Karnataka Win Boosts Congress Morale For Upcoming Polls, Elevates Position Amid Opposition ‘Unity’ Efforts | India News

New Delhi [India] May 13 (ANI): The Congress scored an emphatic victory in Karnataka in a crucial election with the strong performance giving it momentum to take on the BJP in the assembly polls later this year and giving a boost to its preparations for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The victory is significant for Congress for the margin of its success and the coherence of its efforts. The Congress ran an effective campaign built around its “five guarantees” and sought to keep the focus on local issues and “failings” of the BJP government in the southern state. The Karnataka victory has several lessons for the Congress in its battles ahead, with “collective fight” and “strong state leadership” among the factors that worked for the party.

The party won 136 seats and its performance was better than its tally in the 1999 election when it had won 132 seats and the 2013 polls when it won 122 seats. The Congress got 42. 9 per cent votes, among its highest in the state. It is also the highest vote share by any party in the last 34 years which reduced the BJP to 65 seats. 

Also Read: Karnataka Assembly Election: Basavaraj Bommai Submits Resignation To Governor After BJP’s Defeat

With Opposition parties exploring a united front against the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress will seek to emerge as a pivot of such efforts. The victory will also help Congress counter criticism that it mostly loses in a direct fight with the BJP.

Having ousted the BJP from the only state in southern India, the party is expected to use it as a tool to target the ruling party at the Centre. Party leaders are already hitting back at BJP with a jibe of “BJP-mukt south India”. Congress’ next challenge is assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Telangana later this year and in three of these states, it has BJP as its main rival.

The Congress will also hope that BJP’s poor performance in Karnataka will adversely impact its prospects in Telangana where the ruling party at the Centre was seeking to emerge as a main player.

Also Read: 13 BJP Ministers Who Lost Karnataka Assembly Elections

The BJP government in Karnataka faced anti-incumbency and the ground was ripe for Congress victory. The party benefitted from the presence of strong state leaders in former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge hails from Karnataka and it was a prestige battle for him. He is seen to have swayed voters, especially a sizeable section of Dalit voters, in favour of Congress. The Congress also matched BJP jibe for jibe as the BJP put up a strong campaign led by its national leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

In Himachal Pradesh, too, the Congress built its campaign on local issues with its promise of the restoration of the Old Pension Scheme proving to be a major draw.

Congress leaders said that the people of Karnataka had rejected BJP leaders’ attempts to “polarise” the election. The BJP ran a high-pitched campaign and the Congress’ mention of a possible ban on Bajrang Dal in its manifesto was raised widely by BJP leaders through ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’ chants and slogans.

Janata Dal-Secular suffered a heavy blow in the polls and the Congress seemingly benefitted from the consolidation of Muslim votes and some shift of Vokkaliga community votes from the regional party. There was some apparent shift in Lingayat community votes from the BJP after some senior leaders joined the Congress ahead of elections over the denial of tickets.

Congress leadership in Karnataka was a rainbow of various communities including Kurba, Vokkaliga and Dalits. The ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also helped the Congress strengthen connect with people months ahead of polls.

Party leader Randeep Surjewala, who is AICC incharge of Karnataka, said the Congress won almost 85 per cent of the seats that Gandhi visited during his yatra. Rahul Gandhi was in the state for over 20 days in September-October last year. Karnataka has a long connection with the Nehru-Gandhi family and has been a “comeback territory” in the past.

Indira Gandhi made a political comeback from Chikmagalur in Karnataka in a bypoll in 1978. Sonia Gandhi also fought from Ballari in the state in her debut election in which she was also in the fray from Amethi. The Congress’ big challenge is the 2024 battle and BJP has swept polls in states where the Congress had been in power.

Having suffered a string of losses after the 2019 Lok Sabha debacle, the party leaders are hopeful that the emphatic victory in Karnataka and the success in Himachal Pradesh earlier this year will pave the way for similar successes in state polls later this year.

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