For 'Shiv Bhakt' Rahul Gandhi, Diwali, the festival of lights could not have been better. Because it seems, that at least in Karnataka, the BJP wave is over.
Less than six months after the Congress-JD(S) post-poll alliance dashed BJP’s plans of forming a government in the southern state, the alliance has done even better in the bypolls. Out of five seats (3 Lok Sabha and 2 Assembly), the BJP could win only one; BJP managed to retain Shimoga where B S Yeddyurappa’s son B Y Raghavendra defeated the JD(S) candidate with a margin of just over fifty thousand votes.
The victories in Karnataka are a big morale booster for the Congress, ahead of straight contests with the BJP in three important states in the Hindi belt later this month.
The margin of victories in all the four seats won by the Congress-JD(S) speak volumes about the disenchantment that Karnataka’s voters have displayed with the BJP. Even in Bellary, a supposedly impregnable fortress of the BJP, the Congress’s V S Ugrappa scored a ferocious win by defeating mining baron B Sriramalu’s sister J. Shantha by nearly 2.5 lakh votes. In the three other seats as well the alliance partners’ margins are massive. In Mandya, the JD(S) won by over three lakh votes, in Ramnagara Assembly seat by over a lakh, and Congress retained Jamkhandi by polling almost twice the number of votes garnered by BJP.
The BJP’s reaction to the crushing defeats in these bypolls has been muted. The party’s string of spokespersons have so far refrained from even tweeting on the election results. They seem to have been stunned into silence by the shockingly large margins, however, at least in Mandya Lok Sabha seat, the BJP’s vote has doubled from nearly 87,000 to 2.44 lakhs.
Therefore while JD(S)-Congress combine has a lot to celebrate today, it needs to deliver on the promise of loan waiver if it wants to retain the support of the farmers who remain crucial to any election in Karnataka.
Message for Opposition
Even though the Congress-BSP alliance failed to materialise in MP, Chhattisgarh, the Congress and other opposition parties must heed to the key message that the Karnataka voter has delivered: Only a united opposition can defeat the BJP.
However, there is perhaps a more significant message for Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president and his core team. Like in Karnataka, the Congress needs to overcome infighting if it is serious about regaining power in the states. One reason why the BSP-Congress alliance could not be formed in Madhya Pradesh, for instance, is because the state Congress unit is riven with petty factionalism.
With less than two weeks to go before polling, and according to many surveys the Congress still not in a winning position, it would do the grand old party a lot of good if it sent out a clear message of unity among its state leadership and cadres.
Similarly, for states like Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh, the opposition parties need to quickly crystalise their alliances so that their respective rank and file get enough time to prepare on the ground. In UP especially, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, Mayawati’s BSP and Akhilesh Yadav’s SP have been bitter adversaries. Though they formed strategic tie-ups that succeeded in dislodging BJP from Gorakhpur, and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats, the absence of a visible unity since then has again started the rumour mills of BSP having come to a secret understanding with the BJP.
Similarly, Akhilesh’s problems have been compounded by launch of a new party by his uncle and influential leader, Shivpal Yadav. If the opposition is indeed serious about taking on the BJP in 2019, it first needs to set its own house in order, that is the biggest takeaway of Karnataka bypolls.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)