Will secular parties learn a lesson?

As predicted, a hung assembly has come into existence in Karnataka following the polls.

Most of the surveys held before and after the polling had indicated such a possibility. All the same, many of the surveys had predicted that Congress would emerge as the single largest party. That is what has been toppled with the announcement of poll results. While the Congress, the current ruling party,  had to be content with 78 seats, BJP surged ahead with 103 seats. The third party, Janata Dal (Secular) bagged 37 seats retaining almost all the seats in the assembly. As far as the Congress is concerned, the party has undoubtedly faced an unexpected jolt.

The party leaders including Rahul Gandhi had expected till the last moment that factors like the clean image of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who is untainted by corruption, the circumstances where the displeasure of the people in his five year governance has not been much apparent and the anti-people moves of the Narendra Modi government, would again catapult the party to power. Even if the party did not receive simple majority, they believed that they would emerge as the largest party. The heavy debacle in the six regions in Karnataka belied all these expectations. With the passing of the Bill in the assembly according a backward religious minority status for the Lingayats, when the election was just around the corner,  there were also presumptions of Yeddyurappa’s community getting hijacked.

But the results clearly show that the Lingayats stand firm with Yeddyurappa, a BJP leader, former Chief Minister and one who has been nominated as the future Chief Minister. No waves favourable to the Congress were visible anywhere. Even south Karnataka, a backward minority area, abandoned Congress.  It was Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (S) that could prove its supremacy in the Mysore region. At the same time, while the Congress secured 36.76 per cent votes in the 2013 assembly elections, the party has been able to raise it to 37.9 per cent this time.  One should comprehend prima facie that it is the vigorous triangular contests that gave a blow to the Congress.  While the BJP bagged 33.93 per cent votes even in 2008 that gave the party an opportunity to govern independently, it has failed to be on a par with Congress despite being able to increase the vote percentage to 36.2 per cent this time.

South India too is coming under the grip of BJP; this would highly benefit the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.  BJP that went on  massive jubilant celebrations declaring that the Congress would be confined to merely two states, had to be on tenterhooks of uncertainty as the announcement of Karnataka poll results got delayed. When the number of seats of the BJP was 104, Congress that secured only 78 seats immediately rose to the occasion. The next spectacle was of the Congress pulling JD(S) - which had won 37 seats - closer in a keen attempt to win power. Both the parties have written to the Karnataka Governor demanding formation of a coalition government headed by Dal leader Kumaraswamy.

Statements have also come out that both parties will form a coalition ministry and that in 2019 Lok Sabha elections too the Congress-JD(S) alliance will continue.  But given that the governor of Karnataka is Vajubhai Vala who was the finance minister in Gujarat's ministry under Modi, the ultimate scenario is yet to be seen. He can choose to invite Yeddyurappa the nominee of BJP, as the largest party in the assembly, to form a ministry, give him liberal time to prove his majority and thus give Amit Shah sufficient maneuvering room to play all dirty games. As for the BJP party chief, nobody need to teach him any lesson in horse-trading of MLAs throwing millions of cash. In Karnataka itself, BJP has a legacy of making other parties' MLAs resign and contest and of getting them elected.

All said and done one thing emerges clear: it is the mistrust and enmity among the secular parties, who never seem to learn anything under force or fear that, becomes the major asset of the saffron brigade. Had the JD(S) and the Congress been able to face the election united, a non-BJP rule would have been a certainty without creating any need for last minute exercises. What the Karnataka polls point  to is the absolute need for secular parties to be prepared to correct their mistakes at least by the time of 2019 Lok Sabha elections.