The biggest surprise of the Karnataka assembly polls isn't as much the widely projected Congress win as BJP trailing behind Deve Gowda's JD(S) at number three.
More than the shock of losing its first-ever government in the south, it would be the timing of the humiliating failure, as it comes at a time when it appeared that it had put Congress in a defensive mode over corruption scams ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
While it remains to be seen how the Muslim vote split between the Congress and JD(S) in the state with Narendra Modi's presence in the campaign, it is clear that Muslim consolidation would have aided anti-incumbency if the Congress does well in the RSS-BJP pockets of coastal Karnataka, reinforcing the belief that Modi is a polarising figure. It will also detract from Modi’s rising popularity as the BJP’s front-running prime ministerial candidate.
The results also provide the Congress the whip to lash out at the BJP with the same rhetoric the latter has been using to undermine Rahul Gandhi. The BJP has termed Rahul Gandhi’s campaigns in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh as flop shows.
Now that the Modi factor has not made any difference in Karnataka, like in Himachal Pradesh, the Congress can repay the BJP in the same coin.
A Congress win is also poised to blunt the BJP’s current onslaught against the UPA at the Centre. Minister of information and broadcasting Manish Tewari on Wednesday cleverly used the Karnataka results to this effect.
He told reporters, “The people of Karnataka have voted. If you really look back, over the manner in which Parliament has been disrupted in the last fortnight, it is very evident that the entire charade was orchestrated for the Karnataka elections.”
BJP spokesman, however, was quick to dismiss “this accidental fluke victory of the Congress” as the result of “the split in BJP votes”.