Three key takeaways from the Karnataka results | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Three key takeaways from the Karnataka results

May 13, 2023 03:57 PM IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party which had emerged as the single largest party in the 2018 elections has finished 70short of the Congress’s tally this time

The Congress has pulled off a convincing victory in the Karnataka assembly elections winning 135 assembly constituencies (ACs) out of the total 224. The Congress’s vote share is 43%, the highest it has had in the state since the 1989 assembly elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which had emerged as the single largest party in the 2018 elections has finished 70short of the Congress’s tally this time. The Janata Dal (Secular) or JD (S) has recorded its worst ever performance in terms of vote share since its electoral debut in 1999. Is there a bigger message from the Karnataka elections apart from these summary statistics?

Congress workers celebrate. (PTI)
Congress workers celebrate. (PTI)

Here are three things that are worth highlighting.

Hindustan Times - your fastest source for breaking news! Read now.

The return of Ahinda

With 135 ACs and 43%vote share, this is the best ever election result for the Congress in the state since 1989. How did the Congress achieve this? One plausible explanation is the resurrection of the Ahinda (a Kannada acronym for Alpasankhyataru or minorities, Hindulidavaru or backward classes, and Dalitaru or Dalits). This was a strategy created and perfected by Congress leader Devraj Urs in the 1970s as a way to counter the influence of Lingayats and Vokkaligas, the two dominant communities in the state.

Is there a statistical basis to the theory that the Congress’s 2023 victory is based on a resurrection of the Ahinda coalition? The easy answer is to look at social-group wise support from India Today-AXIS exit poll numbers which accurately predicted the overall vote share of the Congress. The Congress has a massive vote share among Ahinda communities.

A region-wise analysis of vote shares further underlines this fact. Central Karnataka and southern Karnataka are considered to be the biggest strongholds of the Lingayats and Vokkaligas. In both these regions, the Congress has made gains without anything to suggest that the Lingayats or the Vokkaligas have deserted the BJP or the JD(S) in a big way. This is a clear indication that the non-Lingayat non-Vokkaliga voter has shifted to the Congress from these two parties.

See Chart 1: AXIS caste-wise support numbers

Limits of Hindutva

From the politics around banning hijabs in schools to evoking Bajrang Bali in the campaign, the BJP made a big pitch for Hindutva to contain the Congress in these elections. The results show that the strategy might have backfired instead of working. Three factors can be listed in support of this argument. One, the Congress has gained in terms of vote share in every subregion of the state. Two, the BJP has lost vote share even in coastal Karnataka which has always seen a high level of communal polarisation. Three, and this is the most telling stat for the BJP in these elections, is that while an aggressive Hindutva pitch can help the BJP gain some ground in regions where it has historically been weak, it is not enough to retain the voters who make the difference between victory and defeat. This is best seen by AC-wise change in vote share of the BJP between 2018 and 2023. While the BJP has gained vote share in ACs where it had a less than 40% vote share, its vote share has decreased in ACs where it had a vote share higher than 40% in 2018.

See Chart 2: Change in BJP seat share

Economic pain was key in driving anti-incumbency

In addition to its Ahinda plank, the Congress also a host of economic promises aimed at providing relief to the poor. Its five guarantees included cash transfers for women and unemployed, free food grains and subsidised electricity and LPG cylinders. One way to check whether these promises have worked is to compare the Congress’s seat share with the per capita GSDP of every sub-region. The Congress’s subregion-wise seat share is the highest in the poorest regions of the state. This evidence of economic pain among the poor translating into political anger will worry the BJP the most, for it could easily play out at the national level.

See Chart 3: Congress subregion wise relative seat share with share of top 20%

Unveiling 'Elections 2024: The Big Picture', a fresh segment in HT's talk show 'The Interview with Kumkum Chadha', where leaders across the political spectrum discuss the upcoming general elections. Watch Now!

Get Updates on India News, Farmers Protest Live alongwith the Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    author-default-90x90

    Roshan Kishore is the Data and Political Economy Editor at Hindustan Times. His weekly column for HT Premium Terms of Trade appears every Friday.

SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, February 22, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On