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Congress registers convincing win in Karnataka

NewsCongress registers convincing win in Karnataka

NEW DELHI: Strong resentment against the BJP’s failure to tame corruption and inflation is among the primary reasons that decided the result of the Karnataka Assembly elections announced on Saturday. The polling took place on 10 May, with the southern state recording its highest ever turnout of 73.19%.
According to BJP leaders, the party’s decision to add religious issues in the election too hurt the party’s prospects, especially in the urban seats and likely “pushed” the young voters away.
The voters of Karnataka continued the 38-year trend of changing the incumbent government. The state has never re-elected a party to power since the 1985 elections.
The Congress, as per the latest trend, was winning or leading on 136 of the total 224 seats, a gain of 56 seats from the 2018 elections. The BJP on the other hand was reduced to 64, a loss of 40 seats and more than 90 seats away from the prediction of the party winning on 150 seats made by senior leaders.
At least 12 ministers of the Basavraj Bommai government lost, indicating the anger against the party. Among the prominent leaders who lost are C.T. Ravi (National General Secretary in charge of Goa, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu), and a protégé of organizational general secretary B.L. Santhosh. Ravi lost from Chikkabalapur. Of the eight Assembly constituencies that constitute the Bangalore rural Lok Sabha seat, Congress won on six. In the last elections, it had won three of them. In Bangalore South Lok Sabha seat, which has eight Assembly seats, Congress won four. In the last elections it won three seats.
While the BJP had dropped at least 20 MLAs from those 104 who had won in the 2018 polls, it could not shake off the perception of being unable to run the administration in the coastal state efficiently. Incidentally, the BJP lost 64 seats this time, the same it had gained in the 2018 elections.
The Janata Dal Secular (JDS), which had claimed it would emerge as the kingmaker too suffered a significant loss of 17 seats from the last elected and got restricted to 20 seats.
The winning Congress MLAs are expected to meet on Sunday and decide on the Chief Minister in the cash and mineral rich state, which is vital for the Congress’ revival plan at the national level for the next year’s general elections.
While the final call will be taken by party de facto leader Rahul Gandhi, top party sources said that the possibility of the 61-year-old Doddalahalli Kempegowda Shivakumar (DKS), who is state party president, being given the said responsibility was the strongest, considering his age, resources and his acceptability among the party cadre. Kumar won with a margin of over 1 lakh votes and secured more than 75% of the votes polled on his seat. Others in the race include the 75-year-old Siddaramaiah, who has been a CM in the past. Both have won from their respective seats. While DKS belongs to the Vokkaliga community, Siddaramaiah comes from the Kuruba Gowda community.
Party leaders told The Sunday Guardian that Rahul Gandhi had now multiple precedents to fall back on (referring to the post poll developments that took place in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in 2018) while deciding on who the best man to lead the party in the state will be.
The win in Karnataka has brought the much needed relief for Rahul at the personal level too as of the 20 Assembly seats through which the Bharat Jodo Yatra passed in Karnataka, the Congress won 15. In the 2018 polls, the Congress had won 5 of them, with the rest going to BJP (9) and JDS (6).
BJP leaders, including from Bihar, who were a part of the campaigning in the state, which included organizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rallies, told The Sunday Guardian that it was clear from day one that the BJP was on the backfoot.
According to these leaders, inflation was a big issue in the state, which the state leaders did not accurately convey to the central leadership. “Wherever I went, whoever I spoke to, they talked about how things have become costly. I asked around my local party colleagues and they too confirmed about getting this feedback but due to lack of accessibility, the lower level cadre were not able to convey this to the senior leaders who were under the impression that everything was ok,” a senior party functionary recalled while stating that he was in fact surprised that the BJP had even crossed the tally of 50 seats.
“The defeat has not come as a surprise. The election was about local issues. Inflation, corruption, weak governance and infighting were issues that were staring us in the face and we did not have any answer to them. The perception that the CM (referring to Basavaraj Bommai) was a puppet CM while the control of the state was with B.L. Santhosh and B.S. Yediyurappa also dented our credibility. Corruption was a major factor across the state, and the Congress campaign ensured that it became a big poll issue. Bommai could not take control of the administration and tackle the corrupt leaders and officials. Much has been written about how Santhosh and Yediyurappa were at loggerheads. So, overall, it was an election that we only could have won if a miracle happened. To be honest, we would not have even touched 50 seats but for the rallies that the PM did which for a short time gave an impetus to our campaign,” another party MLA from a different state recalled.
The PM in a bid to arrest the BJP’s falling fortunes did 19 rallies, 6 road shows and a 26 km mega road show in Bangalore.
A national level functionary, who was camping in the state for two months, said that corruption was a big issue among the voters and since much of it was done by leaders in power, they could not fight this taint and hence were banking on the clean image of PM Modi to rescue them.
“We were expecting it. The impression that the Bommai government is corrupt had percolated down to the ground. The Congress pledge to ban Bajrang Dal helped unite Muslim voters against us even in seats where we have got their support in the past. What also took a large chunk of voters was the last phase of the campaign in which our leaders went over enthusiastic with ‘Bajrang Bali’. This did not help us, rather it pushed the fence-sitter, urban voters away as the results have shown,” he stated.
According to BJP leaders, this loss must lead to a rethink on the strategies on how to defeat the “demons” that are within the party. “Congress on its own would not have won the election. It’s our leaders who created the opportunity that was used by the Congress. We raise the slogan of ‘double-engine government’ but our Chief Ministers fail to put efforts to turn that slogan into a reality. We may see similar results in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh as well,” the national party functionary quoted above said. Both Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, along with Rajasthan, go to the polls in less than six months.

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