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Karnataka Election Results 2023: What Win Means To Congress And Loss To BJP

For 38 years, Karnataka has not voted an incumbent government to power. The Congress win undoubtedly gives a morale boost to the party ahead of the much-awaited 2024 general elections. But what does this win mean for the Congress party, and what does the loss mean to the BJP? Read on!

By The Probe Staff
New Update

Karnataka Congress Leaders - The Probe Karnataka Congress leaders Siddaramaiah (left) and DK Shivkumar (right), along with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and President Mallikarjun Kharge | Photo courtesy: @iamvijayvasanth | Twitter

The Congress today secured a comfortable lead crossing the halfway mark in the Karnataka state assembly elections. According to the latest figures put out by the Election Commission of India as of 6.30 p.m, in the 224-member assembly seats in the state, Congress is currently leading in 136 constituencies, BJP in 65 and the JDS in 19, with the others securing 4 seats.

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The fact that the Congress has managed to garner a comfortable lead has put the JDS in the backseat, which otherwise - as we have seen in the past - usually jumps in the fray to play the kingmaker. The Karnataka Chief Minister conceded defeat by saying that the Bharatiya Janata Party had been unable to make the mark, while the Congress could do it successfully.

For 38 years, Karnataka has not voted an incumbent government to power. The Congress win undoubtedly gives a morale boost to the party ahead of the much-awaited 2024 general elections. But what does this win mean for the Congress party, and what does the loss mean to the BJP?

What The Karnataka Victory Means For Congress

Rahul Gandhi - The Probe Rahul Gandhi | Photo courtesy: @INCKarnataka | Twitter

While the Congress is jubilant and celebrating its victory, the uncertainty over who will be the next Chief Minister has already sent the party headquarters into a tizzy. The party has yet to announce its chief ministerial candidate, but a wrong move while choosing between the two tall leaders will again cause a factional feud within the state unit.

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A tearful DK Shivkumar set the pitch for the top chair by saying, “I assured Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge that I will deliver Karnataka to their fold. I can’t forget Smt. Sonia Gandhi coming to meet me in jail when all the BJP people put me in jail. So, I chose to be in jail rather than have an office. That is the confidence the Gandhi family, the Congress party and the entire country bestowed on me.”

Veteran leader and DK Shivkumar’s opponent within the party, Siddaramaiah, said, “The people of Karnataka wanted a change because they were fed up with the BJP government. There was a strong anti-incumbency wave against the BJP government”. Siddaramaiah has already declared that this would be his last chief ministerial election. He served as the state’s Chief Minister for five years between 2013 and 2018. But choosing Siddaramaih also means antagonising DK Shivkumar and his followers. The party’s high command knows they will get stability in Karnataka only when they walk the tightrope, strike a balance, and not alienate either of the two leaders.

The Karnataka win also comes at a crucial time for the Congress after its leader Rahul Gandhi was convicted in a defamation case and disqualified as a Lok Sabha member. The party had also promised in its election manifesto that it would impose a ban on Bajrang Dal. The BJP and its supporters criticised the party for putting Bajrang Dal in the same bracket as the Popular Front of India (PFI). In one of his election campaigns in the state, Prime Minister Narendra Modi equated Bajrang Dal to Bajrang Bali and said that Congress had insulted the devotees of Bajrang Bali with such a move. Many also predicted that such efforts to stand up against Bajrang Dal would affect the Congress’s poll prospects. However, this, in fact, did not hurt the party, and it will use the Karnataka victory in the future to claim vindication over its stand against Bajrang Dal and right-wing extremism. Political analysts say this may further give a leg-up to the Congress to take a bold stand against BJP’s politics of polarisation ahead of the 2024 elections.

What The Karnataka Defeat Means For BJP

Narendra Modi - The Probe Narendra Modi | Photo courtesy: @BJP4India | Twitter

The BJP’s rule in Karnataka was replete with inter-party feuds and allegations of corruption. The BJP has been blamed repeatedly for promoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the entire electioneering process at the cost of devaluing its own state leadership.

Narendra Modi conducted several election rallies travelling the length and breadth of Karnataka in a bid to fight the anti-incumbency wave. But this has now worked against the BJP as the Karnataka loss is being straightaway attributed to the Modi magic not working anymore, which is detrimental to a party that is eyeing to win the 2024 general elections.

With Karnataka’s defeat, BJP has lost its last bastion in the south. Most of the BJP’s campaign was based on the party’s achievements at the national level. Not focusing on grassroots-level gains led to a situation where the voters could no longer connect with the party. The BJP is also blamed for not being able to woo the women voters in the state with a fancy manifesto, unlike the Congress, which promised various schemes: Gruha Jyoti scheme, where 200 units of free electricity per month would be given to every household; Gruha Lakshmi Scheme, wherein 2000 rupees per month would be given to every woman head of the household; Uchita Prayana Scheme, wherein free bus travel would be doled out to women across the state; Anna Bhagya, that allows 10 kilograms of free rice per person per month to BPL families; and the Yuva Nidhi Scheme, which gives 3000 rupees per month for unemployed graduates and 1500 rupees per month for unemployed diploma holders.

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The Basavaraj Bommai government’s decision to scrap the 4 per cent reservation for Muslims in the 2B category of the Other Backward Castes (OBC) in government jobs and education and to distribute it equally to the Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities was used by the Congress against the BJP. The government’s last-minute decision on the internal reservation within the SC community did not augur well for the BJP either. All this, coupled with the corruption and misgovernance allegations against the Bommai government, has shown that the BJP can no longer win elections only based on communal agenda and polarisation politics. Focusing on regional governance and development and showcasing regional leaders is perhaps more important than running a campaign solely banking on the image of PM Modi alone.