OPINION: Karnataka poll results – a mandate for change

Smita Mishra
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi felicitated by BJP top leaders after the Karnataka Assembly elections result 2018, in New Delhi, May 15, 2018. PTI

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi felicitated by BJP top leaders after the Karnataka Assembly elections result 2018, in New Delhi, May 15, 2018.
PTI

The Karnataka voter has spoken and even a cursory glance at the result tally leaves no doubt that it is a mandate for change. The BJP, after leading the tally with a clear majority figure for few hours, finally stopped at 104, a pretty good lead but 8 seats short of the magic figure. The Congress was a distant second at 78 and the JD (Secular) scored 38. So, the inclination of the Karnataka voter is not difficult to gauge. She has rejected the Congress led by Siddaramaiah. Interestingly, the JDS stands almost where it was with just a couple of seats less than the previous assembly.

Raj Bhavan holds the cards for now

The voter has spoken but it is the Raj Bhavan which holds all the cards for now. There are enough precedents to show that there is no ‘formula’ set out for the Governor in such a situation even though the SR Bommai case, the Punchhi Commission and the Sarkaria Commission have dwelt on the issue in detail. The Governor, who is also the custodian of the Constitution, has the power to examine the available options in hand, assess the people’s mandate in detail, examine who best reflects the mandate, who is best suited to give a stable govt to the people of the state and invite accordingly.

However, it is unfair for political parties to get too worked up or cast aspersions on a constitutional authority unnecessarily as ultimately the floor of the House is the only place where majority would be proved. Though it is believed that the party or the combination which gets invited first has an advantage, there have been enough instances in the past when the incumbent had to resign despite the invitation because he or she failed to prove majority on the floor. Stalwarts like Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Centre and Nitish Kumar in Bihar are cases in example. Therefore, whoever the Governor invites would ultimately serve the people of the state only if and when they enjoy the support across the half-way mark in the assembly.

Modi-Shah combine unbeatable

That Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unchallenged as the most successful campaigner and vote catcher in country has been established beyond doubt once again. We have seen Modi turning even hopeless political situations to the BJP’s advantage with his charismatic campaigning. However, some people had raised questions about the BJP’s declining graph lately owing to the party’s drubbing in Gorakhpur and Phulpur forgetting the fact that Narendra Modi never went to campaign in these seats.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah arrive for BJP Parliamentary Board meeting after the Karnataka Assembly elections result 2018, in New Delhi, May 15, 2018. PTI

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah arrive for BJP Parliamentary Board meeting after the Karnataka Assembly elections result 2018, in New Delhi, May 15, 2018.
PTI

On the other hand, Modi’s confidante and BJP President Amit Shah has proved once again that no task is big enough to deter him and he takes every election as a do or die challenge to continue the party’s victory run under his charge.

BJP’S geographical expansion unstoppable

The Karnataka results also show that the BJP’s hunger to expand is far from satiated. In fact, after establishing itself firmly in the farthest corners of the North East the party has now shifted its focus down South. The leadership feels the Karnataka’s impact would go beyond the state and create an atmosphere for the party in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as well. Andhra and Telangana are scheduled for assembly polls along with Lok Sabha in 2019.

Rahul’s failure is a reality the Congress does not accept

That Rahul Gandhi does not have it in him to lead the party to electoral victory, in the face of formidable opponents like Modi and Shah is being proved with every new election. The Congress has lost at least fifteen elections since Gandhi became Vice President and three major assembly polls since he took charge as the President of the party. In any other political party, such a situation would have warranted an open revolt against the leadership.
However, there is a larger question involved here. Even though there are backroom parleys for opposition unity everyday, no one in the opposition block has endorsed the leadership of Rahul Gandhi so far. The Karnataka verdict has just made it much more difficult for the Gandhi scion.

Siddaramaiah’s identity politics squarely rejected by Kannadigas

Siddaramaiah’s Lingayat card, whipping up sentiments over Kannada pride, raising the pitch over language and other such identity based issues have been squarely rejected by the voters. It is clear that the Karnataka people are more cosmopolitan, nationalist and broad minded than the Congress would have liked them to be. They refused to fall for such slogans. In fact, a look at the region wise seats shows the Congress’ move to promise separate religion status to Lingayats became a double whammy.

siddharamayiyaa with Swami

While the Lingayats rejected the move decidedly, it also led to a reverse polarization among other castes thus bringing down the Congress tally even more. Sidda himself lost by no less than 36,000 votes in Chamundeshwari which has a sizeable Lingayat population.

2019: Modi versus Rest

Several interesting political developments in the past few months, with Karnataka as the latest addition, have left no doubt that it would be a Modi versus Rest contest in 2019. Arch rivals such as SP, BSP coming together and Congress ready to support HD Kumaraswamy as Chief Minister are indicators that even sworn enemies are burying the hatchet following the realization that only a combined opposition can take on the phenomenon called Narendra Modi. Interestingly, BJP strategists claim that the equation suits them fine as the moment it is a Modi versus Rest contest, the voters would be compelled to compare the leadership options on both sides and they believe that Modi is set to win hands down when contrasted either with Rahul Gandhi or any of the other leaders in the opposition block.