By S. Sethuraman
An ominous silence will now descend upon Karnataka, the scene of thus far the bitterest electoral battle at the state level, with uproarious, often abusive BJP-Congress exchanges, both with high stakes for future survival.
The 224-member Karnataka Assembly goes to polls on May 10 and the suspense should end with the results announced on May 13.And that should re-set the political dialogue of coming months in more positive ways, hopefully toward the mightier battle of Lok Sabha elections of 2024.
Moreover, the nation has several crises to tackle requiring leadership of high calibre. Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promised ‘Achhe Din’ in 2014 nor the ‘Amrit Kaal’ said to be in progress for 2022-47 have shown up in concrete forms, whether in tackling unemployment, providing jobs and reducing the level of poverty or arresting fake news and hate propaganda of the ruling dispensation.
BJP led by its dynamic if authoritarian leader in Modi and the Congress, struggling to regain its former élan, pitiful for the country’s leading national party which led the movement for India’s freedom, have both touched the nadir in the verbal warfare by them in Karnataka.
Prodigious Karnataka, at present the gateway for BJP to the South, no longer looks well set for BJP’s thrust in its one-nation expansive strategy. It remains to be seen what implications a BJP defeat in Karnataka would have for the mightier national battle in 2024 at a time when the Congress is on a revival strategy, and the major regional parties committed to secularism are looking at prospects of an effective anti-BJP alliance.
They are all determined that the decade-old BJP rule of the nation with its own majoritarian, authoritarian and exclusivist Hindutva agenda should be brought to an end. There are more state elections down the road to 2024.
While there are clear signs that Prime Minister Modi may still feel that the outlook for his position is not endangered, the BJP leadership will be using, and can deploy more, political weapons available to it and the state machinery to further degrade and dismay the opposition in the poll battles ahead of 2024.
For the ruling BJP in the state, a loss in Karnataka could also look disastrous for its recent determined thrusts led by Prime Minister Modi to win over the Tamils and Keralites with his florid verbal rhetoric and bombastic promises. PM Modi also charged the Congress with “lying, blown away by the BJP storm”.
Indeed, Mr. Modi over recent months has focussed on the two southern states, suddenly discovering Tamil, the oldest and richest language, and also trying to mend bridges with the Keralite Christians. However, the PM alleged that the Congress wanted Kerala to “separate from India!”
But increasingly, the PM is attacking the Congress, noting its signs of revival, charging it with utmost corruption — though the charge is laid equally at BJP’s doorstep as well. The way Mr. Modi frames the evil of corruption as the one big hurdle standing in the way of democracy and justice and asking CBI to act “boldly against the corrupt” might be one way of rebutting the charge held up against the incumbent BJP government.
But the underlying concern for survival in Karnataka is implied in Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s warning to the electorate that “riots would occur if Congress won” and “dynastic politics” would return.
Karnataka, BJP’s most crucial turf-hold in the South hitherto, seems to be drifting without clear signs of anti-incumbency. But this state with its two major Hindu socio-religious groups of population — Lingayats and Vokkaligas — has its own characteristics of belying expectations from time to time.
Still, PM Modi is not merely looking at the local levels, but is calculating any set back in terms of its downgrade for Lok Sabha numbers. Karnataka has 28 members in Lok Sabha.
It is here that the BJP is facing new problems, while the ancient ones are being aggravated by the personalities chosen by the PM Modi – certainly with a mandate, more political, in evidence in several states over the last two years.
The Governors in general do not regard themselves as mere “Constitutional figures”. Their major obligation seems to be to uphold political fortunes of BJP and go all-out on ways to diminish the strength and prestige of the elected governments belonging to the national opposition. This has been vividly noticed in Tamil Nadu where Governor R N Ravi has been in perpetual conflict with the DMK government headed by Chief Minister M K Stalin.
Mr. Ravi had initially declined to accept the State as “Tamil Nadu” but only “Tamil Azhagam”. He had refused to read out a Governor’s address to the T N Assembly budget session and lately also angered Mr. Stalin by denigrating the “Dravidian Model” of government, dubbing it as “an expired ideology”.
In his answer to Governor Ravi, CM Stalin said that the Dravidian ideology, and its form of government has benefitted everyone in one way or the other, in the two years of DMK-ruled Dravidian model of governance, which now enters third year in 2023. CM Stalin said the Tamil Nadu government was approaching the 80 million people of the state with a slew of welfare initiatives — special nutrition for children, Rs.1000 as assistance for girl students, free travel for women in buses, breakfast for students, free electricity to farmers, cooperative and crop loans, among others, that would reap dividends in the years to come. CM Stalin also asserted that the Dravidian ideology was a weapon to defeat “Aryan invasion”, an extremely strong political topic in the southern state.
Chief Minister Stalin, hailed by most non-BJP parties as a national leader, seeks to bring opposition parties together on a platform of social justice. And more importantly, Mr. Stalin is taking care to ensure a good majority win for DMK alliance (including Congress and Left) in the 2024LokSabha polls. He was able to secure 25 out of 39 seats in 2019 when AIADMK was ruling the State.
While CM Stalin at the end of his first two years of governance presented his report, titled “Peace and Prosperity for All”, he holds the view that the secular alliance led by DMK’s win in 2024 can save India. He has alerted his cadres. BJP has to be defeated in the current assembly polls, otherwise, Stalin knows that the saffron swill not only roar high to retain power in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, Modi-Shah duo will make all efforts to make fresh inroads into southern states including Tamil Nadu. (IPA Service)