India’s main opposition party, The Congress party won the 2023 Karnataka assembly election and defeated the ruling BJP party by the biggest vote share after 34 years.
In the 224-Member legislature of the Southern state of Karnataka, the Congress party won 135 seats against 66 for the BJP. The Karnataka election was held on Wednesday and the result was announced on Saturday this week. This win in the state assembly election will give a huge boost to the congress party ahead of the national election which is scheduled in April 2024.
BJP had been in power in Karnataka since 2018. Karnataka was the only Southern Indian State where Bhartiya Janta Party had the ruling government. Karnataka has always been considered as BJP’s Gateway to south India. Despite the massive popularity of PM Narendra Modi, BJP has struggled so much to win an election in the southern Indian state. Unlike, in North India BJP’s nationalistic Hindutva agenda and ideology of religious polarization has failed particularly in Karnataka and generally in South India. But in some regions especially in the coastal district of Karnataka BJP’s Hindutva ideology had been dominant.
After winning the election Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi said during a media interview “The market of hatred has been shut down and shops of love have opened in Karnataka”. This was the first election after Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi which began in Kanyakumari on September 7, 2022, and ended in Srinagar on January 30, 2023. This Yatra entered Karnataka at the end of September 2022.
According to many experts, Bharat Jodo Yatra has played a tremendous role in the victory of the Karnataka election. Rajasthan CM and Congress party leader Ashok Gehlot also admitted that Bharat Jodo Yatra worked for Karnataka polls and praised Rahul Gandhi’s effort.
This defeat is a big blow for BJP as Karnataka was the only hope for BJP to make their presence across South India. Nonetheless, the prime minister of India and leader of BJP Narendra Modi have congratulated the Congress party on its win in the Karnataka election. He tweeted “Congratulation to the Congress Party for their victory in the Karnataka Assembly polls. My best wishes to them in fulfilling people’s aspirations.
The Karnataka election was the first of five state elections that are scheduled for later this year. And this win of the Congress party is also very significant as it comes after Rahul Gandhi lost his Parliament seat over a conviction in a defamation case in March this year. Narendra Modi’s massive campaign and rallies in the final days of the election did not help BJP to secure victory in 65 million populous southern Indian states.
What led to the Congress’s win and BJP’S defeat in the Karnataka election
Localized election campaign – Unlike the BJP, the Congress party has carried out a very localized electoral campaign in the state focusing on issues like corruption, price rise, employment, cast census, and various other local issues. Congress party has completely focused on localized issues without directly targeting the Prime minister. Congress’s continuous campaigning on development and welfare issues has attracted the voter of Karnataka.
Congress party has tried to take full advantage of BJP’s shortcomings, they led the PayCM campaign, 40 Percent Sarkara campaign to show the very reality of the BJP government in the state. Congress’s 5 guarantees:- 1) Gruha Laxmi, 2) Gruha Jyoti, 3) Anna Bhaagya, 4) Yuva Nidhi, 5) Uchit Prayana scheme has made people of Karnataka hopeful about their future under the Congress government. And these promises helped Congress in their campaigning to influence voters in a bid to win the election.
Support of Various Groups- Karnataka is home to various casts and sub-casts including a significant number of the Muslim population. Congress has got the backing of approximately all the groups from Muslims to the Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities. According to some reports, the Congress party’s support among the scheduled cast increased from 46% in 2018 to 60% this year.
Congress party has got the backing of 88% Muslim community of the state. The decline in Lingayat support for the BJP has automatically benefited the Congress, as the share of the Congress party has doubled in Lingayat-dominated regions. In 2018, Congress won 20 out of 65 seats whereas in 2023 Congress won 42 seats in the Lingayat community dominant region. The share of women’s voters in the support of the Congress party has also increased in this year’s assembly election.
Strong local leadership of Congress party- Except for B.S. Yediyurappa BJP did not have any strong local leader, and just because of that, they have relied so much on national leadership. While on the other hand, the Congress government had a strong organizational coherence in the state as they had very known and popular local leaders like Mallikarjun Kharge, Siddaramaiah, and D.K. Shivakumar.
Despite some personal differences, these local Congress leaders have shown strong unity by campaigning together. So, this tactic of the Congress party of deploying homegrown leaders of Karnataka in front has helped them to sway the sentiment of local people.
With all these reasons various other factors have contributed to the Congress’s win and BJP’s defeat like the significant impact of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, prevalent Corruption in the BJP party, and BJP’s lapses. Now, it will be very interesting to see who will be the next Chief minister of Karnataka.