Many had predicted a photo-finish in the Karnataka election. As the results came trickling in, it was clear that the trend of the ruling party being defeated was continuing in the state. Yet, the BJP which entered triple digits has fallen short of a majority. The attention has now shifted from the results to the formation of the government.

What was the verdict of the Karnataka voter? The voter came out with a split verdict. The BJP performed similar to how it did in 2008. Ten years ago, it fell short of the halfway mark but managed a majority with the independents. This time around, there are only two independents and they are not enough to help the BJP cross the halfway mark. Not having improved its record in Bengaluru has stopped the party short of the majority mark.

The Congress saw its chief minister defeated in one seat and scraping through in another. Many of its ministers were defeated and the party fared poorly. The JD(S) got less seats than it had won the last time. Though many saw it as the kingmaker, it is now staking its claim to be the king. The abysmally poor performance of the Congress party is a clear reflection of its inability to hold together its social coalition. Its key strategies backfired. What worked for the BJP? The social coalition it constructed was instrumental in ensuring its success. Not only did it retain its support among the dominant caste, it also appears to have secured the support of the numerically important non-Kuruba backward castes and the Dalits. Further, the organisational strength of the BJP and the capacity of its leadership to effectively micro-manage the election strategy and campaign is its biggest strength. If one were to reflect on the Congress campaign in Karnataka, much of the responsibility rested with their chief minister.

The BJP, on the other hand, brought in a much wider range of campaigners who criss-crossed the state. Lastly, the last week of the campaign made a world of difference. The series of the rallies by PM Narendra Modi appears to have titled the balance in favour of the BJP. Siddaramaiah too, did not appear to be able to match the capacity of the prime minister to sway the electorate. The analysis of the electoral verdict is now on the back-burner and the spotlight is clearly on the government formation gymnastics. It is interesting to see the face of the Congress campaign, its outgoing chief minister Siddaramaiah announcing the decision of the party to support the claims of his bete noire, H.D. Kumaraswamy to head a JD(S)-led, Congress supported government. It is also relevant to note that during the Karnataka campaign, Congress president Rahul Gandhi described the JD(S) and Janata Dal Sangh Parivar and as the ‘B’ team of the BJP. This possibly explains why the discussions with the JD(S) were initiated by senior Congress leaders on the directions of Sonia Gandhi and not the Congress president. One suspects that the last has not yet been said of the ’nataka’ in Karnataka.

Sandeep Shastri is the pro-vice chancellor, Jain University and director of its Centre for Research in Social Sciences and Education

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