Karnataka by-poll results

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“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.

– Jackson Brown Jr.

The ruling coalition in Karnataka between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), decimated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by winning four of the five bypolls in the state, the results of which were announced on Tuesday. The loss was compounded as the BJP lost the bypoll to the Lok Sabha seat in the mineral-rich district of Ballari, which is considered their stronghold. The result in Ballari, which falls in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region of the state where the Congress and BJP fight a head-on battle, is a body blow to the BJP and B Sriramulu, who is the face of the notorious Reddy brothers. At the same time it is important to note that except in the Ballari Lok Sabha seat, where the Congress defeated the BJP nominee for the first time in 14 years, incumbents have been re-elected in the other four seats. The BJP has retained the Shivamogga Lok Sabha seat. Janata Dal (S) candidates have been re-elected from the Ramanagara assembly and Mandya Lok Sabha seats. The Congress has retained the Jamkhandi assembly seat. The results now take the JD(S)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) tally to 38 and the Congress tally to 82, making it harder for the BJP to topple the Karnataka government. So, is there a larger political message to be drawn from these results?

The result assumes significance as Congress and the JD(S) are expected to have a pre-poll alliance in Karnataka in 2019. The result proved one fact that the preference for the ruling JD (S)-Congress combine over the BJP has remained intact. But at the same time the alliance appears to have been further strengthened despite the popular belief that the two allies were not getting on well together. The affirmation of the electorate’s faith in them has shown that the formation of the Janata Dal (S)-Congress government was based not only on their success, but also on the basis of a fairly wide popular support. While the Congress-JD (S) combination has already dubbed this as a big victory and a trend-setter for the upcoming Assembly elections in five states — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram — and the Lok Sabha election mid-next year, the poll results have vindicated one fact that BJP has not been able to win the confidence of the voters in the southern state in a decisive manner despite high optimism.

The southern states, which have a long history of fighting the Centre’s as well as  north India’s dominance in national politics, do not seem to be impressed by BJP’s nationalistic ideology, especially as being articulated by BJP president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Going by the overconfident and high-pitch speeches that they deliver during the election campaigns, the two leaders come across as too invincible to be real. After this setback in Karnataka, the BJP’s success in the five forthcoming assembly elections has become greater. If it fails to impress in some of these states, the belief will gain further ground that the party’s success in 2014 is now a past and that it will be tough to secure a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha in 2019.

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