BJP has emerged as the single largest party in the Karnataka Assembly elections. The Congress is at a distant second with the JDS coming third. The BJP is short of majority on its own. There are talks of the Congress teaming up with the JDS to form a government. Such a coalition is not just unethical but also untenable given the past history of the two ruling together. It needs to be seen if the BJP will be able to cobble up a coalition with the JDS or other like-minded candidates in other parties. Whoever forms the government, most importantly these elections herald the fall of Siddaramaiah and his brand of politics. What are the factors that led to the fall of Siddaramaiah who just a couple of day ago haughtily declared that he will return as the CM? Here is a look back on the factors that led to the decline of the Congress in these elections.
In 2013, Congress defeated the BJP and rode to power due to two factors: Factionalism in the BJP and plethora of promises aimed at appeasement, populism and short term gains. Five years later, the BJP put up a united front and the Congress failed to deliver on its promises. The results are for all to see.
I thank my sisters and brothers of Karnataka for steadfastly supporting the BJP’s development agenda and making BJP the single largest party in the state. I salute the stupendous work of @BJP4Karnataka Karyakartas who toiled round the clock and worked for the party.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 15, 2018
The Congress under Siddaramaiah as the Chief Minister, in all its wisdom forgot the fundamental issues plaguing the state and instead tread the path of populism and minority appeasement which was not what the electorate of the state ever wanted. Ever since Narendra Modi led NDA changed the dynamics of politics in 2014, good governance, development sans appeasement and corruption free administration is what appeals to people by and large. Expectations of the Karnataka electorate was no different. However, Congress and Siddaramaiah failed to read the writing on the wall and chose to walk their path of vote mongering in the name of caste, religion, regionalism, appeasement, populist schemes with no focus on improving the lives of the citizens. Today’s results reflects the aspirations of the people of Karnataka that was belied by the Congress.
We opine that the following major factors led to this victory for the BJP:
1) Dividing Hindus: A cursory look at the results suggests that BJP has won handsomely in most constituencies in the Mumbai-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka regions where Lingayats are the dominant community. Both the Lingayats and Veerashaivas were not happy with the way the new religion movement was given a political flavor just before the polls. They knew that Siddaramaiah gave fillip to the separate religion tag only for the sake of garnering votes. The Veerashaiva seers and mathas had always opposed the separate religion movement and had openly revolted against Siddaramaiah before the polls. It was because of this the Lingayat minority religion tag miserably failed for Congress.
2) Minority Appeasement: Karnataka like other Congress ruled states is not new to politics of minority appeasement. However under Siddaramaiah Muslim appeasement reached the depths like never before. 166 cases of rioting and arson were withdrawn against PFI activists. Tipu Sultan who massacred thousands in Mysore and Coorg was celebrated throughout the 5 year tenure. ‘Tipu Jayanti’ which became a annual affair were sponsored by the government, despite vehement opposition to the same by all political parties and common people. Siddaramaiah had haughtily justified Tipu Jayanti and even attempted to rewrite history by portraying him as a freedom fighter. Breakdown of Law and order and loss of lives of several Hindu activists during Tipu Jayanti celebrations not deter Siddaramaiah and he continued to further the agenda of hate. Not just Tipu Jayanti, there were plans afoot to celebrate the Bahamani tyrants, those who massacred and ransacked the Vijaynagar Empire in the name of Bahamani Utsav in North Karnataka. This, as witnessed in the results, did not go well with the common people of the state.
3) Deteriorating Law & Order: Under Siddaramaiah’s regime, Karnataka rose to number 2 in the country in terms of crimes. Bengaluru became the no.2 in terms of crimes in a city in India. NCM statistics revealed that murders, atrocities on women, attacks on SC/STs too had risen in the state after 2013. Any concerns raised by citizens were brushed under the carpet as politically motivated.
Congress is flatly rejected by people of Karnataka who have voted for change. However Congress is trying to subvert the mandate through dubious means. People of Karnataka won’t allow for this to happen. Will consult with central leaders on the next course of action : Sri @BSYBJP
— BJP Karnataka (@BJP4Karnataka) May 15, 2018
4) Murders of Hindu Activists: Karnataka witnessed brutal murders of Hindu karyakartas by Jihadi elements during the last 5 years. While Siddaramaiah dismissed them as personal in nature, various home ministers ridiculed and neglected proper investigation. Most of these murders took place in the coastal belt. People in the region were alert to the threats faced from Jihadis and the appeasement of the govt which never took the threats seriously. The three districts of coastal Karnataka I.e Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupi have all overwhelmingly voted for the BJP as it has won 17 of the 21 seats in this region. If this is not a referendum on the politics of minority appeasement of the Congress, what else is?
5) Neglect of Agrarian Distress: Largely agrarian state witnessed a rise in the number of farmer suicides during Siddaramaiah’s tenure. The trend increased in the last 2 years. More than 3700 farmers committed suicide in the last 4 years. The Congress government did not show interest in furthering central govt schemes aimed at mitigating the losses of the farmers. Crop Insurance schemes was in a limbo. North Karnataka and districts of Kolar, Chikkaballapur and surrounding areas suffer from acute water shortage. Instead of solving water disputes with neighbouring states, the CM and his cabinet ministers were busy playing blame game to pin the BJP politically. The lack of will Siddaramaiah’s government in solving the water crisis was evident in the way it handled the Mahadayi row. Consequently, Congress lost heavily in these regions.
6) Unhealthy Financial Management: It is no secret that, the state borrowed heavily to fund the various populist schemes of Siddaramaiah. The overburdened state exchequer left very less margin to invest in long term infrastructure and developmental projects. The economics of elections did not go well with the people of the state. Farm loan waiver was just an eye wash which did not help the beneficiaries but put a burden on the state finances. The cumulative debt of Karnataka under Siddaramaiah is more than the debt incurred by all the previous chief ministers put together! Constant complaints against GST and Central govt were exposed to be a hoax as the Karnataka Budget itself estimated commercial tax collections of INR 55,000 Crores for YE March 2018 which was Rs. 2200 more than the previous tax regime. Such jugglery and trickery was duly noticed by the electorate who gave a huge thumbs down to Siddaramaiah’s fiscal imprudence.
7) Phony Social Justice: Congress has always believed in pitting one against the other rather than uplift every downtrodden community irrespective of their voting preferences. Siddaramaiah’s regime was no different. School children were divided on the basis of caste. School trips were organized only for few communities and minorities while other students were left out. Promotional reservations for SC/STs was used as a carrot for votes by the Congress. They promised the moon and backtracked in the courts. This duplicity in practice of social justice did not go down well with the people of the state.
8) Neglect of Infrastructure: Cities like Bengaluru, Hubballi and Mangaluru saw huge increase in terms of population, vehicular traffic, expanding urban areas. However, there were no adequate investments in infrastructure to mitigate the issues faced by the cities. Investment in rural infrastructure too were unscientific and haphazard. Central schemes for rural and urban housing were neglected and funds remain unutilized. While the rest of the country was marching ahead in terms of infrastructure and futuristic projects, Karnataka lagged behind. Several automotive companies shifted base to other states for lack of infrastructure, water and other amenities.
Any party or coalition that forms the government in Karnataka has to be weary of not walking the path of Siddaramaiah. These elections were a referendum on his brand of politics and he has lost it badly. The electorate have given a resounding verdict that Siddaramaiah and Congress’ policy of ‘divide and rule’ is a thing of the past and what they expect is good governance, clean administration and visionary leadership.
By Prashanth Vaidyaraj