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In Karnataka, Congress gets first ‘real win’ over BJP in four years, but electoral challenge persists

While analysts give Congress credit for outmanoeuvring the BJP, they point out that the party still needs to up its electoral game. After all, it did see its tally in the Karnataka assembly go down from 122 to 78.

india Updated: May 19, 2018 18:36 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress,Karnataka,Rahul Gandhi
Former Chief Minister & Congress leader Siddaramaiah meets congress leaders after Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa announce his resignation before the floor test, at Vidhana Soudha, in Bengaluru, on Saturday. (PTI Photo)

The Congress, after Bharatiya Janata Party leader B S Yeddyuruppa’s resignation as chief minister of Karnataka, is relieved, enthused and believes this marks the beginning of the turn of Indian politics towards ‘the centre’ for the first time since 2014.

But while analysts give Congress credit for outmanoeuvring the BJP, they point out that the party still needs to up its electoral game. After all, it did see its tally in the Karnataka assembly go down from 122 to 78.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the party had protected the voice of the people of Karnataka. “We will protect the voice of the people of this country, democracy, and institutions,” he said at the party headquarters in Delhi.

Alleging that PM Narendra Modi himself embodied corruption and had authorised the purchase of MLAs, Gandhi said developments in the state had also shown the limits of his arrogance. “I hope the BJP and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh)have learnt that the institutions of the country and the will of the people cannot be disrespected.”

Another Congress leader, closely involved in the Karnataka campaign, who did not wish to be named, said that this was the party’s first real triumph after 2014 and had transformed the mood within.

He claimed that the party had notched up multiple achievements in quick time : forming a quick alliance with Janata Dal (Secular) even as the result was coming in; creating the political and public mood against the Governor’s decision and immediately moving court to check it; winning a legal victory and shortening the time period Yeddyuruppa would need to prove his majority; keeping the entire flock of MLAs together; ‘exposing’ BJP’s attempts to poach legislators; and finally, creating a situation where the CM had to resign.

“We won in Bihar (in 2015) but that was more Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad’s achievement. We won in Punjab but that was primarily against the Aam Aadmi Party and Akalis. We won in Goa, Manipur and Meghlaya but we could not form the government. In this case, we have politically shown to the BJP that we know how to the play this game, and we know how to beat you at it.”

Pawan Khera, a Congress spokesperson, said the outcome would have significant political implications. “We are confident of winning Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan which will set the stage for 2019. We will have momentum, we will have like-minded friends, and we are sure that 2019 will mark a turning point in Indian politics - a turn to the Centre.”

Analysts gave the Congress credit for Karnataka, despite being behind on the electoral curve.

Zoya Hasan, an eminent political scientist who has written several books on the Indian political party system and the Congress, said, “Karnataka shows that the Congress has done a BJP on BJP. It had done so, on a minor scale, during the Ahmed Patel Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat. But given the scale and importance of Karnataka, this win is extremely significant. The BJP itself appears taken aback by this sleeping giant waking up from its slumber.” She added that it shows that if the party wants to fight, it can fight.

But Hasan added that this cannot be extrapolated to suggest that the Congress has made a comeback. “The real comeback has to happen electorally. They have to win the popular mandate. In this case, they did not. It is a tactical victory but does not compensate for the loss on the ground.”

First Published: May 19, 2018 18:34 IST