After long hours of constantly shifting seat counts, people of Karnataka have voted for a hung parliament. While BJP lost the battle it initially won, Congress at the last moment sought the defensive mode as it shook hands with the Janata Dal (Secular), to form the government. Well, BJP too is proactively trying to cling on to power in the state, with the BJP State President and chief ministerial face BS Yeddyurappa meeting the Governor Vajubhai Vala urging him to allow the party to prove majority in the Karnataka Assembly.
Karnataka Assembly Elections was crucial to both the BJP and the Congress as it laid the groundwork for implementing strategies for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. Initially, BJP was slated to win the elections comfortably. But as the day progressed, their fate hung in balance. By the end of the closely fought battle, the BJP secured 104 seats, eight short of forming a government in the state. Even though it has emerged as the largest single political party in the state, thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led fierce campaigns, it has clearly jolted their ambitions to emerge as a ‘kingmaker’ in the state.
Congress, on the other hand, has opted to play safe. With only 78 seats in hand, it was happy to forge an alliance with the JD(S), a move largely meant to throw BJP out of power in the state. Congress, once the largest national party in the state is now desperately seeking alliances from regional parties to keep itself afloat in the country.
If Karnataka was a means for the BJP to extend its near-invincible run since Prime Minister Modi came to power in 2014, it was an existential battle for the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress. How ironic it is that the party that once defined the national politics is now struggling to anchor itself after a series of electoral setbacks. Not only does it have the lowest ever representation in the Lok Sabha, the party is shrunk to rule just two states and one Union Territory-Punjab, Mizoram and Puducherry. And in Karnataka which was once its stronghold, it has failed to emerge as the single largest political party. A failed politician heading a flailing party-probably the most apt phrase to describe Rahul Gandhi in the present scenario.
Rahul Gandhi has clearly lost out on a golden opportunity to answer his critics who have constantly criticised him for his failure to hold the party together and come out with clever strategies for winning electoral battles. Congress’ performance in Karnataka also shows its reliance on the regional parties to cling on to power. This will certainly affect the party’s ambitions to emerge as the single largest political party in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections as it has once again raised a question mark on Rahul Gandhi’s capability to emerge as the main challenger to Modi-led BJP. Troubles galore for the Congress party as the Samajwadi Party and the National Congress Party (NCP) are reluctant to include Congress in its plans.
Well, the Karnataka elections are over. But Congress has still a chance to redeem its lost glory as the Assembly Elections in three states- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh are on the doorsteps. The Congress will have to muzzle all its power to emerge victorious in these states.
Congress has now to come out a new set of strategies to win in these states as its planning in Karnataka has cleverly failed. In Madhya Pradesh it will have to capitalise on the anti-incumbency factor (13 years of Shivraj Singh Chouhan rule), crop failure in 2017 leading to massive farmer protests in the state, farmer suicides, corruption and scams-including to the highly controversial Vyapam scam, unemployment and drought in the state to dethrone the BJP government in the state.
Rajasthan, on the other hand, is expected to witness a close battle. Since 1998, Rajasthan has alternated between the Congress and BJP holding the reins of power, due to which the Congress party could fancy its chances to win the elections. Again, it will have to play upon the anti-incumbency factor (Vasundhara Raje in power since 2013) to stage a stiff fight with the BJP. The recent victory in the Rajasthan local body by-polls have lifted the party’s morale and catapulted its chances of winning in the state.
Chhattisgarh too so far has seen bipolar contests between the Congress and the BJP. In fact, the gap between the two parties in terms of vote share has been minuscule-2.55 per cent in 2003, 1.80 per cent in 2008 and a meagre 0.77 per cent in 2013. Well, once again it will be hoping to bank on the anti-incumbency factor after Chief Minister Raman Singh’s 15 years of power, it is most likely to expect a stiff challenge from ex-Chief Minister and former congressman Ajit Jogi- led Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (Jogi) party. The major problem for the Congress party in Chhattisgarh is that it does not have a single powerful leader to lead from the front. So, the Congress will have to keep its flock together to dethrone the 15-year-old BJP rule in the state.
With the stake of Karnataka on hold and three upcoming crucial assembly elections, the Congress party will have to muster all its power to halt the BJP juggernaut in the country.