Congress shouldn’t miss this chance to forge ahead
A BIG win for Congress. A big defeat for BJP.
In the shortest term possible, this is how the result of the recently-held Karnataka Assembly election can be evaluated.
The election victory gives Congress reassurance to forge ahead and convince the electorate that it still exists as a national party. This will also give the party a solid footing to prove its might as a strong opposition to face the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
Now it is proved beyond doubt that BJP will fail to play the religious card for dominance in the South.
Hurt by the hijab controversy, scrapping of the 4 per cent quota and other such decisions of the state government, the Muslims stood behind the Congress. The community voted for the Congress in a big way. Besides, the promise to restore the 4 per cent reservation for them drew them even closer to the Congress.
The Congress strategy was exemplary in keeping the ranks, cadres and leaders united. It was able to rein in its two stalwarts - D.K. Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah - who have been known to be at loggerheads with each other.
The Karnataka mandate stands Congress in good stead in countering critics who felt that the party was not fit enough to lead the Opposition.
This is the second morale-boosting win in seven months for Congress after it came out with flying colours in Himachal Pradesh.
Besides the Lok Sabha elections next year, the wins also will encourage the Congress to head for the electoral battles in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh this year-end with greater confidence.
On Saturday, the Congress won 135 of the 224 seats, securing 43 per cent votes, 5 per cent more than in the previous 2018 election, and 7 per cent more than the BJP this time. Modi’s party, which had won 104 seats in 2018, had to settle for 66 this time. The Janata Dal (Secular), or JD-S, the third major party in the state, got 19 seats and others 4.
"It's a big victory. Through this victory, a new energy has emerged in the whole nation. BJP used to taunt us and say that 'we will make Congress-mukt Bharat'. Now the truth is that it is BJP-mukt South India," Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge quipped after the win.
For the BJP, the result is a massive shock.
Karnataka was the only state in South India that hosted the party to govern and the party had claimed that it would get an absolute majority in the state.
The party’s expectation to make a foothold in other southern states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala has now withered with the party now losing its sheen in Karnataka.
The five states have a total of 129 Lok Sabha seats and the role of these MPs is going to be very important in the formation of the next government.
Meanwhile, Congress is facing an uphill task in deciding who the Chief Minister of Karnataka will be.
The supporters of two top leaders - Siddaramaiah and D.K. Shivakumar - have started poster wars demanding the coveted post for their leaders.
Supporters have started claiming that their leader should be made the CM. Huge posters have come up in front of the residences of both leaders.
Also, the race for the post turned intriguing, as this editorial was being published, with Shivakumar saying that Siddaramaiah would cooperate with him.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting of the newly-elected Congress legislators, Shivakumar said he had extended cooperation for him earlier and now Siddaramaiah would cooperate with him.
“After the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, I took charge of the party. Then senior leader Dinesh Gundu Rao and Siddaramaiah resigned from their posts. Didn’t I wait patiently and cooperate when I was not inducted into the cabinet,” he asked.
Siddaramaiah, after assuming charge as CM in 2013, had kept Shivakumar from the cabinet for a long time. “I have extended my cooperation to him (Siddaramaiah),” Shivakumar said.
The statements have assumed importance against the backdrop of the present political scenario. The Congress has achieved a majority with the equal efforts of Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah, and the top party leadership is maintaining that it will take a call after the Legislature Party meeting.
Hope there is going to be consensus. The feuding leaders must note that squabbles and bickering will kill the charm of the victory and credibility of the electorate that will ultimately weaken the party and its future prospects.
Whosoever is the chief minister, he must deliver decent governance to maintain the party’s reputation and future survival.