I bow to thee: Before taking the oath as the 25th Chief Minister of Karnataka in Bangalore on 26 May, BS Yeddyurappa touches the feet of LK Advani as BJP national president Rajnath Singh looks on
The results of the Karnataka assembly elections are out and the BJP is all set to form the government with the support of a few independents.
This election has been crucial for several reasons. It is the first election after the process of delimitation which the Election Commission had conducted decently. There was no sight of banners or sound of loudspeakers blaring all around. Better still, hardly any incident of violence was reported from any part of the state. The elections have largely been free and fair as they were held in three phases. The BJP having got 110 seats, 32 more seats than its tally in 2004, is the clear winner. The JD(S), which got 27 seats, 31 less than its score the last time, is the clear loser. Results also show that the popular support is with the BJP and against the Congress which got 80 seats, 12 more than what it could manage the last time.
The mandate shows that people have voted for a stable government and against the dirty politics coalition governments have come to be associated with. It has shown that the people cannot always be fooled by kingmakers like HD Deve Gowda. They have voted for dynamism, development and freshness and against betrayal and dynasty politics.
The election results also show that clarity in campaigning and projection of a leader convinces the voter. The Congress lost because it neither had a clear leader nor clear issues. SM Krishna's magic did not work, perhaps owing to his late and hesitant entry into the fray. On the other hand, the BJP, whose strategy was micro-managed by Arun Jaitley, projected Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa as its Chief Ministerial candidate.
The BJP spoke on issues like price rise, terrorism and the JD(S)'s 'betrayal' in every chance it got during the electoral campaigns. This ensured that even though the Congress was more representative — the BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate — and had stooped to populist campaigns like promising free colour TVs to villagers, it failed to utilise the anti-JD(S) wave which was prevailing in the state.
With this victory, the BJP has crossed the Vindhyas, making inroads to the South. The BJP can no longer be considered a party of the 'Hindi hinterland' alone; it has now gained a pan-India image. In the Karnataka elections, caste has always been an important factor. Southern Karnataka (Bangalore, Mysore, Hassan and Mandya regions) has been Vokkaliga strongholds. Previously, the BJP was seen as a Lingayat party, largely owing to Yeddyurappa's being a Lingayat. This time, by achieving 19 seats in the Bangalore region and 7 in other southern regions, the party has made inroads into the Congress/JD(s) fortresses, so to speak.
Even in 'Hyderabad-Karnataka', perceived as a Congress stronghold, the BJP has managed to get 11 seats. It has done well in its strong bastions of central and coastal Karnataka with 30 and 13 seats respectively. This further means that the BJP has become a pan-Karnataka party too, shedding its Lingayat image.
The BJP's victory is likely to serve as its gateway to the South. This means that in the event of its loss in the elections in the states in the North, it can make up for the loses with the South cushioning the effect. This will boost the morale of the party workers. The Congress, which faced its 16th loss in the recent assembly elections, should rethink its strategy. As they say, "with great power, comes great responsibility", the BJP has now got a chance to rule Karnataka for the next five years, expectedly. Only time will tell if Yeddyurappa will be a real "mannina maga" (son of the soil), as the party workers believe, and handle his responsibility well.
The writer is a Mysore-based student of civil engineering