Business Standard

Karnataka poll result: Hard numbers play second fiddle to political math

'How many seats' is irrelevant; Skill at cobbling up a winnable alliance is what will determine who forms the next government in the state

Badri Narayan 

Karnataka Election 2018 LIVE: BJP's Yeddyurappa (contesting from Shikaripura), Siddramaiah from Badami and national president of the Janata Dal (Secular) party H D Gowda

The results of the Karnataka assembly election are out. The BJP has emerged as the largest party with around 104 seats, while the Congress has suffered a big loss, capturing only 78. Prior to these results, there was consensus among analysts that Congress may win this election in the absence of any negative issues such as anti-incumbency. However, its card backfired and the party failed to meet the anticipation of analysts. The community felt the congress wasn't a well wisher of the community in the true sense and only offered it a separate identity with the vested interest of preventing Yedurappa from becoming Chief Minister. This mindset on the part of the community was a key reason that the grand old party delivered the numbers it did.

Another card played by Congress in this election was toying with the identity. But it failed to factor in the possibility that such regional identities might only attract the regional elite, not the grassroots. In this case too it mobilised a microscopic minority but failed to reach out garner the popular vote.

Another factor that negatively affected the government was that his government had very few OBCs in the upper echelons. The jealousy that this aroused spread rapidly among all other caste and help mobilize them against the Congress.

A fourth reason for the dismal show by the Congress could be that the successfully gnawed its way into the Dalit Muslim vote bank, which previously has a strong pro-Congress bias.

Now let's figure out which factors led the BJP's success. Initially Congress was a winnable proposition, but the whole scenario changed from the moment Modi entered the campaign. His political oratory helped the saffron party acquire the popular support and changed the entire scenario in its favour.

Religion also played an important role in mobilising the people. Modi's Janakpur visit helped him influence the public there, given that it was this place from where most of the Purohits (priests), who performed religious rites and rituals all over Karnataka came from.

Yogi‘s visit to the area of also helped BJP mobilise voters. Another remarkable influence was the door-to-door campaign by RSS cadres.

What will the implications of the Karnataka results be, if the Congress is able to form the government in a scenario in which no party has got clear majority? It would, in all probability, be a huge psychological victory for the grand old party even in the face of an arithmetical loss.

From the BJP's standpoint, its ability to form the government will reap huge political dividends for saffron, as it would serve as an entry point in the political canvass of south India, where the party has not been able to establish even half a footprint. On the other, the Congress badly needs to turn this result in its favour for its revival in other south Indian states. It will consolidate Rahul Gandhi's position in his own party. It will pave the way for his popular acceptance within his own party as the Congress President and a leader capable of defeating BJP and Narendra Modi.

The sum and substance is that the party that forms the government in Karnataka will also be able to make a strong entry into other southern states.

First Published: Tue, May 15 2018. 20:16 IST