When the Congress's bastions across the country are falling like ninepins, the party is doing it strongly in one state and that is Karnataka. The chief minister of the state, Siddaramaiah, has displayed a rare proactive stance, a rare quality among the Congressmen nowadays, to take an early lead over the opponent BJP. In fact, just like his pre-emptive style, the content of Siddaramaiah's action has also proved to be fruitful.
The ideas of forming a separate flag for Karnataka, opposing Hindi in the signages in Bengaluru Metro, warning to non-Kannadigas against undermining the local culture and also supporting a section of the Lingayat community's call for a separate religion tag are something unique for a Congress leadership to pursue. The grand old party is known more for a pluralist legacy, something which it has followed since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, but under Siddaramaiah, it is forcing a change in its politics out of compulsion to tackle the BJP's aggression.
Siddaramaiah has taken lead over BJP through his politics of sub-nationalism
A shrewd politician, Siddaramaiah knows that the call for Kannada sub-nationalism is something the BJP will not oppose because by doing so, it will only risk its own chances in the Assembly elections due in 2018. Moreover, it also helps the state Congress to find an apt reply for the tendency of the BJP-led Centre to impose Hindi across the country. No matter what Siddaramaiah's government has done on the administrative front in the last four years, the call for sub-nationalism will always earn it the rewards. The game-plan is similar to the Senas -- Shiv and Maharashtra Navnirman -- in Maharashtra.
The Congress, buoyed by the prestigious by-election wins in March, has looked strong in overcoming the blow it had suffered by the exit of a number of leaders from its rank, including the veteran SM Krishna, but Siddaramaiah has turned the equations to his favour by giving strong sub-nationalist calls.
Unlike in the rest of India, BJP doesn't have much answer to Congress ploy in Karnataka
The BJP, despite gaining physical weight, is yet to settle down and will have to put in extra efforts to snatch the power back from the Congress next year. It will be particularly rattled by the Congress's support for a section of the Lingayats for a separate religion since the community is a strong vote-bank of the saffron party and BS Yeddyurappa, its face in the state, is a Lingayat strongman.
Karnataka is the only state where the Congress is giving the BJP a tough time and the top brass of the grand old party needs to learn the tactic from the southern state. At a time when the BJP's idea of a monolithic India is gaining support, the Karnataka Congress leadership has decided to beat the saffron camp in its own game and it has conveniently dropped the Nehruvian baggage to act as per the call of the times for its own sake. For Rahul Gandhi and his coterie, this is something worth learning.