Boost for Cong-led alliance strategy

Boost for Cong-led alliance strategy

Congress party supporters celebrate party candidate Anand Siddu Nyamagouda's victory in the Jamkhandi Assembly bypoll in Jamkhandi. PTI

The 4-1 victory of the Congress-Janata Dal (S) alliance in byelections in Karnataka has strengthened the alliance and its government in the state. It also has a significance beyond the state as a test of the viability and effectiveness of state-level alliances in countering the Narendra Modi-led NDA in the Lok Sabha elections next year. The victories could push the case for such alliances in other states. The byelections were held for three Lok Sabha and two assembly seats, and the alliance not only retained the seats its partners had held but also wrested Ballari from the BJP. It had a walkover in Ramanagara and won with ease from Jamakhandi, where the BJP was expected to put up a stiff fight. But it was with the performance in the Lok Sabha seats, especially the victory in Ballari, that the alliance has sent out a message of its strength and relevance. Its arithmetic may not have added up everywhere, and the chemistry may not have worked at all levels, but it can dominate elections in the state, if they are held now or in the near future. 

The recapture of Ballari by the Congress after 14 years, and that too with a big margin of about 2.5 lakh votes is the biggest upset of these byelections. The BJP was well-entrenched there with resources, leaders, workers, supporters and other factors working in its favour. The only explanation for the massive defeat could be that the popular mood has turned. Strategy may have had a role, but no strategy works without people. Another BJP stronghold, Shivamogga, saw the party winning, but its votes saw a decline from 2014, and the alliance put up a good fight. So, the victory in Shivamogga and the increase in the number of votes in Mandya are poor consolation for the BJP, which should see the results as a major setback. 

The Karnataka results are another sign that state-level alliances can provide a strong and credible fight to the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. Bellary is a reminder of Gorakhpur and Phulpur in UP, where the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party joined to best the BJP earlier this year. The Congress has formed or is forming alliances with regional parties in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar and other states. In states like UP and Maharashtra, where the BJP got many seats in the last elections, these alliances can pose a serious threat to it. The Karnataka results may give more confidence to the parties ranged against the BJP and boost their efforts to come together.  

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