Congress counts BJP's southern losses

Congress strategists say the BJP could have acquired critical substance for its southern project by bouncing back in Karnataka

By Our Special Correspondent in New Delhi
  • Published 8.11.18, 1:52 AM
  • Updated 8.11.18, 8:45 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Congress candidate VS Ugrappa after his win in Bellary on Tuesday. (PTI)

The Karnataka bypoll result is being viewed by the Congress central leadership with optimism. The dominant view is that it spells doom for the BJP’s southern dream.

Congress strategists say the BJP could have acquired critical substance for its southern project by bouncing back in Karnataka but the spectacular rebuff in the Bellary Lok Sabha constituency and the losses in the Assembly election might have wiped out that possibility. The results also cemented the shaky Congress-JDS alliance.

Chief minister and JDS leader H.D. Kumaraswamy told a TV channel on Tuesday): “He (Rahul Gandhi) is a sincere politician who always keeps his word.”

While the Telugu Desam Party’s surprise decision to nestle into the Congress lap has almost rendered Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as no-gone zones for the BJP, Amit Shah’s desperate efforts in Kerala, fuelled recently by the Sabarimala row, might not be good enough for converting the gains into seats in the parliamentary election.

Party leaders feel that in Tamil Nadu too, the Karnataka show will bolster the prospects of a DMK-Congress coalition.

HD Kumaraswamy
HD Kumaraswamy Agency picture

Although the rise in the BJP vote-share in a constituency like Mandya, where the Congress and JDS battled it out for supremacy for decades, indicated there is an opening for a new opposition, Congress sources feel any significant realignment of political loyalties will take time and the electoral dynamics can’t be dramatically altered within a few months when the parliamentary election will take place.

They also believe that Bellary win has convinced the local leadership of the Congress that a sincere and dedicated companionship at the ground-level can bring about dramatic results for the coalition.

There was an alarming degree of misgivings in the Congress about the alliance with the JDS but now the fear of disruption has receded significantly.

Kumaraswamy himself set the target of winning all the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka. He also indicated that the Congress would get prominence and lead the alliance in the parliamentary election, which means lesser conflict in ticket distribution. The BJP won 17 Lok Sabha seats from the state in 2014, protecting which would be an uphill task in 2019.

Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi Agency picture

Even at the peak of Modi storm, the Congress managed to get 41.15 per cent votes in Karnataka against the BJP’s 43.37 per cent.

If the JDS vote — 11.07 per cent — is added to Congress vote, it surpasses the BJP’s vote share by a significant 8 per cent plus votes. While the popularity of Narendra Modi and B.S. Yeddyurappa has taken a hit over the past four years and Rahul Gandhi has emerged stronger, both chemistry and arithmetic will be difficult for the BJP in 2019.

Congress leaders also understand that an effective coalition can push the BJP out of reckoning in the 130 Lok Sabha seats in south India. While the Congress alliance with the NCP will be formidable in Maharashtra, the SP-BSP combine in Uttar Pradesh can derail the BJP juggernaut in Uttar Pradesh, according to Congress leaders.

While the Congress is slowly getting hopeful in Telangana because of the rising anger against K Chandrashakhar Rao’s alleged family control, the critical Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh will decide how the BJP performs in the Hindi heartland that provided the backbone to Modi’s robust victory in 2014.