It's a Disappointing Show, But No Debacle for State Congress - The New Indian Express

It's a Disappointing Show, But No Debacle for State Congress

Published: 18th May 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 18th May 2014 12:47 AM

Let’s stop talking about Modi’s chest size; we should really be focusing on his biceps. They must be as big as Arnie’s. Or bigger. How else could he have lifted a party that had received a drubbing in Assembly elections one year ago to just two Lok Sabha seats short of its best performance ever in Karnataka?

Look deeper, and you will find more evidence of the power of his message that a backward-class chai-seller can dream of becoming Prime Minister. H N Ananth Kumar, the BJP general secretary who represents Bangalore South, had seen his victory margin decline from 66,054 in 1999 to 62,271 in 2004 and 37,612 in 2009. This time, he rode Modi’s coat-tails and won by more than 2.28 lakh votes against software czar Nandan Nilekani in the heart of India’s Silicon Plateau. Pratap Simha, columnist and political neophyte, won the Mysore seat in Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s backyard, against a strong candidate from a numerically significant caste.

The final score: BJP 17, Congress 9 and Janata Dal (Secular) 2.

Modi’s spell appears to have loosened Siddaramaiah’s hold on the Ahinda coalition of minorities, other backward classes and Dalits. And the BJP’s own caste calculations worked out. For example, the vote of the Lingayats, dominant in northern Karnataka, seems to have consolidated again for the BJP with former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s return to the fold. Corruption charges? What’s new?

In contrast, very little went right for the JD(S) of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda. His strategy of waiting to pick up big names denied the ticket by other parties failed and his outfit essentially remained what cynics call Appa Makkala Paksha or Father and Sons’ Party. His son and former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy’s desperate attempt to remain relevant by jumping into the fray from Chikballapur backfired badly; he finished third.

Which brings us to the Congress. Siddaramaiah and state Congress president G Parameshwara had maintained that the party would win 18-20 seats, so not even making it to double digits must be galling. Actually, they would have made it to 10 if everyone in the party had worked for Ramya, the actress who was defending the Mandya seat she had won less than a year ago in a by-election.

It’s a disappointing show but no debacle, particularly considering the scale of Modi’s victory nationally. In fact, Karnataka is one of the few states where the Congress has put up creditable resistance.

So don’t expect Siddaramaiah to offer his resignation, though he has confessed to being an admirer of former Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde. Nor is the High Command likely to move against him. But he is unlikely to enjoy the same kind of authority he has exercised so far.

That leaves one last question: Will backing the winning party help the people of Karnataka? It’s a common complaint here that the state gets a raw deal from the Centre compared to its neighbours. Don’t get your hopes up.

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