Former Congress chief minister S.M. Krishna was candid in defeat when he spoke of how lack of a coherent strategy — putting up the wrong candidates and leaving state leaders out of the loop — all contributed to the party’s humiliating show in the Karnataka elections. In the other corner was a resurgent BJP raising relevant local issues like power for farmers, price rise, stability and fielding a strong chief ministerial candidate, B.S. Yeddyurappa. It was clear that it was no contest at all. In what was a return to good old-fashioned politics, the BJP tripped up the Congress on almost all fronts and breached the South for the first time with a comprehensive and well-deserved victory.
The Congress, on the other hand, appears to have taken these elections for granted with the Congress President dropping by only in the final phases of the polls. Yes, the Congress did roll out its big guns but they refused to see the all-too-evident writing on the wall. The earlier power-sharing arrangement between the Janata Dal(S) led by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and the BJP broke down when the former refused to cede power to the latter, reneging on an earlier arrangement. This generated a great deal of sympathy for the BJP and that explains why Mr Deve Gowda’s party has come in a poor third. The BJP was quick off the bat in reading the signals coming in from farmers across the state who have been badly affected by the agrarian crisis. Cutting across caste and community lines, many of them rallied around Mr Yeddyurappa who comes from a farming caste in the hope that he would be able to redress some of their grievances. While it is no secret that there are deep dissensions within the state’s BJP, the party leadership was able to keep this from spoiling its chances.
Coming as this defeat does at a time when general elections are drawing closer, the UPA’s morale is bound to be affected. Its poor showing will send out further signals that the UPA is out of touch with the issues that connect with people. The Congress now has to worry about the BJP having opened its innings in so convincing a manner in the South and how to rally its fractious allies together in time for the general elections. Broadcasting its achievements will cut no ice unless it can get a handle on what the aam admi wants. Something the BJP clearly got right, judging by the poll results.