Karnataka civic polls: Why Cong must wipe off that smug smile

Hammered from all corners in recent times, the Congress might have found some reason to cheer after the Karnataka urban civic body polls, but it would be well-advised to keep its celebrations subdued. Results of urban body polls are hardly a reliable indicator to the change in the voters’ preference for parties in bigger elections.

In the civic body polls of 2007, the Congress had secured 1,606 seats, the highest among parties. The JD(S) had come a close second with 1,502 and the BJP a poor third with 1,180 seats. In the assembly elections the next year, it was the BJP which secured the maximum number of seats - 110 - and the JD(S) shrunk to 28 seats. The Congress had to be satisfied with 80 seats. Clearly, the local body polls was no pointer to the popular preference for the assembly polls.

the Congress should not get too carried away by it recent performance in Karnataka and get complacent. AFP

The Congress should not get too carried away by it recent performance in Karnataka and get complacent. AFP

In the 2007 elections to the undivided Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the BJP won 164 seats and cornered a vote share of 36.17 per cent. The Congress won just 64 seats with a vote share of t 29.17 per cent. However, in the Delhi assembly elections of 2008, it was the Congress which romped home comfortably to form the government. In the local urban body elections in UP held in July 2012, only three months after the Samajwadi Party registered a landslide victory in the assembly polls, the BJP won 10 of the 12 mayoral seats. Three
months surely are not long enough for people to get disenchanted with a newly formed government with a brute mandate.

The Indian electorate is known to distinguish between elections and is intelligent enough to treat issues involved in each election separately. In the 2009 parliamentary polls, the Congress put up an impressive performance by bagging 22 seats and 18.5 per cent of the vote share. This did not translate into a big jump in assembly seats in 2012 and the vore share dipped to 11 per cent. The similar difference is visible in Gujarat too. The point is every election is different and the voter preference for each is largely different too.

That’s the reason the Congress should not get too carried away by it recent performance in Karnataka and get complacent. The tables might turn in the assembly polls due a few months later and its 1,907 seats may not translate into assembly seats later in the year. Particularly since the party has not done anything spectacular in recent times to win over voters to its side and the state leadership remains directionless and a divided house.

The writing on the wall was clear for the BJP. It has made a mess of itself in its trophy state in the South over the last five years, thanks largely to the non-stop antics of BS Yedyurrappa. The election results show that the BJP could have overestimated the leader. That he bagged only 274 seats, ending at the bottom of the table reflects that he might not have the same traction among the Lingayat voters as he claimed to have. Had the party shown some spine and
dumped him earlier, it could have found time to rebuild itself at all levels.

The bigger damage from Yedyurappa was not his exit from the party but the bad reputation he gave to it by bringing governance to a standstill. Now, the situation look irretrievable for the BJP. It does not help that the state president of the party - he resigned a couple of days ago - has also been under the scanner of intelligence agencies. The party’s fortunes have been on the decline, the results of the civic body polls only confirms that.

It will need something dramatic to reverse the trend. Unfortunately, the time available is too short.

Updated Date: Mar 12, 2013 21:46 PM

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