10 reasons why BJP crushed Congress and took a massive lead in Karnataka
On the ground, the BJP cadre was enthused and the voters bought into Modi's vision of Congress-mukt Karnataka.
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The Congress is now officially PPP - Punjab, Puducherry, Parivaar. This acronym was coined by Narendra Modi on the campaign trail in Karnataka. With Bangalore gone, the Congress has shrunk further on the political map of India.
How did the BJP manage such a big win when many backed chief minister Siddaramaiah to win despite anti-incumbency of five years? Here is what I think are the 10 reasons why Karnataka chose to colour itself saffron.
1) Narendra Modi's leadership
During the last minute blitzkrieg from May 1 by Modi during which he addressed 21 public meetings and spoke to different groups via Namo App, the Congress team admitted to me it was losing momentum and it urgently needs to course correct. The course correction never happened in the face of three-four meetings that Modi addressed every day. The Congress that through March and April was seen as setting the agenda, was reduced to only rebutting and fact-checking Modispeak. On the ground, the cadre was enthused and the voters bought into his vision of Congress-mukt Karnataka.
2) Yeddyurappa's leadership
A lot was made of BS Yeddyurappa's leadership, the fact that he had gone to prison in a corruption case that forced him to step down as CM in 2011. The people of Karnataka took a leaf out of Tamil Nadu's book. Just like the neighbouring state brought back Jaya in 2016 despite her jail stint in the disproportionate assets case, it brought back BSY today (May 15). It showed corruption as a card cannot be overused. Like Jaya had been punished in 1996 for the same case electorally, Yeddyurappa had met his Waterloo along with the BJP in 2013 for providing a corrupt government, the people were willing to give him a second chance.
3) RSS push
The aggressive push by the RSS mattered immensely on the ground. In constituencies all over Karnataka, especially in coastal and central Karnataka, the Sangh Parivar campaigned door-to-door, spending time with the families, asking them to vote for a Hindu party. The results show the Hindus for Hindus card worked.
4) The magic of WhatsApp
The BJP had close to 20,000 WhatsApp groups in Karnataka which it used aggressively to get its political messaging across to the voters. Though the Congress claimed it had 16,000 groups, the kind of content it shared on the groups was no match for the BJP. While the Congress stole a march on the more urban medium of Twitter, the smartphone penetration ensured every voter was the recipient of BJP's virtual outreach.
5) Siddaramaiah mattered as well
The feeling in the last five years that he was anti-Vokkaliga and anti-Dalit, having marginalised senior leaders belonging to both communities proved to be his undoing. There was a feeling that his government was dominated by the AHINDA (Muslims, Dalits, backward classes) and the results in Old Mysuru region where it expected to do well, suggest there has been a reverse consolidation against this.
6) Lingayat card
Siddaramaiah expected the Lingayat card to work for the Congress to an extent, at least take away 8 to 10 per cent of the Lingayat votes away from the BJP. In 2013, the 9.8 per cent Lingayat vote shift to Yeddyurappa's Karnataka Janata Paksha had brought about the BJP's downfall. The results from northern Karnataka show the ploy did not quite work and the BJP's charge that Siddaramaiah was dividing Hindu community gained currency.
7) Corruption is not an issue
The BJP had virtually outsourced three districts - Bellary, Chitradurga and Raichur to B Sriramulu and Gali Janardhan Reddy. Though Reddy was kept at arm's length by Amit Shah and Modi, on the ground, he was unofficially in-charge of ensuring the BJP succeeds in central Karnataka. The Congress made Yeddy + Reddys an issue and hoped the rest of Karnataka would show its disgust to the homecoming of Reddy. That did not quite happen.
8) Wooing the mutts
Shah worked hard to ensure back channel talks with the mutts, especially Lingayat and Dalit seers, to solicit their support for the BJP. The party was determined not to let the Lingayat vote move away from it.
9) National identity versus regional
The Congress fought this election like a regional outfit, highlighting the Kannadiga regional identity, flag, and language aggressively. None of it seemed to have worked at the hustings, with the people choosing to invest in a national identity.
10) Ticket distribution
The Congress renominated most of its sitting MLAs, without realising that several of them faced severe anti-incumbency. The argument given then was that if they were not given tickets, they would either defect or stand as independents and spoil the chances of the official Congress candidate. The results show that like many times before, the Congress messed up on this critical part.
Before Karnataka election, Modi's critics would gloat calling the south of the Vindhyas, BJP-mukt Dakshin Bharat. Siddaramaiah himself went to town talking about a north-south divide. The election result has busted both claims.