Outmanoeuvring the BJP at its own game, the Congress-JD(S) combine has succeeded in tying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Ashwamedha’ horse in Karnataka. The real message from the outcome of Karnataka polls is that Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah are not invincible and the message for the Congress is that it’s time to ‘fight a guerrilla like a guerrilla’.
The ruling BJP, led by the Modi-Shah combine, had apparently become like a machine only working to win elections and wresting power. Unrepentant of anything, the duo changed the rules of the game as it suits them and moved on like a juggernaut but the Karnataka election outcome came as an unexpected setback as Lok Sabha polls are just a year away. Congress party’s swift move to ally with the JD(S) to keep the BJP out of power, its success in protecting the MLAs from poaching and timely legal intervention to challenge Governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision and securing early floor test took PM Modi and Amit Shah by surprise. Their obsessive bid to grab power in Karnataka brought opposition leaders to come together.
In fact, the BJP’s march towards South has successfully been halted. After having won maximum number of seats in Hindi belt in 2014, the BJP is already at its peak. Hence, the party has been looking forward to win more seats from southern and north eastern states—with the same agenda of polarisation which it had used in northern states. Karnataka has demonstrated that Modi’s victory horse has been tied in Bangalore and in 2019 it is not going to be a cakewalk for the Modi-Shah combine.
After its Karnataka experience, the BJP is wary about the upcoming elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan—the three crucial states being ruled by the BJP for the last three consecutive terms. Anti-incumbency against the BJP government is very high in these states, scheduled to go for polls by December this year. Any loss in these states would have a direct impact on the BJP prospects in the 2019 general elections.
The Modi-Shah combine has asked its chief ministers in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan to prepare a ‘concept note’ on one-nation, one election. The ploy seems to be unleashing a propaganda about the benefits of one nation, one election and to somehow hold the assembly elections in these three states along with the Lok Sabha polls in March/April next. The duo are not known for going with conventional wisdom and indications are that the BJP leadership may ask its governments in these three states to resign and recommend dissolution of the assembly, paving way for President’s rule for less than six months—so as to hold assembly elections with the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.
The thinking is that holding assembly polls in these three states, along with the Lok Sabha elections, would negate any possible anti-incumbency and hugely minimise the risk of the BJP loss in assembly polls to be held less than six months before the Lok Sabha polls.
Despite all analysis about the possible scenarios that could emerge, the Modi-Shah duo will continue to remain in what they are best—springing surprises and taking unconventional decisions even as the opposition parties continue to think about fighting them using traditional political formula. Whether Karnataka is an aberration or not it will unfold by the end of this year.