Congress leaders and workers celebrate at the party office in Bengaluru | Photo: PTI
There is a touch of Gandhi and Mao in the game Congress enacted in Karnataka. Mao raised the slogan ‘return to villages' in the course of the Chinese revolution. It was Mao's firm belief that the Chinese revolution must be led by the peasants. The strategy of encircling the cities from the countryside was born out of this thesis. In a way Gandhi's philosophy also emphasised the role of villages in the march of India's progress. A return to villages means the return to grassroots. It is the strategy of going back to the grassroots that has given the stupendous victory for Congress in Karnataka.
RSS and BJP bungled here. The Parivar returned to Modi, the one and only leader. This time nothing was going in favour of BJP in Karnataka. Almost everything backfired. BJP's slogan of being the party with a difference collapsed like a pack of cards. Rampant corruption across the different layers of the administration simply couldn't be hidden anymore. The Basavaraj Bommai government failed miserably on every front. One major difference that this election saw was the setting of the agenda by the Congress. BJP was forced to follow up the narrative created by the Congress. The hallmark of the Congress' manifesto was the promises that ensured social and economic justice. And it was in this context that the BJP government scrapped the 4% quota for the Muslims and distributed the same equally among the Lingayats and the Vokkaligas. The election campaign by the BJP also saw PM Modi twisting the Congress' take on Bajrang Dal.
The Congress made it a point not to make any floundering moves this time. Keeping the internal scuffles under wraps, Siddaramaiah and DK Sivakumar put up a united front. Congress took extra care not to attack Modi personally. Even when the PM lamented about the abuse Congress simply reminded the BJP leadership of the need to focus on the regional issues. The Congress leadership didn't slide into the trap of Modi vs Rahul. The strategy was to turn the battle into Modi vs Karnataka. Raising the sub-nationalism plot with ease, Congress forced the BJP to realise the strong identity of the Kannadigas. This was the antithesis to the one nation, one leader, one language policy of the Parivar. It is the same game that Mamata played there in Bengal. Navin Patnaik and MK Stalin too played the same game in Odisha and Tamil Nadu respectively. It may not be a coincidence that the Congress' victory in Karnataka comes in the backdrop of the SC judgement that upheld the elected government's supremacy in the DELHI Govt vs the LG case. The Karnataka verdict is the endorsement of Indian federalism, which was weakened to a great extent by the present BJP regime.
BJP presented Modi as the alternative to Federalism. The concept of the supreme leader as the panacea for all the problems of the nation. Karnataka has rejected this prescription categorically. The last minute moves by the BJP leadership to resort to communal cards simply failed this time. People were so disturbed by the economic issues that they had no time to pay attention to the attempts at communal polarisation. Way back in the 1970s the Sangh parivar came out of the shadow of the Gandhi assassination by aligning with the JP movement which took on the autocratic regime of Indiara Gandhi. That was a fight against the centralisation of power. In what seems to be a supreme irony the warriors against emergency and corruption of power are surrendering themselves to the ambitions of the autocratic Modi regime.
The Congress seems to have learned their lesson the hard way. It was Indira Gandhi who made it a point to weaken the regional leadership within Congress. She was always under the grip of an insecurity that she saw all other popular leaders as a threat to her own existence. Karnataka makes it clear that decentralisation of power is the way out for Congress. But BJP seems to go the other way. Narendra Modi has become more powerful than Indira. The deadly combination of the Hindutva ideology and the support of the Corporates makes Modi a greater force than Indira. The Karnataka election results tell the opposition that even this force is not invincible.
The intervention of the civil society groups was a notable feature in this election. The movement which was called ' Eddelu Karnataka' (Awake Karnataka) concentrated on 80 constituencies to fight against the ideology of hatred and bigotry. Dalit organisations, Farmers' movements and those who work for minorities were all part of this movement. They enrolled more than 1.5 lakh votes. Congress hugely benefited from this venture at the grassroot level.
BJP has been stunned that it has lost the one and only state it had in the southern part of the nation. BJP has been trying to convert Karnataka into another Gujarat. There are 131 Lok Sabha seats in South India that consist of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Telangana, Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puthucherry. BJP bagged 29 out of this in the last general election, 25 from Karnataka and four from Telangana each. BJP has been working tremendously to win more seats from the South in the 2024 lok sabha elections. RSS will celebrate its centenary in 2025. The Parivar wants to fulfil the goals of Savarkar and Golwlker to make the celebration more meaningful. But the reversal in karnataka assembly elections means Parivar will find it really tough to reach this goal.
As Yogendra Yadav pointed out, the decisive victory for Congress in Karnataka opens the door of hope to the entire opposition in the country. It tells the democratic forces that even with all the resources and state machinery BJP still can be defeated. The Indian Republic was founded on the precious blood of the father of the nation. The Karnataka election results stand testimony to the fact that this foundation can't be destroyed that easily by the forces of hatred and bigotry. In that sense the return of the Congress also means the return of Indian Republic and Indian democracy.