Decisive Defeat of Divisive Forces
         Date: 24-May-2018

- Surabhi Hodigere 

Although the numbers fall short for a majority Government to be formed by the single largest party, Karnataka’s voters have given a clear verdict – that politics of divisiveness, appeasement, and false narratives will be comprehensively rejected.

 

The aggressive ‘Anti-Hindi’, ‘North vs South’ positioning done During the Congress campaign was completely rejected by the electorate 

It has been a tumultuous election campaign in Karnataka – naturally, since the stakes were inordinately high for the Congress party which took to every possible trick in its book to retain its last big state. While the results might have come as a shock to poll pundits, many of whom went on to provide 100+ seats to the incumbent Government, the writing on the wall and the mandate thereafter had a very different story to tell.
 

Showing the Door to Divisive Politics

The citizens of Karnataka who faced the governance of Siddaramaiah had innumerable opportunities in the last 4.5 years to fully grasp the grand old party’s unchanged style of divide and rule. The strategy to target societal faultlines was implemented in Karnataka with a renewed vigour. The move to provide the politically strong Lingayats with a minority religion status, especially a few months prior to the assembly election was seen as it is – an attempt to break into BJPs vote share even at the cost of hurting larger Hindu ethos. Unfortunately for the Congress, the State’s voters ensured that the strategy boomeranged. Out of 67 seats with Lingayat dominance, the BJP won 40 and the Congress, 20. Not only did the congress party fare badly in constituencies were the Lingayats were a majority, but three prominent ministers who were the face of the separate religion demand, Vinay Kulkarni, Dr Sharanprakash Patil and Basavaraj Rayareddi, faced defeat in their own constituencies.

 

Three prominent ministers who were the face of the separate Lingayat religion demand, Vinay Kulkarni, Dr Sharanprakash Patil and Basavaraj Rayareddi, faced defeat in their own constituencies

 Vote Against Appeasement Politics

Congress’s eternal affection towards minority appeasement became a Government policy in Karnataka. The celebration of Tipu Sultan via an official ‘Jayanti’ even at the cost of hurting Hindus in the State was done to ensure that the core Congress voter base was intact. And, while Narendra Modi-led Government in the Centre was working hard to ensure that Muslim women have due right to justice by ensuring the abolition of Tripal Talak, Siddaramaiah Government was introducing Shaadi Bhagya – a scheme to provide financial assistance to Muslim women at the time of marriage. These actions did not escape the notice of Hindus across the State and contributed to the consolidation of Hindu votes.

 

Similarly, the voters of Coastal Karnataka, who have seen violent murders of Hindu activists, sent out a resounding verdict against the Congress Government. The message was clear – we will not vote back a State Government that not only fails to protect Hindus but goes ahead and enters into unholy alliances with those who murder Hindus. The Congress won a mere 3 out of 18 seats in the region, down from 13 it had held since 2013. Hindu consolidation against the Congress, specifically in this region was further reinstated by fact that Ramanath Rai who was the district in-charge for Dakshina Kannada and the man in the midst of many controversial anti-Hindu stances, lost his own seat. Interestingly, he lost even though SDPI, in the last moment withdrew it candidate to prevent a split in the Muslim vote.

 

False Narratives Booted Out

There is an interesting argument doing the rounds in attempting to explain the consecutive loss of elections by the Congress party – the grand old party has lost touch with new India’s aspirations. This can be analysed in two strategies put forth by the Congress campaign in Karnataka. First, the aggressive ‘Anti-Hindi’, ‘North vs South’ positioning done by the Congress campaign was completely rejected by the electorate. By calling the Prime Minister as a ‘North Indian import’ only ensured the love shown by the Kannadigas for Narendra Modi increased. The aspirations of new India go beyond traditional identities of community, region, and language and are increasingly nationalistic in nature. Congress attempted to capture the minds of voters via issues that are inherently divisive in nature. Second, the Siddaramaiah led Congress Government’s populist policies popularly known as the Bhagya schemes were thought to be an electoral game changer. However, this was rejected by an aspirational new India that has rejected freebie culture and now looks for systematic, institutional change to solve age old development issues.

 

Furthermore, the strongest indicator that the Congress culture of politics and governance has been decisively rejected in Karnataka lies in the electoral fortunes of Siddaramaiah and his cabinet colleagues. While the ex-Chief Minister himself lost one of the two seats he contested, 15 ministers from his cabinet lost their seats. This is the clearest sign that the people of Karnataka have unequivocally rejected the Congress party. As the last citadel of Congress politics, the last big state that was governed by the Congress party decisively votes for Vikas, Bharat celebrates.

 

(The writer is CEO of Political Quotient Consultants Pvt. Ltd. She is passionate about politics, economics and entrepreneurship)