Jo jeeta wohi Sikander, goes the saying. Clearly, Alexander’s mantle falls on the BJP’s leadership duo Modi-Shah in Karnataka, and the Congress’ hope of a victory that would launch the party on to a winning spree via Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan all the way to the 2019 elections lies smashed to smithereens. The BJP is poised to form the government in Karnataka, spreading its rule to the south of the country as well, even if with the support of the Janata Dal (Secular). The Congress is now left with just one major state, Punjab, where it runs the government. This is the picture that the seat tally yields in Karnataka.
The vote shares give a slightly more nuanced view. The Congress has retained its vote share and even improved upon the 2013 tally marginally. Clearly, there has been no anti-incumbent upsurge against the Congress government led by Siddaramaiah. Similarly, the Congress has not gained from its move to split the Lingayat vote by its government’s decision to recognise the followers of Basava as a separate religion.
What has helped the BJP and hurt the Congress is the way non-Congress, non-BJP votes have shifted. The movement of these votes gives a clear indication that the Congress charge of a tie-up between the BJP and Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) stands validated.
Old Mysuru has 60 odd seats and this is the area where the Congress lost heavily. In 23 seats, the BJP’s vote share is less than 5%. This suggests that the BJP transferred its votes to the JD(S) in this region, with the result that the JDS boosted its tally while the Congress lost valuabe seats.
Would the JD(S) not be under any obligation to return the favour to the BJP in other parts of the state? The JD(S) vote share has dropped by more than 3%. Actually, this underestimates the drop, because the JD(S) vote share includes the votes the BJP transferred to it in Old Mysuru. There are two possibilities. One, the JD(S) lost votes on its own, even as it gained seats. Or, two, the JD(S) transferred votes to the BJP in other parts of the state, in return for the boost it got in Old Mysuru.
The BJP’s vote share is more or less what it had been in 2008, when Yeddyurappa and Sriramulu were with the party, unlike in 2013, when these had broken away and led the way to the BJP’s rout and the Congress’ victory. Which means that even with a possible share of JD(S) votes, the BJP’s vote share has remained static at the 2008 level, This does not indicate a wave of new support for the BJP on account of Narendra Modi’s charisma.
Karnataka was not lost because of Siddaramaiah’s unpopularity and the state was not won by Narendra Modi’s appeal. It was won by striking a strategic alliance with a third player with a record of selling its Rajya Sabha seats to money bags like Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Vijay Mallya. It is safe to presume that Amit Shah’s groundwork did the job for the BJP.
Two factors that did not come to the aid of the Congress is worth noting. A large part of the JD(S)’s support base comprises Muslims. If they had deserted the party in favour of what is seen as the national alternative to the BJP, the JD(S) would not have won so many seats and the Congress would have won more seats.
Similarly, in the Dalit-dominant region of the state, the BJP has done reasonably well. Clearly, there is no nationwide sense among the Dalits that the BJP is a political force that works against their interests.
The Congress would do well to factor these inputs in and modulate its message accordingly. The BJP would do well to avoid triumphalism.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.