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Karnataka: Congress regained ground lost since 1999

Karnataka: Congress regained ground lost since 1999

The Karnataka and the Indian voter seem to have finetuned the art of strategic voting and electoral balancing.

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Last Updated : 05 June 2024, 03:40 IST
Last Updated : 05 June 2024, 03:40 IST
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The Karnataka Lok Sabha election outcome reflects a trend that started in 2004, with the BJP always securing double-digits, and the Congress finding itself unable to do so in the state. Karnataka LS verdicts have often seen the electorate voting for the ruling party at the national level, though not necessarily for the same party in the Assembly polls. The major victory of the Congress in the 2023 Assembly polls and now that of the BJP in the 2024 LS pllss, seem to confirm this trend. The defeat of the BJP in the Assembly polls had to do with infighting, misgovernance, corruption, hate politics, and anti-incumbency. Central to the Congress win in the 2023 Assembly polls, on the other hand, were local issues and welfare guarantees, along with the perceived unity of the Congress leadership. 

While the Congress performance in the 2024 elections in Karnataka has been better than in 2019, it has fallen below the expectations of the party. Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar had expected 20 seats for the party. His own brother D K Suresh has lost his Bengaluru Rural seat. Even Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s prediction that the party would win at least 15 seats has not materialised. But don’t forget that the last time the Congress hit double-digits in Karnataka in Lok Sabha elections was in 1999. Overall, the Congress has put up a spirited fight in these elections, compared to 2019 when it was almost wiped out in Karnataka. 

The Congress riveted its hopes around the five guarantee schemes, which was the highlight of Siddaramaiah’s 14th budget. The Congress tried to take on Modi’s development agenda through the five guarantees. The election results also show that freebies and guarantees by themselves cannot assure poll victory. Perhaps the Modi factor also worked in favour of the BJP in Karnataka. 

The BJP had secured 18, 19, 17 and a record 25 seats in the 2004, 2009, 2014 and 2019 elections, respectively.  It has once again retained most of its strongholds in north, central and coastal Karnataka, and in the south with a pre-poll alliance with the JD(S). Most of the exit polls seemed to predict such an outcome.  Bagalkot, Dharwad, Haveri, Belgaum, Bijapur, Chitradurga, Shimoga, Mysuru, Chikkaballapura, Udupi-Chikkamagaluru, Dakshina Kannada are some of the noted victories. In Bengaluru, the BJP has retained its electoral dominance.  

The JD(S) contested the elections in alliance with the BJP to consolidate Vokkaliga votes in its favour. The alliance was on the cards  ever since the defeat of the BJP in the 2023 elections. The nature of this alliance is different from the one the BJP and JD(S) had in 2006, when it amounted to power-sharing. However, that understanding collapsed half-way through. 

For the JD(S), the defeat of Prajwal Revanna in Hassan was perhaps anticipated, given the sexual scandal in which he has got embroiled. Its alliance with the BJP, though, has worked in its favour in Mandya and Kolar. However, on the whole, the JD(S) has done well for a party that contested only three seats. The lack of a triangular contest of the mainstream parties in the Old Mysuru region has helped the JD(S) to avoid splitting of votes. Its sway over the Vokkaligas in regional politics has not entirely diminished. The pre-poll alliance did help. 

The plus-point for the Congress in Karnataka is that it has regained much ground since the major setback in 2019. It is unlikely that the election results in Karnataka will have a bearing on the longevity of the state government. Moreover, the larger presence of the I.N.D.I Alliance at the national level could preempt the possibility of an ‘Operation Kamala’ in Karnataka. The Karnataka and the Indian voter seem to have finetuned the art of strategic voting and electoral balancing. 

(The writer is Professor, Christ University, Bengaluru) 

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