When vendetta is the name of the game, it does not matter if one has to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face. B.S. Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Party may not have won the urban civic polls, but it is happy that its mother party and bête noire, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has lost, and resoundingly at that. It has been obvious for a while that there can be no winners in the game of one-upmanship being played by Karnataka’s saffron leadership, but this fact always worried the BJP more than it did Mr Yeddyurappa. Having lost the coveted chief ministership of the state, Mr Yeddyurappa centred his politics around inflicting the maximum damage on his former party to prove his indispensability to it while the BJP concentrated on a policy of containment to stop the unravelling of both the government and the party in the state. The fruits of this damaging politics could only go to the opposition parties, and that is what has happened in Karnataka. The Congress, which waited patiently in the wings while the saffronites roughed it out in the bull ring, has won in 1,960 wards of the 4,952 that went to polls, remarkably improving on its 2007 figures. The Janata Dal (Secular) should have benefitted equally from the BJP-KJP duel, but its contribution to muddying the state’s politics appears to be too raw in people’s minds. Clean politics obviously matters to the urban electorate in Karnataka. Had it not been so, the poll statistics would have read differently. In complete contrast to its national image of being a scandal-tainted party, the Congress in Karnataka has gained from its relatively clean image. The BJP has been routed in its strongholds in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts, and the Reddy brothers’ BSR Congress in Bellary for the same reason.
The lesson could prove troubling for the Congress in 2014, but it is a boon for it in the forthcoming assembly elections in Karnataka, where the incumbent BJP government scores low in governance. But the state Congress, which has no face to sell for the chief ministerial candidate, should not rest easy. The BJP might not be able to reverse the downswing, but the KJP and a vast number of independents could scotch the chances for any single party emerging victorious. Despite being spoilers, they are the ones who retain the key to government-formation and its survival.