New Delhi: As polling for the 224-member Karnataka Legislative Assembly closed on Wednesday and exit poll projections flashed across television screens, the question that would have crossed many minds is would the eventual outcome in the southern state have a bearing on next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
Hung Assembly In Karnataka?
Most exit-poll projections predicted a hung House in Karnataka while putting the Congress ahead. Should these projections hold, the BJP will have lost the only southern state that it has in its kitty. Karnataka sends as many as 28 members to the Lok Sabha, second only to Tamil Nadu at 39, and, losing the state would come as a setback for the BJP and its plans to extend its electoral footprint beyond Karnataka.
What Losing Karnataka Would Mean For BJP?
While losing Karnataka would dent the BJP’s claim of being a pan-India party, it would give the much needed shot in the arm to the Congress as it eyes a revival in 2024 after a string of electoral reverses. Most political experts and pollsters are of the opinion that winning Karnataka would be the key to building a good head of steam ahead of the bigger battle in 2024 and going into the next general elections full of belief and conviction.
Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their quintessential poll mascot, the BJP has been trying to woo the Christian community in Kerala as part of its long-term goal of making deeper electoral inroads in a state where it remains a fringe force.
While addressing a ‘Vijay Sammelan’ in the national capital after the BJP’s thumping wins in Tripura and Nagaland, PM Modi outlined his vision for the party to entrench its foothold in Kerala by winning over the members of the Christian community.
Again, in Tamil Nadu and Telangana, the BJP’s state chiefs – Aannamalai and Bandi Sanjay – have been waging aggressive campaigns against the ruling parties – the DMK and the BRS – in the hope of turning the tables at the next battle for the hustings.
Telangana is scheduled to go to polls later this year. However, a loss in Karnataka would upset the BJP’s long-term vision of making a deeper southern ingress and take them back to the drawing board ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections.
What A Victory In Karnataka Would Mean For Congress?
On the other hand, a victory in Karnataka would see Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge deliver a big-ticket electoral win to the high command, giving the grand old party a fresh burst of wind in its sails as it bids to turn the tables on the BJP in the next Lok Sabha elections.
With Karnataka also being his home turf, a win for the Congress would, in many ways, come as redemption for the octogenarian Dalit leader, who had previously lost the race for CM despite his party coming to power.
The campaign strategies adopted by the BJP and the Congress in Karnataka were like chalk and cheese. While the saffron party built its campaign around the larger-than-life image of PM Modi and its pet nationalism and Hindutva planks, the Congress focussed more on highlighting the bread-and-butter issues of the people, including price rise, inflation and ‘unemployment’.
The Congress did commit what many saw as an electoral faux pas, promising to consider banning the Bajrang Dal in its manifesto for Karnataka, thereby giving the BJP an opening to reaffirm its Hindutva credentials and call out the former’s “appeasement politics”.
However, that apart, the Congress largely confined its campaign to local issues, avoiding a direct clash with PM Modi’s formidable electoral stature that had proved disastrous for them in previous poll battles.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who has been using the Adani-Hindenburg row and the alleged Chinese intrusion as issues to target PM Modi and the Centre, harped more on inflation, unemployment and alleged corruption under the BJP rule during his campaign visits to Karnataka.
There are wheels within wheels in Indian politics and the outcome of the Karnataka polls on May 13 might signal a shift in the political headwinds going into the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.