance experiment was purely based on the calculation that the combined support base would benefit the two parties.

Bastions lost

But the grand-old party completely ignored chemistry of the alliance: the transfer of votes, that was crucial for the alliance to click, clearly did not happen. Finally, it proved very costly for both the alliance partners. They lost even in their traditional bastions like Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Mandya, Tumkur and Chitradurga in the old Mysuru region. Except for Bangalore Rural, the Congress could not retain the seats it had won in the 2014 elections.

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Traditional rivals

The alliance was based on the idea that Congress and the JD(S) would be able to consolidate ‘secular’ votes against the ‘communal’ BJP. This required the cadre of both parties - rivals for decades - to join hands and work together. While the top leadership of both parties shared the stage several times to display unity, the cadre were not fully convinced, it appears. This created space for the BJP to make electoral gains. 

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According to political analysts, the assumption that the JD(S)’ votes would get transferred to the Congress or vice versa was incorrect. This is because the JD(S) and the Congress are traditional rivals in the old Mysuru region. In fact, the erstwhile Janata Dal, whose offshoot JD(S) is, started as a anti-Congress movement in Karnataka. A major chunk of the JD(S) support base still harbours the anti-Congress sentiment. Hence, it was not easy for them to embrace the grand-old party.

Family politics

Besides, JD(S) patriarch H D Deve Gowda’s eagerness to introduce third generation of his family into politics did not go down well with the electorate, especially the party’s own supporters.

“The JD(S) supporters, who were upset with the alliance with the Congress and the family politics of the Gowda family, appeared to have supported the BJP in many constituencies,” the analysts pointed out.

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The alliance partners also completely under-estimated Modi’s popularity during the campaign and did not finetune the campaign narrative to counter the saffron party. While the BJP and Modi stuck to nationalist agenda in the campaign, the alliance partners were focusing on local issues like crop loan waiver and efforts by the state BJP to topple the coalition government.

“The electorate in Karnataka reacts to national issues in parliamentary polls. So Modi’s campaign proved more effective,” the analysts said.

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