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Karnataka verdict makes Congress' task harder for 2019 elections (News Analysis)

IANS  |  New Delhi 

The results of assembly polls must have came as a disappointment for the party and its ambitions for the 2019 polls, but it can take some solace from the fact that it was able to deny the an outright victory in the crucial southern state.

The results are likely to boost the present churning to forge an anti-BJP front for the next with opposition parties expected to exert more pressure on the to go for state-specific alliances even in states where it is the main force against the BJP.

The party's decision to support Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in the government formation in to prevent BJP from coming to power has implications for the party's preparations for the 2019 elections.

While it will be required to share political space with JD-S in when a coalition government is formed, there will be demands from other parties for alliances in states such as Madhya Praesh, and which will go to the polls later this year.

elections were crucial for the to build momentum for the 2019 polls and for three assembly polls later this year.

It was also significant to raise morale of Congress workers as the party is in power now only in two other states -- and Mizoram, besides the union territory of Puducherry.

The results were also seen as crucial to boost Congress Rahul Gandhi's image as an effective against in view of their likely run-in in the 2019 polls.

The election saw the Congress put its heart and soul in the campaign, with Gandhi campaigning in a large number of constituencies but the results showed party's vulnerability to BJP's skills at executing social coalitions, micromanagement and giving intensity to campaign.

Gandhi had spearheaded the party's campaign in Karnataka with frontal attacks on but it apparently did not have the kind of impact the party was hoping for -- far from it.

Gandhi repeatedly hammered the issues of jobs, atrocities against Dalits and women and the during his campaign.

During the campaign, he also expressed his willingness to become the if the Congress or a coalition led by the party wins next year's elections.

The Congress suffered a sharp drop in its numbers in Karnataka despite favourable factors such as apparent lack of anti-incumbency and the party having a in Siddaramaiah whose government was seen to have delivered on pro-poor schemes in the last five years.

But it was successful in garnering more votes than the BJP, while getting 26 less number of seats at 78. Also, had it fought jointly with JD(S) in a pre-poll alliance, the total tally of the two parties, at over 54 per cent of votes, would have overshot BJP's by a large number. This shows a lack of planning or political vision.

It was cold comfort for the party its vote share had risen compared to 2013 elections when it had won 122 seats. The party had polled 36.79 per cent votes in 2013 and 38 per cent in the Tuesday's results.

Like in where Congress had also put up a spirited fight, Prime Minister energised the BJP's campaign in Karnataka in the last phases holding 21 rallies in a span of nine days.

The Congress will continue to face challenge of meeting BJP's formidable election machine in Madhya Pradesh, and with Modi expected to help the BJP governments beat anti-incumbency with his oratorical skills.

The Congress also apparently miscalculated that the Dalit community, which has a sizeable presence in Karnataka, was quite upset with on a range of issues including the "delay" in filing review petition in the over "dilution" of the SC/ST Act.

The Congress decision to recommend minority status to the numerically strong Lingayat community and spur sub-nationalism in the form a separate state flag also apparently did not work in the desired way for the party.

Gandhi has largely been unable to come up with an answer to Modi's oratorial and Amit Shah's managerial skills. He will get three more opportunities this year where he can at least show political acumen of bringing together the right coalitions -- before polls -- to challenge the main weapon that the BJP has. If he cannot, then 2019 would turn out to be a bigger disappointment for him and his party.

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(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 15 2018. 20:24 IST