Opposition will see Karnataka as a beginning
By being the dominant force in Indian politics since 2013, the BJP has managed to become the common enemy to parties in the opposition. The BJP’s futile quest to form its 21st state government (in Karnataka) has made 2019 interestingeditorials Updated: May 20, 2018 18:34 IST
The triumphalism on display from opposition parties of all hues over recent happenings in Karnataka can be attributed to the psychological and electoral dominance the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has had over them (with a few exceptions) since late 2013. The BJP wins from losing positions, so to see it lose from a winning one, something most people associated with other parties, including the Congress, is strange.
Understandably, given the rarity of such victories, the Opposition will likely treat this week’s swearing-in of HD Kumaraswamy as Karnataka chief minister as both a show of strength and an important get-together ahead of 2019.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent months of a Congress-led unified, multi-party front, and, separately, of a non-Congress, non-BJP federal front to take on the BJP in 2019.
The Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party seem to have already sewed up an alliance, with the former focusing on the Lok Sabha and the latter on the assembly, if the whispers coming out of Lucknow are any indication. Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Telangana Rashtra Samithi head and Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao have been trying to mobilise support for a united third front. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) seems to be over its internal differences and open to allying with parties of all shades to take down the BJP. It is a party whose influence and political relationships far exceed its electoral punching power. Indeed, with the exception of the TMC, it probably has a good equation with most regional parties.
The natural problem in any alternative front to the BJP is one of leadership. Just ahead of the election in Karnataka, Congress president Rahul Gandhi expressed his willingness to be prime minister, a move that immediately made him a rival to the BSP’s Ms Mayawati and TMC’s Ms Banerjee , both of whom entertain similar ambitions. By agreeing to be the minor partner in the alliance in Karnataka to the Janata Dal (Secular), despite having more than double the number of seats the latter has in the assembly, the Congress may have undone some of the damage wrought by this comment, but the larger leadership question remains unresolved.
Resolving that question ahead of 2019 will be key, but that will provide the BJP little comfort. By being the dominant force in Indian politics since 2013, the BJP has managed to become the common enemy. Its electoral successes since then have convinced most opposition parties that they do not have a chance on their own. In effect, it has created its own opposition.
There’s another important aspect about Karnataka — it has highlighted the fact that the BJP isn’t invincible. The party’s inability to form a government despite having the largest number of seats in the House is unlikely to have gone unnoticed.
The BJP’s futile quest to form its 21st state government has made 2019 interesting.
First Published: May 20, 2018 18:34 IST