While the loss of power is a setback for the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) coalition, the two parties can finally focus on rebuilding their respective outfits and aim to be a credible Opposition and contain the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) juggernaut in Karnataka and the rest of the country.
With its high command in complete disarray, the Congress could start its rebuilding exercise from Karnataka — a state that helped resurrect the political fortunes of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the grand old party in the late 1970s.
“We prefer sitting in the Opposition than continuing in this coalition. We can finally start focusing on larger problems," said one Congress legislator, requesting not to be named.
The JD(S) faces an uphill task to regain the trust of its eroded Vokkaliga support base in south Karnataka and contain the BJP’e entry into its bastions. The regional outfit faced a severe backlash in the parliamentary elections, including the defeat of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his grandson, Nikhil Kumaraswamy.
Among the three major parties, the Congress that saw a slew of defections, is likely to have secured the best opportunity to reorganise its tattered state unit to take on a highly disciplined BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
Congress legislature party leader Siddaramaiah on Tuesday said the defectors had helped cleanse its house and vowed never to take back the rebels, forcing the latter to depend on the BJP to secure a bypoll victory and help it retain the majority when all vacancies are filled in the lower house.
“Accommodating all rebels in the government will be a repeat of the BJP government of 2008 where it became hostages of forces that they were not able to control," said Sandeep Shastri, political analyst and pro vice-chancellor of Jain University and National Coordinator of Lokniti Network.
In accommodating the demands of the 16 rebels, the BJP could weaken its defences and leaving it vulnerable to attacks by the Opposition, if the Congress and the JD(S) can set its houses in order.
The two parties, whose alliance arrangement was more in theory than in practice, will have to gain back lost ground, especially public perception, according to analysts.
A. Narayana, political analyst and faculty at the Azim Premji University (AZU), said both the Congress and the JD(S) will now have to gain back some public sympathy and work towards being a credible Opposition. The two parties will have to fix its problems within before needling the BJP, he added.
“It should let the BJP’s internal precipitation fester," Narayana said.
Rejected in most other states of south India, the BJP has found comfort in Karnataka, which it considers the gateway to Tamil Nadu and Kerala — its other two projects.
However, the BJP is as vulnerable as the coalition not only due to its wafer-thin majority, but its internal workings as well. B.S. Yeddyurappa, the front runner to replace H.D. Kumaraswamy, has been one of the biggest challenges for the BJP as many within the party are against the functioning style of the 76-year-old leader from the dominant Lingayat community. Yeddyurappa’s unceremonious departure from the BJP in 2012 reduced the saffron outfit to just 40 seats in the 2013 polls from 110 seats in 2008.
Though the uncertainty is far from over in Karnataka, the recent crisis could be the signal of the the beginning of a credible Opposition amid its darkest political hour.
Also read: Opinion | The end of an unseemly drama in Karnataka