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Next stop Delhi, says confident BJP

A victory in Karnataka means the opening of a gateway to the South that could also hold the key to the door to Delhi — as BJP leaders would believe it. Shekhar Iyer has the details.
Hindustan Times | By Shekhar Iyer, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 26, 2008 03:02 AM IST

After victories in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh that came amid the naming of LK Advani as BJP’s Prime Minister candidate, the party badly needed a win in Karnataka. And Sunday’s results could be a wish fulfillment for more than one reason and propel the party towards pitchforking itself as the most fancied to win the next Lok Sabha polls.

The BJP wanted to show that it’s riding a winning cycle that would stop only when the NDA is back in power in 2009. More importantly, a victory in Karnataka means the opening of a gateway to the South that could also hold the key to the door to Delhi — as BJP leaders would believe it.

‘Beyond Vindhyas’ was often referred by BJP men as being synonymous with an impregnable fortress, that Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani wanted to be scaled. Karnataka among all southern states held the potential to give it a foothold. Today, as the man of the moment, B.S. Yeddyurappa put it, “It was their dream (to install a BJP government in the south) that came true”.

More than getting to rule Karnataka on its terms, the BJP wanted a clear vote against the Congress-led UPA at the Centre. It did not want an overtly saffron campaign even as it wanted to get local caste arithmetic right. The party was more keen to capitalise on the Manmohan Singh government’s problems with the economy, crisis in agriculture and internal security. The blasts in Jaipur were as seen as ‘handy’ developments to enable the party to assert that the UPA is soft on terrorists.

Advani, however, minced no words in saying the Congress would be indulging in “self-delusion” if it thought that the people of Karnataka were influenced by local factors.

Future strategy

As for the future, BJP leaders see Karnataka results as giving an added impetus to get a win-win strategy off the ground in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan where polls are due later this year. In these states, the party and local government will have to overcome anti-incumbency factor to keep the victory cycle moving.

Also, they need to project a strong leadership. The BJP will waste no time to say Karnataka has shown Advani’s projection as PM candidate is working to the Congress’ disadvantage. At the state level too, a similar projection is needed.

The BJP has realised that a genuine unity among its leaders — as witnessed between Yeddyurappa and Ananth Kumar — and toning up of its organisation at booth level and micro-election management can work wonders.

Arun Jaitley as BJP general secretary brought back to Karnataka his expertise, based on near-accurate surveys to gauge voter preferences of candidates and issues and the opposition’s weaknesses. The party would now like to replicate this formula that involves a synergy of feedback from private, BJP and RSS sources.

No wonder, when BJP chief Rajnath Singh addressed the media after the results, he was flanked by Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj to send out the message of unity. It was unlike after Gujarat polls when the credit for the win was not as wholesomely lavished on Modi.

At the same time, BJP leaders do not underplay the foray in Karnataka, which is significant in its own terms. Even in 2004 when the BJP managed to emerge the single largest party with 79 seats, it found the ‘gateway’ closed by the Congress and the JD(S) as they came together to keep it out of power.

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