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How Karnataka rejected Congress’ ‘Divide and Rule’ tactics

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Reflecting on the results pouring in from Karnataka, one can’t miss the outright rejection of the Congress tactics of playing up one group against another by the democratic mandate of the people. Even if the country has come out of the colonial hangover, the Congress, true to its origins, has inherited the ways of the coloniser. From worshiping a family to dividing society to continue its rule, are some of the manoeuvre it has learnt from the British masters and continues to apply in ample measure.

In the Karnataka elections, the Congress tried to throw in a number of identity cards, with an aim to divide the Hindu society on caste, region and religious basis. However, the diabolical strategy has been rejected by the people. The Vokkaliga and Lingayats, who make up significant percentage of overall population of Karnataka, emphatically voted for non-Congress parties. The former are gravely incensed by the CM Siddaramaiah for meting out step motherly treatment to the community in favour of his own community of Kurubas. The opposition to the Congress CM has culminated into the Vokkaligas consolidating against the former in Chamundeshwari and ensuring his defeat from the assembly seat by more than 36,000 votes. The votes of the community have mostly gone to the JD(S), followed by the BJP.

Similarly, the Lingayats have been steadfast in their support to the BJP. The regions dominated by the community have given a decisive mandate to the BJP. Lingayat dominated regions, including Bedgavi and Hubli-Dharwad, have the saffron party winning majority of seats. There has been stern rejection from the community who were enticed by Siddaramaiah with the minority religion tag. They not only refused to fall for the trap but came out much stronger in their dismissal of Congress government’s attempt to break them away from larger Hindu-fold ten days prior to elections.

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Political murders of BJP-RSS workers raised heat in the state as the Chief Minister failed to control the deteriorating law and order situation. The BJP President raised the issue of BJP-RSS karyakartas killed in the state as an election issue, which found immense resonance among the people in the Coastal region of Karnataka. As per the election verdict, the BJP has swept Dakshina Kannada and Udupi regions, which were with Congress in 2013. The BJP Karnataka even dedicated victory of its candidate from Dakshina Kannada to BJP’s karyakarta Prashant Poojary who was hacked to death.

The caste fault lines were actively ignited by the Congress in the run up to the elections. CM Siddaramaiah placed himself as the representative of SC community in Karnataka. However, on the Badami seat he himself faced a tough competition from tribal leader Sriramulu. The former CM managed to steal a win by mere 1600 votes. His government’s Social Welfare Minister and his close aide H Anjaneya faced defeat by a whopping 40,000 margin, puncturing the claims of Congress Chief Minister of enjoying support of the backward classes, as opposed to the BJP.

There could be no doubt about the anti-incumbency working against the Congress government considering 13 of their sitting ministers lost elections. However, during the newsroom discussions, the Modi detractors tried to brush aside anti-incumbency, calling Siddaramaiah a cut above the rest. In one of the articles, published in the Washington Post, Barkha Dutt invoked Siddaramaiah’s “subaltern” identity as a counter to Prime Minister’s popularity.

The verdict, however, has shown the hollowness of claims made by op-ed writers. The election has also clearly manifested the nation-wide appeal of the Prime Minister that cuts across identity politics. Even after 4 years of being in power at the centre, PM Modi remains an endearing figure, who is seen as a leader who not only promises change but delivers it. With 2019 elections nearing in, the Modi juggernaut is yet to be reined in by his political adversaries. They are now looking to erect a united front, devoid of any ideological base and purely based on the plank of anti-Modi sentiments to counter the BJP’s forward march. Since, BJP in Karnataka, despite emerging as the single largest party, failed to muster the half way mark, Karnataka might witness the dress rehearsal of the same with Congress and JD(S) coming together to stake a claim to power.

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