BJP leaders in Karnataka had come to expect the worst as the campaign for the assembly election wound down early this month. Yet the result shocked them. For, they were expecting a defeat, not a rout. Behind closed doors, they spoke about it as the price of sacking BS Yeddyurappa.
That may be the easy way to explain the rout. Five years of BJP rule largely meant corrupt practices, crony capitalism, mis-governance and disconnect with the electorate. The BJP paid the price; voters mandated it to be in the Opposition, it’s strength less than half of what propelled it to power in 2008.
The Congress took delight in this mandate. Without a grand strategy to nail the ruling party, without a high-decibel campaign, without offering a clear alternative, it won a clear majority.
What delights the grand old party should cause it worry at the national level. For the issues that damaged the BJP in Karnataka are the same that haunt the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre.
Colour-coded maps of 2008 and 2013 results will show regions dominated by saffron then replaced by green, nowhere is it as stark as in the mining region. The message is clear: the voter will not pardon corruption.
The BJP believed that “showing the door to the corrupt Yeddyurappa” meant the party had been “cleansed”. Clearly, the electorate did not buy into this argument. The public disgust with corruption was worsened by mis-governance.
Indeed, Yeddyurappa symbolises all of it. At the end of the day, he was able to win only six seats. He damaged the BJP in 36 others. That’s electoral arithmetic. Beyond the arithmetic, this mandate is about anger against corruption.