In my opinion, the Karnataka election shifted the focus away from the IPL to politics. In recent times, it was one of the most interesting and bitterly-fought elections. Even the exit polls were unable to predict which way the wind was blowing.
The Congress had fought a hard campaign under Siddaramaiah, and almost bucked the anti-incumbency trend and the ‘yo-yo’ election trends in Karnataka. Modi too gave a huge impetus to the Karnataka’s BJP unit which was struggling to win Karnataka under the tainted Yeddyurappa in the final stages of campaign. The JD(S) under Kumaraswamy was seen to be consolidating its strongholds.
Finally, when the results came out, it predictably led to a hung assembly with the BJP emerging as the single largest party with 104 seats, but short of the majority mark of 112. The Congress, with 78 seats in its pocket, showed a very spontaneous and pragmatic approach by keeping its ego low and immediately moved to have a pact with the JD(S) (which had won 37 seats). It also announced that it would support JD(S) chief HD Kumaraswamy as the CM candidate of the coalition.
The deal was struck so quickly that it surprised many, including Amit Shah and the BJP – given the fact that the Congress and JD(S) had fought bitterly during the election campaign. But, the Congress, which only had Punjab, Mizoram and Pondicherry in its kitty, was clear in its message that it would save Karnataka the BJP’s clutches at any cost. Then, we had a string of developments including the governor showing huge arrogance by inviting Yeddyurappa first to form the government despite the fact that it hadn’t reached the majority mark.
Anyway, after all this highly-televised drama, the Supreme Court stepped in and asked Yeddyurappa to prove the majority within a day itself – a decision that probably denied him the opportunity to indulge in horse-trading. Consequently, Yeddyurappa resigned and allowed the Congress-JD(S) alliance to come together and form the government with HD Kumaraswamy as CM and G Parameshwara from Congress as deputy CM.
Now, the affair described above was definitely riveting and well known to all. However, what I would like to focus on is the image shown just above. Now, this is very significant. Yes – it is only a photo opportunity with a host of regional leaders and Congress leaders sharing stage. But how often have you seen Mayawati and Akhilesh, Mamata and Sitaram Yechury, Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar and Rahul Gandhi and Chandrababu Naidu together?
This event is hugely significant and should be taken very seriously by the BJP, if it hasn’t been noted by Amit Shah already. After all, what the Karnataka elections achieved hadn’t been accomplished by these leaders even after repeated and prolonged negotiations. Seen in that light, the Grand Alliance or the Mahagathbandhan is very much a reality and a workable machine which has the potential to dethrone the Modi sarkar.
How Does The Grand Alliance Change The Game? Let Us Take A Peek
If we look at the takeaways from the recently-conducted ABP News-CSDS Lokniti survey on the mood of the nation, we’ll notice that although BJP is still the single largest party and can be just near to gaining a majority along with its partners, Congress and its allies also stand to gain significantly.
According to the survey, in terms of the nationwide vote share, the NDA may get 37% votes, down from 38.5 % in 2014. The UPA may get 31% votes (up from 23%) while others can get up to 32% of the votes. So, speculatively speaking, if we add 31% and 32%, it becomes 63%.
Now, this is the significance of the Grand Alliance. Based on a simple mathematical calculation, they seem to be way ahead of the BJP . Now, what the Karnataka election has done is that it has given a real chance to the Opposition to transform this mathematical possibility into reality by bonding with each other.
1. In UP, we have seen how the coming together of the SP and the BSP in Phulpur and Gorakhpur surprised Yogi Adityanath in his own den.
2. The Congress and the JD(S) joining hands in Karnataka is the next step. For all practical purposes, the alliance should last till 2019. Furthermore, if they fight according to a pre-poll arrangement, the BJP numbers could shrink significantly.
3. In Bengal, the Left Front and the Congress seem to have formed an uneasy alliance, as Mamata seems to moving full-steam to throttle democracy in Bengal. Meanwhile, the BJP seems to be indulging in communalism in the state. Hence, the Left-Congress alliance can be expected to stem the growth of BJP in the state.
4. In Maharashtra, the Congress-NCP alliance can improve its numbers with the Shiv Sena clearly opposing Modi by splitting from the BJP.
5. The elections in MP, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and some other states are expected to be direct fights between Congress and BJP. The Congress definitely has a good chance to wrest power from the BJP in MP and Rajasthan, and improve its performance in Chhattisgarh and Gujarat by adding to its tally.
6. In Punjab, the Congress is going strong – and both the BJP-Akalis and the AAP are struggling to take on Captain Amarinder Singh. In Jammu and Kashmir, the NC-Congress alliance is bound to make a strong comeback, with the PDP-BJP alliance losing most of its credibility.
7. In the south, apart from Karnataka, the BJP doesn’t seem to be much of a player. And now, with TDP walking out of the NDA, the fate of BJP seems to have sealed in the south. In Andhra Pradesh, either the YSR Congress or the TDP will gain momentum. Both may be wary of going with the BJP , especially after the state has not been granted the special status.
In Telangana, KC Rao and the Congress are locked in a bitter fight – and KCR is looking formidable. He is looking to work with Mamata, Deve Gowda and other federal front partners, but not with the BJP. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK, Congress look all set to come back strongly with the AIADMK losing all credibility. In Kerala, either the Left will retain its power, or else, the Congress will gain. After all, both are arch-enemies of the BJP.
8. The BJP knows that its numbers will fall in north and central India. That is why it is going all out to gain the maximum mileage in states in the east and the Northeast – Bengal, Odisha, Assam and other states.
So overall, we can see the emergence of a scenario where the Congress and regional players will retain and also add to their numbers based on the grassroot-alliances and tie-ups .
Can The Grand Alliance Offer An Alternative To Counter BJP’s Charge of ‘Modi Sarkar Vs Khichdi Sarkar’ ?
Many people would remember Indira Gandhi’s famous slogan: “Woh kehte hain Indira hatao, mai kehti hoon garibi hatao.” This was when the entire opposition came together to fight Indira and lost badly due to the lack of credibility.
One thing is clear – no grand pre-poll arrangement between all parties is possible. State-wise alliances are needed, as are subtle pre-poll arrangements which will deliver the results. The Congress will also need to come up with a strong catch-line to counter “phir ek baar Modi sarkar” and “saaf niyat, sahi vikas” slogans of the BJP . The Congress needs to project its narrative, policies while also coming up with a catchy (possibly leftist) slogan like the “Congress ka haath aam admi ke saath” slogan in 2004.
With the larger number of farmer suicides, and protests among workers, Dalits, Muslims and even Christians, the Congress and its allies need to come up with a strong leftist alternative to the right-wing offensive of the BJP. Given that oppression, joblessness, fuel prices and inflation are peaking across the country, this alternative will have to be based on the principles of welfare economics, social justice and pluralism.
Most importantly, the Congress needs to emerge as the principal opposition party amongst its allies. If it emerges as a weak one – and in case the NDA falls short of majority mark, being unable to get sufficient allies – then leaders like Mamata Banerjee may well like to repeat the HD Kumaraswamy phenomenon at the national level. Such leaders may ask the Congress to support the ‘Grand Alliance PM candidate’ like Mamata or Mayawati or Sharad Pawar, instead of Rahul Gandhi.
Now, in my opinion, this can only lead to the formation of a weak government, which will only raise more doubts in the people’s minds. The Congress has to lead the coalition – and a ‘UPA arrangement’ is the only stable alternative to ‘Modi sarkar‘.