An ominous silence will now descend upon Karnataka, the scene of thus far the bitterest electoral battle at the state level, with uproarious, often abusive BJP-Congress exchanges, both with high stakes for future survival. The 224-member Karnataka Assembly goes to polls on May 10 and the suspense should end with the results announced on May 13. And that should reset the political dialogue of the coming months in more positive ways, hopefully toward the mightier battle of the Lok Sabha elections of 2024. Prodigious Karnataka, at present the gateway for BJP to the South, no longer looks well set for BJP’s thrust in its one-nation expansive strategy. It remains to be seen what implications a BJP defeat in Karnataka would have for the mightier national battle in 2024 at a time when the Congress is on a revival strategy, and the major regional parties committed to secularism are looking at prospects of an effective anti-BJP alliance. They are all determined that the decade-old BJP rule of the nation with its own majoritarian, authoritarian and exclusivist Hindutva agenda should be brought to an end. There are more state elections down the road to 2024. While there are clear signs that Prime Minister Modi may still feel that the outlook for his position is not endangered, the BJP leadership will be using and can deploy more, political weapons available to it and the state machinery to further degrade and dismay the opposition in the poll battles ahead of 2024.
For the ruling BJP in the state, a loss in Karnataka could also look disastrous for its recently determined thrusts led by Prime Minister Modi to win over the Tamils and Keralites with his florid verbal rhetoric and bombastic promises. PM Modi also charged the Congress with “lying, blown away by the BJP storm.” Indeed, Modi over recent months has focussed on the two southern states, suddenly discovering Tamil, the oldest and richest language, and also trying to mend bridges with the Keralite Christians. However, the PM alleged that Congress wanted Kerala to “separate from India!” But increasingly, the PM is attacking the Congress, noting its signs of revival, charging it with utmost corruption — though the charge is laid equally at BJP’s doorstep as well. The way PM Modi frames the evil of corruption as the one big hurdle standing in the way of democracy and justice and asks CBI to act “boldly against the corrupt” might be one way of rebutting the charge held up against the incumbent BJP government.
Karnataka, BJP’s most crucial turf-hold in the South hitherto, seems to be drifting without clear signs of anti-incumbency. But this state with its two major Hindu socio-religious groups of population – Lingayats and Vokkaligas – has its characteristics of belying expectations from time to time. When CM Stalin at the end of his first two years of governance presented his report, titled “Peace and Prosperity for All”, he held the view that the secular alliance led by DMK’s win in 2024 can save India. He has alerted his cadres. BJP has to be defeated in the current assembly polls, otherwise, Stalin knows that the saffron will not only roar high to retain power in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, Modi-Shah duo will make all efforts to make fresh inroads into southern states including Tamil Nadu.