Bengaluru: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may become optimistic about its prospects in the Karnataka assembly elections slated next year after winning the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections, but analysts said Monday’s verdicts will help the Congress more in Karnataka than the BJP.
“The results in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will have no bearing on our government," chief minister Siddaramaiah said on Monday, while adding that local issues will play an important role in Karnataka elections next year.
Siddaramaiah’s confidence stems from the bye-election victories in Nanjangud and Gundlupet in April—barely a month after the BJP swept the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and politically influential state.
“The impact, if any, would be marginal. But even if it does, it will provide the Congress with a sense of relief," Narendar Pani, political analyst and professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), said on Monday.
He said the Congress could take comfort from the fact that it was not a clean sweep by the BJP and also that its new president, Rahul Gandhi, is not as bad a campaigner as traditionally made out to be.
Heading into elections, the BJP has named B.S. Yeddyurappa as its chief ministerial candidate to counter the growing popularity of Siddaramaiah. However, the BJP’s five-year rule in Karnataka from 2008-2013 saw three chief ministers and a number of scams—including the illegal mining case, resort politics and a host of other corruption charges.
On the other hand, Siddaramaiah’s popularity has soared in recent months, mostly due to populist schemes targeting the economically and socially backward people in the state.
Further, the Siddaramaiah government has kept up the pressure on Yeddyurappa by opening up old cases against him and raking up the at least four-decade-old demand of a separate religion status for Lingayats—believed to be the single largest community in the state.
Though the Lingayats, in recent years, have backed Yeddyurappa (also from the community), the Congress has tried to claim leadership roles within the community and take charge of the politically influential group.
In 2015, Siddaramaiah also commissioned a caste census (yet to be released) to challenge the dominant caste narrative and give more reservations to backward classes. Siddaramaiah stormed to power in 2013 with his AHINDA (acronym for minorities, backward classes and Dalits).
Siddaramaiah has also countered Yeddyurappa’s 75-day “Parivarthana Yatra" across the state with his own tours, during which the former has launched a flurry of new projects and schemes for various districts—drawing bigger crowds when compared to the BJP.