Karnataka dénouement suggests what the strategies of the main players for the General Election will be
The most significant line in the emotional resignation speech of BS Yeddyurappa after a Chief Ministerial tenure of just two-and-half days as he admitted he had failed to muster the numbers required for the BJP to prove its majority on the floor of the Karnataka Assembly on Saturday was, by all accounts, his promise to visit all corners of the States and work on farmer/Dalit issues to ensure 28 out of 28 Lok Sabha seats for the party in the 2019 General Election (emphasis ours). In doing so, the veteran BJP leader, who has already turned 75, the informal retirement-from-active politics being implemented under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah’s leadership of the BJP, was clearly indicating that any sympathy he and the party may get from the people for being denied power despite emerging as the clear winner and the single-largest party in the State would be actively mined for votes in the Lok Sabha poll. The ganging-up of the Congress and the Janata Dal Secular (JDS), the losers at the hustings, to prevent the BJP from assuming office was the other issue touched upon by Yeddyurappa in his speech. Obviously, it rankles, and will continue to do so for a while. But that is the first-past-the-post system for you and there’s no point complaining because it cuts both ways. It also needs to be said that Yeddy, as the English media has termed the BJP’s Karnataka stalwart, is likely to be kept in place as the undisputed leader of the party in the State only till the Lok Sabha poll after which a new generation of leaders will take over.
For the BJP, however, there are some issues that need pondering over. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, may have been the guiding principle behind its making a bid for power, and certainly it was the winner of the Assembly poll though it was not an outright win. But then the other adage — those who live by sword tend to die by it — must also be kept in mind. On balance, and in retrospect, the sympathy and traction for the party would have been immeasurably greater if after mature reflection the party leadership had managed to convince itself that the numbers just didn’t add up the day after the results were announced itself.
Now, an otherwise fractious coalition under HD Kumaraswamy of the JDS and a depleted Congress will likely be cemented for longer than it otherwise would have lasted, especially given BJP efforts made to try and wean away their legislators. Both parties are mortally afraid of the political consequences of falling individually if they don’t stand together. As for the Congress, it has at least proven that there is still some fight left in it. The organisation, resources, planning and networks of senior leaders which were required to keep their flock together were activated and delivered. The initial alacrity shown by the party under Rahul Gandhi in reaching out to the JDS even before all the results were in but it was apparent the BJP would fall short of the majority-mark too shows that there is nothing like the threat of imminent political irrelevance to focus the mind. In sum, the stock of the Congress and Rahul Gandhi has gone up, even among regional parties which now know that despite the party being a long-term adversary it is showing signs of being serious about stopping the BJP.
Last but not least, Kumaraswamy and his father, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, can justifiably say ‘we told you so’ despite online memes about the tail wagging the dog already having gone viral!