Its almost been one week since the verdict of the Karnataka Assembly Elections have come out. The Saffron forces have come to power south of the Vindhyas, for the first time and that too almost on their own. While the BJP had been coming upfront since quite some time now, this time around they have consolidated their position. The BJP has won 110 seats on its own, with the Congress(I) getting 80 seats and the JD-S reduced to a paltry 28. The Independents, all of them rebels got 6 seats.This verdict also is a time for serious introspection on the part of the secular forces because the rise of the Sangh Brigade in the state has far-reaching implications.
First of all, the people of Karnataka voted for stability and they saw the viable option in the BJP. In fact, the BJP was also able to play on the 'Great Betrayal' lament put forward by them, wherein the JD(S)-with whom they had shared power in the earlier Assembly-had refused to stick to the agreement of transfer of power. Playing on that emotion, the BJP carried forward their lament through out the election campaign. Also, in the Kumaraswamy government, the BJP as an allaince partner had got plump portfolios which they used to good effect. Also, the BJP by projecting Yeddyurappa as the Chief Ministerial candidate was also able to put forth the face of the party before the people of the State. Looking at the verdict, it is serious to note the growth of the BJP in many areas of the State. Taking Bangalore, always seen as a Congress stronghold, the Saffron forces emerged victorious in many metro constituencies taking away many from the Congress. The BJP also managed to retain its hold in Hyderabad Karnataka, Mumbai Karnataka and Central Karnataka-the Hubli-Dharwad region. It also made its presence felt in South Karnataka and maintained its position in Coastal Karnataka. It is also has to be noted that the BJP has expanded at the cost of the JD(S), whereby the latter has lost several seats. Though the traditional Hassan belt of the Gowda family has stood by it thsi time too, the disastrous performance by the JD(S) also has lots to do with the kind of opportunistic alliance it struck with the BJP under Kumaraswamy.
While the communal riots in Mangalore, Bangalore and Hubli happened under the BJP-JD(S) government, that was not the sole reason for the triumph of the BJP in these elections. Rather than aggressive posturing and rhetorical campaign on Hindutva that was seen during the Gujarat polls of 2002, the party also sought to take on the basic issues that also struck a chord with the voter. In fact, they had projected Yeddyurappa as the 'farmers' leader' and tried to ensure that the BJP be largely seen as a 'rural party' in the State.Building up the tempo by marking out this angle, the BJP was able to make good gains. However, the win for the Saffron forces was also helped by the incompeteness of the Congress. The lack of any vigour or meticulosuness in the Congress campaign machinery speaks volumes for such a performance. Typical of the politics of the bourgeiose parties, the dissidence within the ranks of the Congress party. Infighting within the party over ticket distribution even saw their senior leader and former Railway Minister, Jaffer Sharief resign from the party, only to return later after pacifications by the 'High Command'. Such squabbles further disoriented the party, which was biggest secular party. Even the bringing in of S.M.Krishna, who resigned as the governor of Maharashtra to oversee the polls did not help matters. While the Congress(I) did improve its performance from last year winning more seats and retaining its vote share, these efforts could not translate into a performance to beat the BJP. The pro-liberalization measures of the UPA government, breaking the back of the common man, have also played a significant part in these elections. The ever-Spiralling rise in prices has been a single point of attack on the UPA government, that percolated down to the State. Thus, it further damaged the prospects of the Congress(I). The party was thereby, never able to provide an alternative to the BJP.
The Secular consolidation that could have stopped the BJP, was also very weak. The JD(S) under Devegowda and Kumaraswamy through its opportunistic politics and alliance turned themselves into turn-coats. The BJP has in fact won more seats from the JD(S), wherein the constituencies that voted for the latter in 2004 have turned to the former this time around. The loss of several seats for the JD(S) is purely due to such unscruplous politics. In fact, the word Secular suffixed to them has been rendered completely meaningless. The tag of Kingmakers attached to Devegowda had also been made obsolete, in these elections. Tired of its his hip-hop, the mandate was clearly against him.
Having said all this, the ride ahead is also difficult for the BJP. This is very much evident in the ministry of Yeddyurappa that was sworn in. Consisting of 30 members, all the Independents who pledged their support except one, have gained berths as cabinet ministers. Hence, the need to get the simple majority of 113 that forced the BJP to seek their support has become an 'albatross around its neck'. The need now for the secular forces is to do the proper introspection and play the role of an effective as well as vigilant opposition, keeping this government at the toes, thereby raising the voice of the people. With one more year left to the General Elections, this verdict should also be a wake up call for the UPA government at the Centre, to pull up its socks and get its act together. In its pursuit of the Neo-Liberal policies and seeking for a strategic alliance with the imperialist US, the picture of 'RIsing India' put forth has all indications of going the 'Shining India' way of the NDA. The fact that such 'Indias' have been decisively defeated by the people of the country, has repeatedly been forgotten for the sake of convenience.
Post Script: However, despite several such wake up calls in the recent past, it doesn't seem that the UPA has woken up from its deep slumber.