Will the Karnataka election outcome disturb the current arrangement of the two national political alliances? This is the question the UPA coalition’s principal party, the Congress, has started to contemplate.
“The Congress needs to introspect on the Karnataka outcome, but political formations claiming to occupy non-BJP space need to introspect more seriously. They achieve nothing for themselves but frequently ensure the BJP’s success,” said senior Congress leader Abhishekh Manu Singhvi. Party general secretary in-charge of Karnataka Prithviraj Chavan too said that the Congress’s failure to reach the halfway mark was because secular votes got divided between the Congress and non-BJP parties.
The Karnataka result is inevitably viewed in the context of the long, dry run that the Congress and UPA constituents have had since assuming power in 2004. Of the 20 state elections held since, the Congress and UPA constituents have won in only nine. Observers feel that — ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and buoyed by the Karnataka win — the saffron leadership will go out of its way to expand the NDA alliance by wooing parties like the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and possibly the AIADMK.
The Congress camp is unwilling to accept this logic as being tenable. “Political history has shown that extrapolation of state results on national politics is invariably misleading,” Singhvi said. His party colleague, Manish Tiwari, said it was premature to comment at this stage.
UPA allies are also maintaining a brave front. “The Karnataka elections were fought on local issues and the outcome is not likely to have an adverse impact in the next Lok Sabha elections,” said senior Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Devendra Prasad Yadav. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader D.P. Tripathi too said the UPA coalition would come up trumps in the parliamentary elections. He predicted that the BJP would have an adverse poll outcome in the year-end assembly elections.
Over the next few days, Congress leaders will be identifying the reasons that led to the party’s loss in Karnataka. “There were many organisational problems in the state,” said a senior leader, adding that the party’s policy of not projecting a chief ministerial candidate needed to be re-thought.
The party’s failure to capitalise on ‘Rahul magic’ is likely to be debated. In the run-up to assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the possible role of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in dividing up secular votes is also an issue that is likely to be looked at.