Karnataka Verdict: Beyond Numbers
Organiser   22-May-2018

"I do not want that our loyalty as Indians should be in the slightest way affected by any competitive loyalty whether that loyalty arises out of our religion, out of our culture or out of our language. I want all people to be Indians first, Indian last and nothing else but Indians.”

– Dr Babasaheb B R Ambedkar, Writings And Speeches: A Ready Reference Manual, Edited by D C Ahir


The day-long number game of election results on May 15 and a day later, night-long legal churning on the Government formation in Karnataka kept the entire nation busy. Of course, in democracy numbers are important and every political party tries its best to cobble them in pre and post-election scenario. But mandate is not just about numbers, it has deep rooted message for all the political parties, and for all of us as a nation. Though the numbers of electoral outcome look scattered, they are very clear in terms of lessons.

Let us start with the Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi. The high-decibel campaign for Karnataka Assembly elections virtually reduced to the divisive agenda by Congress. First, it revolved around the linguistic identity and pitching it against Hindi speaking regions; later the Lingayat card was played to create a new minority community to divide the Hindu society; and lastly, North-vs-South debate was artificially constructed to further vitiate the atmosphere. There is no anti-incumbency against the Siddaramaiah led Congress government, Rahul Gandhi has emerged as a face of opposition unity and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi is the party of Hindi belt and therefore, has no place in the Southern States

The verdict of Karnataka clearly negated the divisive agenda and gave a verdict of integration. The anti-incumbency due to rampant corruption, rural distress, water scarcity and poor infrastructure was clearly there and to cover that up identity issues were created. The people of Karnataka preferred to vote on ‘Governance’ issues and therefore, most of the incumbent ministers lost their seats. The leadership of Rahul Gandhi faced another flake and Congress’s ability to lead the opposition camp has further deteriorated. Playing second fiddle to Janata Dal (Secular) is the sign of the same. Unless there are an ideological clarity and innate organizational strength, no emotive issues can sail you through is the clear message for the Congress.

The BJP, on the other hand, pulled out a spectacular performance on the basis of development agenda and able leadership. Despite all odds, the organisational strength and ideological rigor can make wonders is proved again. The chemistry of Modi magic and arithmetic build by party President Amit Shah on the ground proved to be the biggest asset for the party. The nationalist party could perform well even in the traditionally weaker areas. The performance in Hyderabad Karnataka and Old Mysore regions certainly opened the doors for Andhra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu to expand the base of the BJP. Inability to inspire and mobilize voters in the urban areas like Bengaluru may be a matter of concern for the real national party. At least, on 8 seats, the votes polled for None of the Above (NOTA) are more than the victory margin and 6 of them are in Bengaluru region. The party will have to analyze this trend for the future elections.

Apparently, there is a best-case scenario for the JD (S) with sufficient numbers to bargain in the hung assembly. In the long run, this realignment with the Congress can create an existential crisis for the sub-regional parties. The party without any clear strategy or agenda, its candidates lost deposit at more than 100 seats and most of the seats were won in the single region of Old Mysore, that also against the Congress. Now joining hand with Congress will further shrink the base for the family-run party.

Though real-politic will always put moral and ethical questions for all the political parties and their supporters at large, the Constitutional provisions and legal experts will surely address them. No one should play with the national integration and divide society for short-term political gain is the clear message of the scattered verdict of Karnataka.