Political twists, Karnataka to Delhi

The rout of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Karnataka Assembly elections was far from unexpected. But despite the Congress’ success in Karnataka, the first state in southern India the Hindu nationalist party has ruled on its own for five years, the mood within India’s “grand old party” is far from exultant. Why?

Could it be that sections within the Congress see in the defeat of the BJP in Karnataka a portent of the shape of things to come?
For public consumption, both the BJP and the Congress is claiming that they are ready to face the general elections. However, sections within the Congress realise that the party is going to lose significantly. And BJP insiders concede that losses for
the Congress may not translate into commensurate gains for their party.
In Karnataka, the BJP presumably thought that B.S. Yeddyurappa’s departure and the arrest of former minister and Bellary mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy would rid the party of some of the taint that had got stuck to it for running an incredibly corrupt administration. The saffron party argued that sections of the mining mafia in the state were affiliated to the Congress — the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Anil Lad, for instance, has interests in a company that has been accused of illegal mining.
The logic that was used in Tamil Nadu two years ago that the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) was as corrupt as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and that the voters should, therefore, vote for the incumbent regime, failed to convince voters as AIAIDMK came to power. A similar logic failed in Karnataka too — as voters threw out the BJP.
Contrary to what is often claimed, neither is public memory all that short, nor are ordinary voters all that easily amenable to influence when sought to be allured by distribution of cash, clothes, liquor or television sets. As the apocryphal story runs, many of Tamil Nadu’s voters who received colour TV sets from the DMK used these to only watch Jaya TV. Bribing voters en masse is not all that easy. For that matter, ordinary people are not that dumb as to perceive contesting candidates in stark black and white terms. The aam aadmi, poor and illiterate s/he may be, is able to distinguish between shades of grey and the “lesser evil”. S/he also knows how not to waste her/his vote on someone who has no chance of winning — watch out, Aam Aadmi Party.
As in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal in May 2011, Karnataka’s voters were decisive in the manner they voted. Yes, the breakaway parties led by Mr Yeddyurappa and B. Sriramulu (one-time close associate of the Gali Reddy brothers) did cut into the BJP’s potential vote base, but the spoilers merely reinforced a trend. The voters of Karnataka by and large ignored the infighting in the Congress and did not entirely cast aside the Janata Dal (Secular). One is not arguing here that caste affiliations did not matter.
But if there was one overwhelming factor that influenced voting patterns in Karnataka, it was apparent to all. It was a vote against corruption.
In 1989, there was no dearth of Congress supporters who argued that the corruption allegations against Rajiv Gandhi’s government would not matter to voters. They were proved wrong. India’s youngest-ever Prime Minister, who commanded the biggest-ever majority in the Lok Sabha for this party, was humiliated at the hustings. Sections of his party, now run by his widow, are reading the writing on the wall. Some are arguing that it may be better for the party if elections take place in November and not April 2014 — the party cuts its losses and could hope to bounce back to power after suffering a “temporary” setback — as the Congress indeed did in 1977, 1989 and 1996, before returning to power in 1980, 1991 and 2004 respectively.
The discomfiture of the BJP in Karnataka is no solace for the Congress. The likelihood that the position of the Congress in the Lok Sabha will worsen considerably after the next elections does not preclude the possibility that the gains to the BJP will also not be substantial. This would mean that we are once again looking at a non-Congress, non-BJP coalition coming to power in New Delhi with one or the other of the two so-called national parties having no choice but to provide outside support to the much-maligned Third Front coalition.
It is interesting to note how political commentators and ideologues on both the Right and the Left of the political spectrum appear to be gradually veering round to this viewpoint, some almost reluctantly.
Any bets on who is likely to become the next Prime Minister of India? Nitish Kumar? Naveen Patnaik? A darker horse? Back to Karnataka again. Who was most surprised when H.D. Deve Gowda became the head of the world’s largest democracy in May 1996? Answer: Deve Gowda himself. Keep guessing.

The writer is an educator and commentator

Post new comment

<form action="/comment/reply/233662" accept-charset="UTF-8" method="post" id="comment-form"> <div><div class="form-item" id="edit-name-wrapper"> <label for="edit-name">Your name: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <input type="text" maxlength="60" name="name" id="edit-name" size="30" value="Reader" class="form-text required" /> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-mail-wrapper"> <label for="edit-mail">E-Mail Address: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <input type="text" maxlength="64" name="mail" id="edit-mail" size="30" value="" class="form-text required" /> <div class="description">The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.</div> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-comment-wrapper"> <label for="edit-comment">Comment: <span class="form-required" title="This field is required.">*</span></label> <textarea cols="60" rows="15" name="comment" id="edit-comment" class="form-textarea resizable required"></textarea> </div> <fieldset class=" collapsible collapsed"><legend>Input format</legend><div class="form-item" id="edit-format-1-wrapper"> <label class="option" for="edit-format-1"><input type="radio" id="edit-format-1" name="format" value="1" class="form-radio" /> Filtered HTML</label> <div class="description"><ul class="tips"><li>Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.</li><li>Allowed HTML tags: &lt;a&gt; &lt;em&gt; &lt;strong&gt; &lt;cite&gt; &lt;code&gt; &lt;ul&gt; &lt;ol&gt; &lt;li&gt; &lt;dl&gt; &lt;dt&gt; &lt;dd&gt;</li><li>Lines and paragraphs break automatically.</li></ul></div> </div> <div class="form-item" id="edit-format-2-wrapper"> <label class="option" for="edit-format-2"><input type="radio" id="edit-format-2" name="format" value="2" checked="checked" class="form-radio" /> Full HTML</label> <div class="description"><ul class="tips"><li>Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.</li><li>Lines and paragraphs break automatically.</li></ul></div> </div> </fieldset> <input type="hidden" name="form_build_id" id="form-b6c4631d424d0f28005208994db1fb55" value="form-b6c4631d424d0f28005208994db1fb55" /> <input type="hidden" name="form_id" id="edit-comment-form" value="comment_form" /> <fieldset class="captcha"><legend>CAPTCHA</legend><div class="description">This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.</div><input type="hidden" name="captcha_sid" id="edit-captcha-sid" value="63549757" /> <input type="hidden" name="captcha_response" id="edit-captcha-response" value="NLPCaptcha" /> <div class="form-item"> <div id="nlpcaptcha_ajax_api_container"><script type="text/javascript"> var NLPOptions = {key:'c4823cf77a2526b0fba265e2af75c1b5'};</script><script type="text/javascript" src="http://call.nlpcaptcha.in/js/captcha.js" ></script></div> </div> </fieldset> <span class="btn-left"><span class="btn-right"><input type="submit" name="op" id="edit-submit" value="Save" class="form-submit" /></span></span> </div></form>

No Articles Found

No Articles Found

No Articles Found

I want to begin with a little story that was told to me by a leading executive at Aptech. He was exercising in a gym with a lot of younger people.

Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen didn’t make the cut. Neither did Shaji Karun’s Piravi, which bagged 31 international awards.