ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Karnataka as Bellwether

Karnataka as Bellwether

Premonitions and promises aplenty for both the victor and the vanquished.

The surprising margin of victory for the Congress has been widely commented on as having provided welcome relief to the party from the relentless flow of self-inflicted bad news of which it has been a recipient. Such relief, if it is so, will necessarily be short-lived, as the Supreme Court strictures delivered against the union law minister and the prime minister’s office the very afternoon of the Karnataka victory go to underline. In any case, it was a Congress victory which was planned and executed, to a large extent, in the headquarters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its paterfamilias, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), whose combined inability to manage the political exigencies of its first government in a southern Indian state has cost it dearly. Just on basic vote numbers, there were 36 constituencies where the combined vote of the BJP and of the Karnataka Janata Paksha, formed by its former leader and chief minister, B S Yeddyurappa, were more than the winning candidate. Seats were also lost by the BJP due to the split by the BSR Congress formed by the Reddy brothers of Bellary.

Yet, the fratricide within the Sangh Parivar may not fully explain the nature of the mandate. The anger against brazen corruption, abuse of power and sheer incompetence in government too have played an important role in BJP’s rout. Further, this very divide within the BJP also needs some explanation. These latter virtues are to be found in every political party in every state; the Congress in Karnataka is not without its own share of rivalries. Even in those regions of the state where the RSS has struck deep organisational and social roots, like the Mangalore-Udupi stretch where it tried to polarise the extant caste-class topography into a simplified field of Hindus versus the others, much like in Gujarat, it has faced a spectacular defeat.

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