The surprise win for the Congress in Karnataka civic poll results, just a few days after the ignominous defeat in the Lok Sabha elections in the poll, spells doom and hope for the country's political parties. Out of 1,296 wards where the elections were held, Congress won most of the seats (509), with the BJP at 366 and the JD(S) at 174.
Karnataka has been known for its educated electorate ever since it returned Ramakrishna Hegde as chief minister in 1985, soon after his party Janata Dal's defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. Many experts have attributed the anomaly to the maturity of the voter to distinguish between the local elections and the national elections.
Taking cue from the example, many have written off any surprise in the current scenario. The BJP's resounding victory in 25 out of 28 Lok Sabha seats, however, failed to resonate in the elections to Karnataka civic bodies, which were held just a week after the results.
Even in the first phase of these civic polls held in 2,662 wards across the state held in September 2018 got the Congress 982 over BJP's 929, while the current coalition partner JD(S) got 375 seats. Since both the Congress and JD(S) fought the Lok Sabha elections together, the tally was believed to be in Congress favour. But the Lok Sabha election results proved otherwise, sending the signals of 'doubt' among the state leaders.
The party's state president Dinesh Gundu Rao explicitly tweeted saying:"Congress wins 509/1221 of the #KarnatakaUrbanLocalBodiesElections Winning almost 42% of the seats, it clearly shows that the people of Karnataka are with the Congress. What surprises me is how did BJP lose after winning by huge margins in the Loksabha. Needs investigation." (sic)
Supporters of BJP rushed to cite the example of Hegde's return in 1985 but that was a mature mandate that reflected after months whereas here is an election that was held just in a few days after the results of the Lok Sabha elections. In fact, the voter base before and after the Lok Sabha elections remained the same. So, what went wrong during the Lok Sabha elections, that too when Congress and JD(S) fought together?
One explanation was that the Vokkaligara votes went en bloc to Modi, despite a combined political choice presented to the voter. But the thin winning margin in many places indicates that the swing was minimal but detrimental to the coalition in the state. The strange phenomenon certainly baffled many experts, including the Congress and its allies.
If the undercurrents of a stable support base are true, then Congress can easily plunge for the next test. It should go for the dissolution of the state assembly and opt for a fresh mandate from the people of Karnataka. In fact, this could be the deja vu for Congress to return with a thumping majority in the assembly, the way Hegde returned in 1985.