While high political drama continues after the Karnataka Assembly election result, all eyes are on regional party heads. This verdict and subsequent reactions play a crucial role in determining the political discourse leading up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
It is almost firmly established now that without a formidable pre-poll third-front, it will be very difficult to stop the Narendra Modi-led NDA government to come into power for a second term. And in the light of the growing clamour for such a 'federal front', the coming together of all regional party heads is imperative.
While West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been at the forefront of taking charge to propel talks with various non-NDA state leaders, in the present scenario of a hung Assembly in Karnataka, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati has played the role of 'kingmaker'.
BSP sources told The Times of India, that Mayawati took the initiative to break the ice between UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Janata Dal (Secular) chief HD Deve Gowda, goading them to come together and stake claim to form the government before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
It is interesting to note here that the BSP had entered into a pre-poll alliance with JD (S) and contested 20 seats in Karnataka. Mayawati, in fact, addressed four rallies jointly with JD(S) leaders during the campaign. Though BSP vote share dipped from 1.16 percent in 2013 to 0.3 percent, it still managed to win one seat, its first in the state.
BSP insiders further told TOI, that Mayawati asked her close aide and party Rajya Sabha MP Ashok Siddharth, who is also Karnataka BSP in-charge, to meet Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad as soon as projections showed a hung Assembly with no party in a position to form a government on its own.
So, while Azad then spoke to Sonia about the prospective alliance, Mayawati called up Gowda and convinced him. Mayawati, sources added, subsequently spoke to Sonia and suggested that the Congress extend support to JD(S) to which she agreed.
Earlier too, Mayawati had bailed out Congress government in Uttarakhand in 2016 when its two MLAs voted for the Congress in the floor test following the disqualification of its nine MLAs who defected to the BJP camp.
Apart from the on-ground support from the BSP supremo, Congress received a similar advice from Trinamool Congress leader Mamata who, however, criticised it for not getting into a pre-poll alliance with the JD (S). "If Congress had gone into an alliance with the JD(S), the result would have been different. Very different"; she was quick to tweet as the trends started consolidating.
However, the most amusing reaction came from the Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, O Panneerselvam. The veteran AIADMK leader sent a congratulatory message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as soon as BJP looked like it would cross the halfway mark while counting was still on.
"I would like to share my joy on this momentous occasion and convey my heartiest congratulations on the resounding victory of BJP in Karnataka elections. Your diligent and conscientious efforts not only yielded the desired fruits in the 15th state but also added another feather in your cap of glory," Panneerselvam said in a letter to Modi, which he later posted in his official twitter handle.
He also wrote one to BJP chief Amit Shah stating "On this cheerful occasion, I wish to express my warm greetings and felicitations for the significant victory of BJP in Karnataka Assembly Elections, bellwethering a grand entry to South India".
An official statement of the chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami congratulating Modi was also released to the media, as per a report in The Times of India.
But, according to a report in the Deccan Chronicle, another prominent Tamil Nadu leader and president of the Opposition party, DMK, MK Stalin was also not behind in extending his wishes to BJP's chief ministerial candidate, BS Yeddyurappa. He had tweeted, ''On behalf of DMK, I extend my congratulations to Mr Yeddyurappa for winning the Karnataka Assembly election and is set to form the next government. I believe the BJP, which is going to take charge, will not violate Tamil Nadu's rights on Cauvery as per the Supreme Court order and strive for cordial ties with the neighbouring state".
This development comes at a time when the uneasiness in the DMK-Congress relationship is something that the BJP is keenly watching. As per a report in The Times of India, a senior BJP leader said that given the situation, the party would stand to gain indirectly if the Congress was forced to leave the DMK alliance.
“There are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. If the pre-poll alliances don’t work, we can work on post-poll tie-ups. The DMK may not be inimical to the BJP at the Centre if they win a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha elections", he remarked.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram called-out this move of Panneerselvam asking, if this was a part his attempt “to unseat Palaniswami as chief minister and stake his claim to the post by warming up more to the BJP". “Why did Panneerselvam term BJP's performance in Karnataka as a grand entry into South India? Is he supporting (Centre's) action of protracting implementation of the Cauvery verdict? Or else, is he trying to nudge the BJP to unseat EPS and make him the Chief Minister?" Chidambaram tweeted, as per the Deccan Herald.
Chidambaram has been a vociferous critic of the AIADMK government and its alleged links with the BJP after the death of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, the report further stated.
Regional leaders from the southern states of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh also reacted to the Karnataka verdict. While Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan was one of the first political voices to openly point out the possibility of a post-poll alliance between the Congress and the JD (S) even as the counting was on, Andhra Pradesh finance minister Yanamala Ramakrish-nudu said that "more than 60 percent of people in Telangana have opposed the BJP in Karnataka even though it has won more seats even though the Telugu Desam Party did not campaign in the Karnataka elections", reported the Deccan Chronicle.
As per the report, the BJP is now blaming the TDP for its loss of Telugu votes and thus subsequent failure to reach the magic figure.
On the other hand, eyeing a national role, Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao has also been making efforts to gather the support of different regional parties to form a non-BJP and non-Congress federal front ahead of the 2019 elections.
Speaking to CNN-News18, senior Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leader Keshav Rao said, “There is no alternative as of now. Rahul (Gandhi) cannot challenge Modi. In 2019, it will be Modi vs regional parties. To challenge the party in power, a coalition of regional parties is needed. Regional parties should unite under one agenda and go forward with a national outlook".
KCR had earlier visited Bengaluru to meet the JD(S) chief Gowda and extended his support to the party. He had also appealed to the people in Karnataka to vote for the JD(S). “The JD(S) won more seats because of TRS party support. KCR had made an open appeal and that helped in party winning more seats,” Rao said.
Though, despite such appeals, the BJP managed to more improve its tally in the Telugu-dominated Hyderabad-Karnataka region immensely. “In Karnataka, TDP and Chandrababu have used all tactics to dissuade Telugu voters from supporting BJP. But in Hyderabad-Karnataka region where most Telugus live, BJP has increased its tally from six to 20 plus. People have rejected his politics. Our southward march has begun,” BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav tweeted.
However, according to News18, both TDP & TRS claim that they don’t see BJP as a challenge in their respective states. Taking a dig at BJP's claim, Rao said, “TRS should be credited for BJP’s victory because their manifesto was copied from TRS manifesto. They copied the development schemes that are in Telangana and touch people directly. Modi is a strong campaigner and there was nobody in Karnataka that can match up to him. In Telangana TRS is strong, we have leadership and I don’t see BJP as a challenge at all”.
With inputs from agencies.
Updated Date: May 16, 2018 18:50 PM