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SAFFRONS TASK GETS HARDER IN ASSEMBLY POLLS

BIG JOLT FOR BJP IN KARNATAKA BYPOLLS

By Amulya Ganguli

Neither the world’s tallest statue of Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat, nor the frenetic clamour for a Ram temple in Ayodhya has been of much help to the BJP down south in Karnataka.
As the by-election results there show, the preference for the ruling Janata Dal (S)-Congress combine over the BJP has not only remained intact, but appears to have been further strengthened despite the belief that the two allies were not getting on well together.
The affirmation of the electorate’s faith in them has shown that the formation of the Janata Dal (S)-Congress government was not based only on their success in the numbers game with the Congress winning 80 seats and the Janata Dal (S)-BSP combine 40 in the 224-member assembly , but on the basis of a fairly wide popular support.
It is obvious, therefore, that the road back for the BJP has become a great deal more difficult with the outcome, sending a bleak signal to the party about its prospects in 2019 not only in Karnataka but in other parts of the country as well since it is possible to deduce from the result that the Narendra Modi is losing his halo.
Except for the BJP’s success in the Shimoga parliamentary seat, the party has drawn a blank in the other four constituencies. Even in Shimoga, there was a see-saw contest for a while between the two dynasts – former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s son, Raghavendra, although the BJP usually claims to be against dynastic politics, and former chief minister S. Bangarappa’s son, Madhu.
Like the two dynasts, chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s wife, Anitha, was also in the fray and won the Ramanagaram assembly seat with ease.
However, the outcome in the parliamentary seat which may be seen to indicate the BJP’s woes is Bellary where the Congress has scored a massive victory over another dynast, BJP strongman B. Sriramulu’s sister, Shantha.
Bellary is the seat which was won by Sonia Gandhi in 1999.  But from 2004, the seat was won three times by the BJP with Sriramulu and Shantha being among the winners, which gave the constituency the image of being a BJP stronghold.
The Congress’s victory and especially its margin of over 200,000 votes are the clearest indications that the BJP is on a downward slide in a state which it regarded as the party’s gateway to the south. The Janata Dal (S) candidate’s margin of victory of over 300,000 votes in the Mandya parliamentary seat confirmed this trend.
After the setback in Karnataka, the BJP’s need to fare well in the five forthcoming assembly elections has become greater. If it falters in some these states, the belief will gain further ground that the party has left 2014 well behind and that it will take a miracle for it to secure a majority of its own in the Lok Sabha in 2019.
The BJP and those organizations associated with it will also have to mull over some of its latest tactics focussing on the building of gigantic statues of humans and deities and not only defying the judiciary’s views on religious places but also threatening to launch a highly disruptive movement on the lines of the 1992 Ramjanmabhoomi agitation.
It is possible that far from being impressed by the party’s construction plans and the flaunting of religious sentiments even if they threaten violence, the electorate is worried about the direction in which the country is heading under governments such as those of Yogi Adityanath in U.P. and of Biplab Deb in Tripura who wants everyone to rear a cow.
The Karnataka outcome has also shown that a coalition can work satisfactorily despite occasional bickerings, holding out the hope of a similarly successful accommodative arrangement at the all-India level between the “secular” parties.
One of the BJP’s main propaganda ploys against its opponents is the hodge-podge nature of such tie-ups between various parties led by egoistic leaders which the party likes to deride as an unreliable khichdi.
The Karnataka outcome is an unambiguous refutation of the charge. It has also shown that the Congress, which is often accused of behaving like an overbearing Big Brother because of its past glory, is becoming accustomed to playing second fiddle to a smaller party like the Janata Dal (S) despite having won a larger number of seats.
Coming in the wake of yet another attempt being made by the “secular” parties to unite against the BJP with the Andhra Pradesh chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu, taking the lead, the Karnataka outcome is undoubtedly a big boost to the anti-BJP parties, especially where morale is concerned even if their organizational capabilities cannot match the BJP’s. In terms of resources, too, they are nowhere near the ruling party at the centre.
But morale can play a major role in uplifting spirits if the belief gains ground that victory is in sight. (IPA Service)

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