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Sunday, May 19, 2024

What Congress’ victory in Karnataka means for 2024 Lok Sabha polls

A decade-long political underdog, the Congress won Karnataka with a stunning victory. Congress campaigned professionally. It organized better. It exploited local discontent with the incumbent. Local leadership was solid. National party leaders assisted but did not take over the campaign. Congress made good promises. It stabilized a state with frequent government transitions. It formed a broad social alliance, recalling the Congress’s umbrella party days.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) state defeat must rank among its most devastating electoral defeats. It bribed defectors to create a government in 2019. The regime’s rent-seeking reputation was shaped by its inception. Unpopular government headed into polls. It overused communal polarisation to compensate for government inadequacies.

It alienated leaders but failed to provide credible new faces. Its national general secretary in charge of organization, BL Santhosh, assigned from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to support the BJP, became a partisan political actor in his own state, deepening internal divides. Religion and caste restricted its social coalition. Women lost interest. The state unit banked on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s miracle, ignoring the post-2018 pattern of voters distinguishing between state and national elections. However, 2024’s implications are the main question. It has significance and influence.

Congress particularly. The triumph boosts the morale of ground troops who are used to losing and frequently give up before the fight. It also allows the party to gather funds in a climate when the Congress controls only three states. Even though Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar won, Rahul Gandhi’s popularity is boosted since Karnataka looks to have been influenced by the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

It also enhances the Congress’s reputation within the national opposition and may persuade certain parties, who have been very skeptical of the party’s political judgment and ability, to join together. If the Congress, which won one Lok Sabha seat from Karnataka in 2019, can improve even slightly next year, it will help.

The BJP may use the defeat to figure out why it failed to broaden its social coalition and why poorer voters and women, in particular, remained away despite its welfare initiatives. The party won 26 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. If the Congress administration maintains its social coalition and keeps its pledges over the next year, repeating the performance may be harder. Saturday’s results will influence the BJP’s 2024 state election candidates.

As tempting as it may be for the Congress and the BJP’s detractors, imposing a bigger national meaning on the Karnataka outcome is analytically wrong and strategically irresponsible. First, apparent. After three years of the Narendra Modi government, when people purchased the notion of a “double engine” sarkar, state and national elections have taken different paths.

In 2018, all opposition leaders celebrated HD Kumaraswamy becoming chief minister in Bengaluru. In 2019, the BJP won the state. In December, the Congress formed governments in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan. Four months later, the BJP won 62 of 65 seats in the three states.

Karnataka voters have clearly chosen Siddaramaiah for Bengaluru and Modi for Delhi again, according to anecdotal evidence. The Congress should not assume that their achievement would guarantee a win in the state next year.

The second reason to be careful about extending Karnataka’s results to the national stage is that the state’s political conditions were considerably different from those of both parties nationally.

In Delhi, the BJP has a popular administration and a strong leader, unlike in Bengaluru. In Karnataka, Dalits, tribals, and other backward classes (OBCs) supported the Congress, but in other states where the BJP gets its Lok Sabha strength, same subaltern socioeconomic groups support the party.

In these state elections, the Congress won more women votes, but on the national stage, notably in north, west, central, and eastern India, confidence in Modi’s agenda and welfare programmes have moved the women vote to the BJP.

In Karnataka, the BJP’s internal splits hurt the campaign, but when the election is about Modi, they don’t. In Karnataka, corruption damaged the BJP’s reputation, but Modi’s adversaries underestimate his honesty.

Rahul Gandhi has failed to represent the Opposition nationally, but the Congress in Karnataka might portray a strong and anchored local leadership.

In Karnataka, the Congress could localize issues down to the assembly segment, but in Lok Sabha polls, fighting 543 different elections based on local candidates and local issues failed in 2019. A larger national message and national leadership are needed. In Karnataka, the Congress could rely on the fact that Hindutva has historically had little popularity outside of the coastal region, but in many other parts of the nation, it is gaining ground. Taken together, the Congress cannot easily recreate the Karnataka model in 2024.

However, state elections must be understood and respected. State governments in India have constitutional rights and democratic legitimacy from voters.

Karnataka’s verdict’s significance is not in 2024. It’s because India’s electoral system allows smaller parties to defeat stronger ones. Indian federalism is strong, and a state’s political sensibility might differ from the national sentiment. Voters have proven that they will penalize governments that don’t fulfill their constitutional and popular responsibilities and reward political parties that can effectively communicate and collect their concerns. Karnataka’s importance rests in ensuring that no party can take political power for granted and Indian democracy remains crucial.

