Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the right wing party has finally made inroads into the southern state of Karnataka, when it secured 110 seats in 224 assembly constituencies, just falling short of three seats to form government in Karnataka. Congress secured 80 seats. BJP could muster support of five Independents to stake their claim to form government in the state. This might be moment of joy for the Sangh parivar but it is certainly no reason to rejoice. BJP is still far away from seizing power at federal level in India. It has to undergo a permutation and combination exercise on reviving National Democratic Alliance.
Karnataka elections have no doubt brought the regional issues to the fore especially by the mainstream party. The regional forces have been ousted in Karnataka. The major loser in the election was JD-S which got only 28 seats as against 58 seats in 2004 assembly elections.
Karnataka, incidentally, is the first state to go for polls following the delimitation exercise. The BJP in Karnataka had a bumpy ride since 1983 when it won 18 out of the 110 seats it contested. In the 1985 and 1989 polls, the party contested 116 and 118 seats but managed to win just two and four seats respectively. Things began to look up for the party in 1994 when it won 40 out of the 223 seats it contested. In 1999, the party contested 144 seats and won 44 seats.
BJP made its presence felt in 2004 during the Karnataka assembly elections when it contested 189 seats and won 79 seats and emerged as the single largest party in the state. In case of the present elections, BJP had organized leadership under B.S. Yedurappa. The party was clear that he would sail BJPs ship smoothly in Karnataka. The sign of betrayal by JD-S last year worked in favor of BJP, as the electorate had not seen BJP governing independently in the state.
BJP was able to build social coalition in these elections which worked in favor of party. The party consolidated the upper caste votes, and votes of the dominant castes like the Lingayat caste, especially in Northern Karnataka. The other dominant Vokkaligas who were split between Congress and JD-S. BJP was able to muster small chunk of its vote in Bangalore city and pockets of Old Mysore region.
An analysis of the detailed results available on the Election Commission's website shows that Congress won 34.6% of the vote share against BJP's 33.9%. While this represents a swing of about 0.7 percentage points away from Congress since the last assembly elections in 2004, it means BJP has picked up an additional 5.6% of votes compared with the 28.3% share it had four years back. This shows that BJP could increase its vote share and translate it into winning more seats than in the earlier elections.
Bahajun Samaj Party failed to make its mark in the state elections, even though 217 candidates had represented BSP in the assembly elections.
In the past Karnataka has been Congress bastion and was considered to be a link state between the North and South India. Congress in 1991 elections won 23 out of 28 Lok Sabha seats from Karnataka. For Indira Gandhi Chikmagalaur seat was considered to be safe seat to win in difficult times. This time Congress bundled out its chances of winning in the state due to massive infighting among the state leadership and inability to cash on the farm loan waiver of Rs. 70,000 crores of the Central government. Congress party could not reap the benefits doled out to the rural masses across India. The grand old party may put across excuses of all kinds on why the Karnataka state was lost for instance: a division in the secular vote, the unrelenting price rise, the unexpected Jaipur blasts, Mayawati's poaching, etc. These excuses do not add up. If Congress does not streamline its way of functioning and decision making more Karnataka's are in the offing for the future.
Meanwhile, BJP is poised to focus on coming elections in J&K, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan later this year, and has already firm up its chances of improving its performance in the coming Lok Sabha elections later next year. Congress is planning publicity campaigns which would highlight the positive performance of the last four years of UPA government. BJP has upped its ante against the government on the issue of price rise. But the implications of political developments in Karnataka would fasten the process of pre-poll understanding between Samajavadi party and Congress in Uttar Pradesh. It is likely to bring BJP closer to an understanding with BSP in UP.
Some observers point out that a strong sentiment exists among young Congress leaders to be firm with the UPA allies and the Left parties, to call elections after pulling off the India-US nuclear deal and to take on some alliance partners. But this view is unlikely to be accepted by the Congress high command which is busy to give rainbow lining to the UPA coalition. UPA government would not like to face the early elections, in turn they would be wanting to complete their promises made in the Common Minimum Programme and then enter the electoral fray.
After the success of Karnataka BJP would revive the NDA coalition partners and devise a combined strategy to fight secular forces in India. Secular way of life has led to change in the strategy of BJP, where they have become more adaptive of minority presence in BJP. Is this some sort of pseudo secularism propagated by BJP?
Rahul Mukand is a political analyst.