The recent Karnataka election has provided many lessons for Indian politics. From the BJP’s defeat to the Congress’ victory, there are many takeaways that political leaders need to consider.
BJP’s Defeat and Its Limitations
The BJP has received a severe jolt with its defeat in Karnataka. It is now not in power anywhere in South and East India and is unlikely to be for some time. Despite wielding enormous power and stability at the Centre since 2014, the BJP has not been able to conquer and settle well into new territories. States like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal are tough states to crack for the BJP.
Impact on BJP’s Game Plan
The result of this election will impact the BJP’s game plan for the 2024 Lok Sabha election. The state has shown the limitation of using Hindutva politics and polarising voters, which the BJP did in many regions of India, if not all, for electoral gains. However, it’s quite clear now that in 2024, the BJP’s pan-India plank will veer around its best bet: nationalism, more than any other issue. And of course, there’s PM’s popularity too.
Congress’ Victory and Polarisation
The Congress paid the BJP back in its own coin, polarising voters better than the latter in Karnataka. The Bajarangbali issue played out in such a manner that Muslim voters got polarised to favour Congress. Even when the BJP criticised the Congress’ promise to ban the Bajrang Dal, in an attempt to bring Hindu voters into its fold and gain an edge over its 2018 vote share, it did not yield results. Since the PM himself took up this issue, it will be hard for the incoming Congress government to ban the organisation without consequences. It is unlikely to happen at least before the 2024 General election.
The reinvention of BJP’s Slogan
The PM will now have to reinvent his most tried and tested election slogan for state assembly elections: the “double engine” sarkar. One decade is too long a time for a party to not change its narrative. The BJP will have to check if it’s time to dump the slogan or else, the voters of some of the states will. Despite the PM’s push for such a sarkar, the party headquarters didn’t make “double engine” look credible in states. In Karnataka, it wasn’t visible at all under outgoing CM Basavaraj Bommai’s wobbly governance.
Significance of Congress’ Victory
The significance of the Karnataka election results lies in the fact that now, Congress will have access to enormous resources—in Indian politics, it means money—in a state that is one of the richest in India and has a high GDP. The games that politicians and parties play by manipulating legal loopholes, using secular-communal issues to their advantage, and acquiring financial clout will only be strengthened by having power in a big state like Karnataka. Let’s be real and accept that the new government in Karnataka will have access to all these tools, just like any other party in power in any other state.
The Karnataka election has provided several lessons for Indian federal politics. The BJP’s defeat has highlighted the limitations of its strategy, and the Congress’ victory has shown the importance of polarisation and access to resources. The 2024 Lok Sabha election will be an important battleground for both parties, and the lessons learned from this election will shape their strategies going forward.