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Lessons from Karanataka

The Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) quest to conquer south hit a huge roadblock as a hastily stitched post-poll tie-up between Congress and JD(S) has gone well in stalling it from forming the government in Karnataka. BJP, with 103 seats in a House of 222, emerged as the single largest party with Congress having won 78, JD(S) 38 and other 2 seats. Congress, in a clever move, outmaneuvered the BJP by extending unconditional support to JD(S) just before the BJP could think about getting the required number for government formation. The BJP had, last year, sabotaged Congress from forming governments in Goa and Manipur the similar way despite Congress winning more seats than BJP in the two states. As the number-game was clear and BJP was well short of the required number (112 needed to cross the majority mark), BJP resorted to palace conspiracies with the state governor on its side. The Governor shut doors on JD(S) and refused to audience to JD(S) and Congress combine, who had staked claim for government formation. The Governor instead invited BJP to form the government and administered oath to BJP chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa with the condition to prove the majority character in the assembly within 15 days. It was unlikely for the Congress and JD(S) to keep their flock together for such a period given the money and muscle power of the BJP. The Congress moved to the Supreme Court and got a relief when the apex court shortened floor test to mere 24 hours. Despite attempts of horse-trading, as alleged by the Congress, the BJP chief minister, however, failed to get the required numbers and resigned just before seeking the vote of confidence in the House.
The reversal in Karnataka is a huge setback for the BJP. It has blocked BJP’s road to march into south India. BJP is ruling in 20 states (out of 26) and the win in Karnataka could have added to its stature further ahead of next year’s general elections. BJP just not lost power in Karnataka but saw all the opposition parties-regional, smaller and national, coming together against the might of the BJP. By being the dominant force in Indian politics since 2013, the BJP has managed to become the common enemy to parties in the opposition. The BJP will face electoral challenges in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram later this year, before it gets war ready for the 2019 general election. A victory in Karnataka could have ensured smoother sailing for the BJP in these states. The BJP’s futile quest to form its 21st state government (in Karnataka) has made 2019 interesting. The ultimate outcome of Karnataka elections has given rise to some serious thinking. One; BJP is not invincible. Two, a united opposition could be a genuine alternative to the BJP at national level. Third; Congress has to shun the sense of superiority and conduct itself as one among equals with regard to regional parties. The Congress can take credit for stopping the BJP in Karnataka through its swift move. If the party is ready to play second fiddle in other states, where regional parties hold strong sway, BJP’s further march can be checked. The Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party have already sewed up an alliance in UP. Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Telangana Rashtra Samithi head and Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao have been trying to mobilise support for a united third front. With the exception of the TMC, Communists too have a good equation with most regional parties. Will the general election in 2019, the opposition parties only need to shun personal and party ego and weave together around an idea and attitude of mutual adjustment and accommodation.