By Nitya Chakraborty
The results of the Karnataka assembly elections have grim lessons for the opposition parties, especially the Congress Party led by Rahul Gandhi in determining strategy for the coming Lok Sabha elections in 2019.The BJP led by Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo has recorded a massive victory devaluing the Congress in this important southern state. This victory will give BJP a major boost in its coming campaign in the assembly elections in the three states-Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh by the end of the year. There is also a possibility that boosted by this victory, Prime Minister will prepone the Lok Sabha poll and hold it along with the assembly polls before the year end.
The voting figures show that the BJP has got 48.2 per cent of the votes as against the Congress’s 32.6 per cent and JD(S)’s 17 per cent. This is a major increase for BJP compared to the 2013 assembly poll but still, the Congress vote percentage along with that of JD(S) is more than the BJP, though marginally. If the Congress leadership tried its best to have an understanding with the JD(S) before the elections, there would have been big impact on the floating voters and the BJP could not emerge as an alternative.
Rahul Gandhi did not take any initiative since he was under the impression that the Congress on its own, would be able to fight BJP and get majority. He even had the audacity to declare that he would like to be the Prime Minister after the 2019 poll. At a time when the other opposition parties are trying to form a common front and the regional parties are very powerful compared to the Congress in many states, how can the Congress President declare beforehand that he would be the PM after the coming Lok Sabha poll. This adversely affects the efforts of the opposition parties to build a proper unity. The best course is to leave the issue open till the outcome of the Lok Sabha poll is known and then decide on the basis of the respective strength of the contending opposition parties.
The problem with the Congress is that the Party still thinks that it is a natural party of governance and Rahul Gandhi really believes that. This attitude has to change if the Congress makes any effort to be the core of the opposition unity. Only a one for one formula can defeat the BJP in the 2019 poll and for that the Congress has to recognize the ground reality and come to adjustments with the other opposition parties. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has no scruples and the BJP leadership is resorting to the communalization of the polity to polarize the voters. This has given some dividends to the BJP in the Karnataka assembly elections and it is quite clear that the Sangh Parivar will go all out to implement this strategy on a national scale before the Lok Sabha poll. If the opposition parties, especially the secular forces have to combat this BJP onslaught, they have to unite on the basis of a common minimum programme and challenge the divisive agenda of the BJP. The task is difficult but it has to be done and there is no other alternative without total unity.
The fact is that the BJP secured maximum number of seats-282 in 2014 Lok Sabha elections under a special circumstance when the opposition unity index was at a lowest level and the anti-incumbency was at peak form against the Congress due to scams and the inaction of the UPA administration during the last two years of the UPA 2 rule. The BJP got 31 per cent of the votes in 2014 and the non BJP votes totalled 69 per cent. In the last four years, the BJP’s support base has declined and the Congress has certainly improved from its low ebb performance four years ago. That way even if the one to one formula is effective in 60 per cent of the total 543 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP will face a big defeat. That way, taking into account that in some states, there will be the presence of the strong regional party and the Congress against the BJP, some last minute adjustments can be done between the anti-BJP parties to ensure that in marginal seats, the BJP’s defeat is ensured by an understanding between the Congress Party and the concerned regional party.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won 282 seats out of the total of 543 seats but in the last four years before the assembly elections in Karnataka on May 12, state elections have been held in India’s 15 states out of the total of 29 and the results show that while in 2014, the BJP got 191 Lok Sabha seats from these 15 states, the assembly elections results aggregated to a tally of 146 seats for the BJP. This means a loss of 45 seats already in these 15 states. In the next round of assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, this loss of Lok Sabha seats can be further increased. The BJP got maximum possible seats in Lok Sabha elections in 2014 in these three states and now the seats can only go down. It is noteworthy that the BJP got 39 per cent vote share in these 15 states in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and now in the wake of the assembly elections in those 15 states, the BJP’s vote share has gone down to 29 per cent – a substantial loss of ten per cent.
Thus the more is the extent of opposition unity; more are the chances of defeating the BJP decisively. The Congress led by Rahul Gandhi and the regional opposition parties leaders have to work out that common minimum understanding that can ensure channelizing of anti-BJP votes to one candidate of the opposition,. If this is not possible, the next course is to ensure that the strongest opposition candidate gets the support of the other opposition parties in maximum number of constituencies. The resolve has to be there among the opposition parties that this is a do or die battle and only the defeat of BJP in 2019 poll can salvage the Indian nation and its core values. (IPA Service)