The people in Karnataka have voted. And they have shown just how disgruntled they were with the BJP. The ruling party lost as was expected. Nothing surprising about that. What is however surprising is the scale of the defeat. The party has lost nearly 65% of its seats. In all likelihood, it has been relegated to the number 3 position, behind even the JD(S). Even if it does manage to go past the JD(S) as the last votes are counted, it will just barely do so. It has lost in all the regions of the state. This kind of a whitewash is rare; and it indicates just how fed up the people were with the party.
The Congress was always expected to win. Even the post-poll forecasts indicated that (though I am not a big believer in such dip-stick forecasts). But in spite of all this, I am sure the Congress must have been a little worried about what would happen. The overhang of the crisis in Delhi, the charges of corruption – all must have made the party nervous. In fact, throughout the entire vote counting process – which started at 8 am today – the party’s prospects looked far worse than what the eventual outcome was. Clearly, the party must now be relieved!
What is interesting is the way Bangalore city behaved. Through the counting process, the Congress was shown to be losing a couple of seats over its previous tally. If that had happened, it would have given the BJP some talking points – that all the scams in Delhi had effect on voting in the urban areas. Unfortunately for the BJP, that didn’t happen. The Congress picked up 3 additional seats in the city, while the BJP lost half its seats (8). So clearly, the disgruntlement with the BJP’s local corruption was far higher than that of the Congress in faraway Delhi!
The fact that the results have come exactly as predicted also shows how savvy Narendra Modi is. He refused to canvass in the state. I wrote on this matter earlier (April 26th - Why is Modi keeping away from Karnataka????). The same came up for discussion today on TV, and the BJP’s discomfort on the subject was apparent. Apparently Modi was “pre-occupied” with other things! We know that if Modi is pre-occupied with anything, it is with his PM ambitions! How could he not have found time for the BJP’s only Southern bastion? The truth is what I have maintained, and that is what the Congress spokesperson brought out – that Modi doesn’t have the courage to take on the tough challenges. He knew Karnataka was going to be tough, and he chose to stay away. I cannot imagine how the captain of the ship can stay away from an impending disaster? How can he just walk away???? Contrast this with Rahul Gandhi, who took on campaigning responsibilities in UP and Bihar, two states in which the Congress hasn’t done well for at least 2 decades. He lost in Bihar, and he took it on his chin. He did very well in the UP Lok Sabha elections in 2009 (winning 22 Lok Sabha seats, which no one expected that). And though he failed in the UP assembly elections, he managed to improve his party’s tally. The important point is that Rahul Gandhi did not run away from a tough challenge. In fact, he jumped right into it. If anything, he stayed away from Karnataka – leaving the fruits of success to his local team members!
Anyways, the good news for the state is that a single party has got the mandate to rule. Through the vote counting period, it looked like the Congress would manage only 100 seats or so and if that would have happened, it would have had to depend on the JD(S) or the independents. That would have been really bad for the state. But now that the problem has vanished, the ball is squarely in the Congress’s court. It has to give a good government, dismantle the corruption set-up the BJP created, and bring glory back to the state and its capital Bangalore, which is a short code for India’s IT might.
The other good news is that the people have preferred to vote for the Congress and not that much for the JD(S). We need a bigger role for the national parties and had the JD(S) done better than the Congress, it would have sent the wrong message. Even in terms of vote swings, it looks like the Congress has got a higher swing in its favor (+7%) than the JD(S) (+4%) (based on 117 seats, as per NDTV). The BJP of course has been decimated, losing 15% of the state’s votes.
One last point. It looks like the voters were upset with the corruption of the BJP. But it was also upset with the upping of the Hindutva levels in the state. The memories of the Ram Sene (an outfit sympathetic to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal) attacking girls in pubs and demonizing Hussain’s paintings are all too vivid. This is why Hindutva doesn’t work for long. The people of the country don’t want anyone to play moral police. They are happy in being Hindus…..but they are also progressive…..and they want to live in peace with others. That is the loud message from Karnataka to the BJP.
The real truth is that even though Karnataka has voted along predicted lines, and the BJP has got mauled, the scale of the mauling is what is surprising. The party was expected to get 50 seats….it looks like it will get just 39 or so. This should make the party think – clearly its attacks on the Congress are not helping it…..