BANGALAORE: The resignation of Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yedyurappa within two-and-a-days after assuming office is considered as a huge setback personally to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party president Amit Shah, who saw Karnataka as the prospective gateway to the south.
The two had criss-crossed the state and pulled out all stops to make lotus bloom once again in the state. While Shah had done the groundwork months before the election, Modi came in late in the day with his characteristic final burst to swing votes in the party’s favour.
The prime minister had originally planned to address only 15 rallies in the state. But as the campaign entered its final leg, he stepped it up to 21 rallies as a final push. The BJP hoped it will turn the tide in their favour as in Gujarat.
But the result saw the party falling short of 12 seats for a majority. Even though the party emerged as the single largest party in the 224-member assembly, its vote share came two percent below that of the Congress. The party refused to recognize this and tried to capture power with the help of an ‘obliging’ Governor.
The BJP justified the Governor’s decision to invite Yedyurappa to form the government disregarding the Congress-JD (S) claim of majority as a recognition that the mandate in the election was against the two parties, which fought the election as rivals.
However, the Congress gave it an ideological dimension saying that the script was intended to help Modi if he fails to get a majority in the Lok Sabha election in 2019. The splintered opposition smelt sense in the Congress narrative and rallied behind the Congress-JDS combination.
Political analysts believe that Modi-Shah juggernaut can be stopped if they come together and fight the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The Congress has already started the spade work by staking claim for power in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, where the BJP wrested power despite they emerging as the single largest party.
Tejeswari Yadav of Rashtriya Janata Dal, which was the single largest party in Bihar in the last assembly election, has also kept the heat on the Bharatiya Janata, which is sharing power with the Janata Dal (United), in his state. RJD has already reached an understanding with the BSP to fight the coming Lok Sabha election together.
Other regional satraps like Mamata Banerjee of Trinamul Congress, Chandrashekhara Rao of Telengana Rashtra Samithi (TSR) and Chandrababu Naidu of Telugu Desam have also given their blessings to the Congress-JDS alliance in Karnataka.
Political analysts feel that the going would be difficult for Modi in 2019 if the regional parties come together and mount a united fight against the BJP in 2019. Noted columnist Bikram Vohra said that the setback in Karnataka would be fatal for the BJP in their pursuit to retain power at the Centre.
“If Modi had acted like a statesman and asked Governor Vajubhai Vala to revoke the fifteen-day window to the BJP and asked the party to sit in the Opposition instead, before this chaotic condition got out of hand, the BJP could emerge stronger,” he said in an article in the Firstpost.
“If he had allowed the unholy alliance between the Congress and the JD(S) cobble a majority coalition it would have fallen on its own and the BJP could pick up the pieces and emerge so much stronger and with a public mandate of gratitude,” Vohra
However, the BJP was not ready to wait as they wanted Karnataka to pave the way for the saffron journey to the other southern states. The party looked towards the south to make up the seats they might lose in north India on account of anti-incumbency in 2019.
The setback in Karnataka would make the task difficult for the BJP. The immediate effect of this may be felt in Kerala, where a by-election is due on May 28. The party, which came close to victory in Chengannur in the 2016 election, was expecting to win the seat this time.
BJP candidate P S Sreedharan Pillai is finding the going tough with the Karnataka emerging as a major theme for the campaign in Chengannur. Amit Shah wants his party to win at least 12 seats from the state in the coming Lok Sabha election.
The outcome of the by-election caused by the death of sitting CPM MLA Ramachandran Nair may show how Karnataka will reflect in the 2019 election.
Image credit: NDTV