The result of the Karnataka assembly election is below the expectation of both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): the Congress underestimated the wave-like conditions in their favour that existed on the ground; and the BJP certainly didn’t expect to lose this badly.
Now, both parties are staggering to their feet and assessing how to make the best of it.
At the national level, the Congress is tomtomming the victory. The sine die adjournment of the Lok Sabha was one indicator of this. If the Congress had needed a partner to form a government or if the Karnataka assembly had been hung, such a decisive decision might not have come from the party.
Karnataka sends 28 seats to the Lok Sabha. In the last election, 19 of these 28 belonged to the BJP. This performance absolutely cannot be replicated in 2014. Where will the BJP make up the loss from Karnataka? This is one issue. The Congress will have to work very hard to ensure these seats come to its kitty by sustained work on governance and delivery for the next one year.
Despite tortuous explanations given by the BJP – ‘we did not tolerate corruption, we let Yeddyurappa walk away but didn’t compromise with him’ – the fact is the people of Karnataka reacted on two issues: absence of governance; and corruption under their noses and protection by the state government of those who were corrupt.
But will the Congress be able to leverage this? It is not known for squeaky clean governance either. Infrastructure in Karnataka is crumbling. The state has had to give Cauvery waters to Tamil Nadu. If the Congress can turn these deficits into its advantage by working quickly it can turn a victory into a stupendous advantage in 2014.
The real hero of the election is HD Deve Gowda and his son HD Kumaraswamy. The Janata Dal secular had 26 seats in the erstwhile assembly. This number has gone up to 38. How did JDS do it, despite being in opposition in the centre and in the state ? This is the central question to answer in understanding the politics of Karnataka.