Karnataka election results 2018: 5 reasons why the Congress fared badly
Although uncertainty prevails over government formation in Karnataka ,with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as the single largest party in the assembly but seemingly falling short of a majority, the outcome of the May 12 assembly election has come as a major blow to the Congress. The incumbent had been hoping to retain power in Karnataka, the last big state in its control, in the absence of any visible anti-incumbency sentiment against the Siddaramaiah government. The grand old party suffered major losses because of following reasons:
1) Siddaramaiah’s Lingayat card backfired
The Congress’ gamble of trying to win over the Lingayats, the largest community in the state, by offering them the status of a minority religion, failed to deliver. Lingayats, who make up 15% of the state’s population, have stood firmly behind the BJP and its chief ministerial candidate, BS Yeddyurappa. They moved away from the Congress in 1990 when Rajiv Gandhi unceremoniously removed Veerendra Patil as the chief minister. Siddaramaiah threw his weight behind the long-standing demand by a section of Lingayats, hoping to wean them away from the BJP. A majority of the Lingayats saw the Congress move as an attempt to divide the Hindus.
2) Siddaramaiah’s AHINDA strategy failed
The AHINDA (Kannada acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits) did not work this time. The Muslims consolidated in favour of the Congress, fearing the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD (S), might go with the BJP in case of a hung verdict. The Congress also succeeded in projecting the JD(S) as the B-team of the BJP, especially among the Muslims. However, the Dalits and tribals did not repose their trust in the Congress. The Dalit vote got divided between the Congress and the JD(S). Siddaramaiah’s move to unveil a separate flag for Karnataka, besides making Kannada language mandatory in schools, failed to yield the desired electoral dividends for the Congress.
3) Complacency on the part of Siddaramaiah and other state leaders
Though his welfare schemes appeared to have worked well on the ground, Siddaramaiah turned complacent in the wake of surveys that showed the Congress would return to power in the absence of any anti-incumbency against his government. A large number of ministers restricted themselves to their constituencies. Siddaramaiah also campaigned selectively and not across the state. There was too much dependence on Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who undertook a Jan Ashirward Yatra spread over nine phases across Karnataka.
The Congress seemed to fight the election like a united team, but bitter infighting was under way among different leaders. In many constituencies such as Mandya, some Congress leaders worked against the party’s official candidate. Similarly, senior leaders like G Parameshwara aspired to become the chief minister in case the party fell short of majority. Siddaramaiah, a former JD (S) leader, has always been considered an outsider in the Congress.
5) Organisational weaknesses
The Karnataka reverses have again exposed organisational weaknesses in the Congress. Losing state after state, India’s oldest political party has not been able to address the issue. Despite being in power in Karnataka, the Congress organisation was missing on the ground in comparison to the BJP, which had the backing of he Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. Moreover, Congress workers at the booth level were not empowered and remained at the mercy of senior leaders. The Congress has suffered electoral losses due to lack of booth-level management not only in Karnataka, but other states as well. Moreover, a funds crunch and poor selection of candidates also affected the party.