Karnataka election: BJP's messy governance helped Cong win
The Karnataka poll results have proved that shoddy governance and political instability are a big no-no as far as the electorate is concerned.
The BJP has been shown the door in Karnataka, that it called its gateway to south India. It has been a humiliating defeat because the ruling party was reduced to fighting for the second place instead of a place in the government. And by virtue of this thumbs down, it has been reduced to a Hindi belt party, something that will cause huge concern in a pre-general election year.
The Congress will take heart from this victory—a much needed monsoon shower in the searing summer heat of Coalgate and Railgate—but if it interprets the result as a referendum on the performance of UPA 2, it will only be fooling itself. This was a regional election fought on local issues, a vote on the quality of governance delivered by the BJP in Karnataka since 2008. By no means, national issues got any traction during the campaign and it was not even a talking point for the electorate.
What then is the big message from the Karnataka verdict? For starters, that shoddy governance and political instability are a big no-no as far as the electorate is concerned. By rejecting the BJP, the voters have sent out a message loud and clear to all political parties in India. That they will meet a similar fate if they do not put people first.
Political pundits in television studios have tried to analyse this election result rather simplistically by blaming the BJP's defeat at BS Yeddyurappa's door. But it is not as simple as that. Yes, BSY did play his part in being the hitman to annihilate his alma mater. The Congress gained handsomely in Mumbai-Karnataka region, thanks mainly to Yeddyurappa playing spoiler.
But to analyse the verdict only by a 'only if Yeddyurappa was still in the BJP...' caveat would be to misinterpret it. Because travelling through Karnataka during the campaign period, one could sense the deep sense of anguish and disappointment at the manner in which the BJP had squandered away the verdict of 2008. Admittedly, the expectations from the BJP which sold its brand as a party with a difference, were high. Naturally, when the Congressification of BJP was complete—three chief ministers in five years, corruption, nepotism—the people decided it hardly mattered whether you get the original or a xerox copy. Plus with the right-wing groups having a field day in BJP bastion of coastal Karnataka—especially Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts—the people decided to say they had enough of vigilante justice and communal hatred.
Interestingly, the voters have had the wisdom to reward those BJP MLAs who had a clean image. People like law and urban development minister Suresh Kumar or CN Aswath Narayan from Malleswaram in Bangalore have been returned to the Assembly.
The voters have also sent out another important message, though a bit disturbing, through the EVMs. That corruption was a non-issue. BSR Congress, the party patronised by Gali Janardhana Reddy, the mining baron and former minister now in jail on charges of illegal mining, tasted electoral success in Bellary. And the lesson political parties would now take is that the voters do not seem to appreciate hardline stance against corruption and point to how the BJP discarded Yeddyurappa and had to bite the dust. In contrast, the Congress brazened it out with Virabhadra Singh in Himachal Pradesh and won the election there last year. With a number of Congress politicians under a cloud, the party would conclude sacrifice of this kind does not pay political dividends.
With the BJP house in shambles, the focus naturally has turned to the Congress, where scrambling for the top job has begun. Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka assembly Siddaramaiah was the first to declare he is in the race. This even before the EVMs had been unlocked. G Parameshwara, KPCC president, who was considered another claimant for the top job suffered a shock defeat and fingers are already being pointed by his supporters at the Siddaramaiah camp.
But it won't be an expressway to the Vidhana Soudha for Siddaramaiah. Already a loud campaign is on, insinuating that his blood group is not Congress-positive. The reference is to his Janata Dal (Secular) background and that he is a relative newcomer into the party, having joined only in 2007.
Mallikarjun Kharge and Veerappa Moily are the other two chief ministerial aspirants. Already Moily has started making the right noises and his ability to raise funds in an election year can go in his favour. But Kharge's credentials as a tall Dalit leader from the backward Hyderabad-Karnataka region would make him a frontrunner. Except that he won't be seen as a face who can connect to a young crowd. What plank the Congress wants to go into the 2014 elections with, will determine its choice.
In the final analysis, Karnataka has voted for more 'Kar' (to do) and less of 'nataka' (drama). The time for both the Congress and the BJP to get their act together ahead of 2014 begins now.
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