Karnataka result and BJP’s up and coming outreach

The mandate as definitive as the one in Karnataka carries with it the risk of over-reading and over-reacting to both victory and defeat. For the Congress, the real test would be to quell infighting in the party before Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in 2023 and then to stitch an Opposition alliance for the General Election in 2024. The Karnataka model may not work in other states and the BJP is known to strike back with a vengeance to break Congress’ morale booster win. Congress has to provide corruption-free governance in the states it rules, to maintain euphoria of May 13 win to project itself as an alternative. It can’t afford to be complacent. And the BJP must have learnt that the PM’s campaign alone can’t make up for an absent government that was riddled with allegations.  As the ruling dispensation, it should have accepted accountability for its track record and explained to the voters why it faltered rather than giving the narrative a communal twist. The result means the party is no more invincible in states as it appears nationally.

Seeing the writing on the wall, the BJP has already planned a “Maha Jansampark Abhiyaan” covering all the 545 Lok Sabha constituencies with the avowed aim of disseminating messages of government achievements under nine years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule. The month-long outreach will commence from May 30, the day the Modi government completes nine years and will continue till June 30. For the Congress, the comprehensive victory is a huge morale-booster but even in the win with an absolute majority with 135 seats in the 224-member Assembly, the Congress can learn more from BJP’s loss. In the run up to the election, the Congress stayed united while BJP leaders were seen settling scores with each other and raising divisive issues. In its subtle campaign, the Congress raised local issues including native dairy brand Nandini. With the decisive verdict, Karnataka voters have sent a significant lesson to the political class that they will not allow narrative to be changed but focus on their aspirations.

However, it would be naïve and too premature to dub Karnataka Assembly polls as a mandate against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a “stepping stone” to the Lok Sabha election slated next year. The party may claim that love won over hatred and Bharat Jodo Yatra rejuvenated the party cadre and enthused the voters but the Congress has its task cut out as it has to fulfil the five guarantees given to the people. Choosing a non-Gandhi as the party chief too seems to have worked for the Congress. The spotlight would now be on him to bring together Opposition parties and leaders like Nitish Kumar, Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee and K Chandrashekar Rao and at the same time ensure continuity with its long-time opposition associates in the run up to the General Election.