Congress won Karnataka with a professional campaign, exploited local discontent, and formed a broad social alliance. The BJP’s state defeat was devastating, but the Congress’s victory has significance and influence.

A decade-long political underdog, the Congress won Karnataka with a stunning victory. Congress campaigned professionally. It organized better. It exploited local discontent with the incumbent. Local leadership was solid. National party leaders assisted but did not take over the campaign. Congress made good promises. It stabilized a state with frequent government transitions. It formed a broad social alliance, recalling the Congress’s umbrella party days.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) state defeat must rank among its most devastating electoral defeats. It bribed defectors to create a government in 2019. The regime’s rent-seeking reputation was shaped by its inception. Unpopular government headed into polls. It overused communal polarisation to compensate for government inadequacies.

It alienated leaders but failed to provide credible new faces. Its national general secretary in charge of organization, BL Santhosh, assigned from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to support the BJP, became a partisan political actor in his own state, deepening internal divides. Religion and caste restricted its social coalition. Women lost interest. The state unit banked on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s miracle, ignoring the post-2018 pattern of voters distinguishing between state and national elections.

However, 2024’s implications are the main question. It has significance and influence. Congress particularly. The triumph boosts the morale of ground troops who are used to losing and frequently give up before the fight. It also allows the party to gather funds in a climate when the Congress controls only three states. Even though Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar won, Rahul Gandhi’s popularity is boosted since Karnataka looks to have been influenced by the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

It also enhances the Congress’s reputation within the national opposition and may persuade certain parties, who have been very skeptical of the party’s political judgment and ability, to join together. If the Congress, which won one Lok Sabha seat from Karnataka in 2019, can improve even slightly next year, it will help.

The BJP may use the defeat to figure out why it failed to broaden its social coalition and why poorer voters and women, in particular, remained away despite its welfare initiatives. The party won 26 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. If the Congress administration maintains its social coalition and keeps its pledges over the next year, repeating the performance may be harder. Saturday’s results will influence the BJP’s 2024 state election candidates.

As tempting as it may be for the Congress and the BJP’s detractors, imposing a bigger national meaning on the Karnataka outcome is analytically wrong and strategically irresponsible.

First, apparent. After three years of the Narendra Modi government, when people purchased the notion of a “double engine” sarkar, state and national elections have taken different paths.

In 2018, all opposition leaders celebrated HD Kumaraswamy becoming chief minister in Bengaluru. In 2019, the BJP won the state. In December, the Congress formed governments in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan. Four months later, the BJP won 62 of 65 seats in the three states.

Karnataka voters have clearly chosen Siddaramaiah for Bengaluru and Modi for Delhi again, according to anecdotal evidence. The Congress should not assume that their achievement would guarantee a win in the state next year.

The second reason to be careful about extending Karnataka’s results to the national stage is that the state’s political conditions were considerably different from those of both parties nationally.

In Delhi, the BJP has a popular administration and a strong leader, unlike in Bengaluru. In Karnataka, Dalits, tribals, and other backward classes (OBCs) supported the Congress, but in other states where the BJP gets its Lok Sabha strength, same subaltern socioeconomic groups support the party.

In these state elections, the Congress won more women votes, but on the national stage, notably in north, west, central, and eastern India, confidence in Modi’s agenda and welfare programmes have moved the women vote to the BJP.

In Karnataka, the BJP’s internal splits hurt the campaign, but when the election is about Modi, they don’t. In Karnataka, corruption damaged the BJP’s reputation, but Modi’s adversaries underestimate his honesty. Rahul Gandhi has failed to represent the Opposition nationally, but the Congress in Karnataka might portray a strong and anchored local leadership.

In Karnataka, the Congress could localize issues down to the assembly segment, but in Lok Sabha polls, fighting 543 different elections based on local candidates and local issues failed in 2019. A larger national message and national leadership are needed. In Karnataka, the Congress could rely on the fact that Hindutva has historically had little popularity outside of the coastal region, but in many other parts of the nation, it is gaining ground.

Taken together, the Congress cannot easily recreate the Karnataka model in 2024. However, state elections must be understood and respected. State governments in India have constitutional rights and democratic legitimacy from voters.

Karnataka’s verdict’s significance is not in 2024. It’s because India’s electoral system allows smaller parties to defeat stronger ones. Indian federalism is strong, and a state’s political sensibility might differ from the national sentiment. Voters have proven that they will penalize governments that don’t fulfill their constitutional and popular responsibilities and reward political parties that can effectively communicate and collect their concerns.

Karnataka’s importance rests in ensuring that no party can take political power for granted and Indian democracy remains crucial.

Newsdesk

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