Better messaging, anti-incumbency against the Indian National Congress and hope among voters of getting more than just freebies were some of the factors that helped Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party wrest Karnataka, political experts said.
The BJP had won or was leading on 113 seats in the 224-seat Karnataka Assembly as of 12 noon, according to the Election Commission’s website. The Congress’ tally fell nearly by half from 2013 to about 65. The Janata Dal (Secular) was ahead in 39 constituencies.
Modi’s party has been fairly successful in putting across the message that it has something to offer for every region of the state and every section of society, Ratan Mani Lal, senior journalist and political commentator told BloombergQuint. Its messaging helped the party make inroads even in areas that have traditionally been Congress strongholds, he said. “It appears that large parts of rural Karnataka, where Dalits have a dominance, the support for BJP has risen manifold.”
According to Narendar Pani of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, it’s a vote against the Congress. “Wherever the JD(S) is stronger they have done better, and wherever BJP is strong, they have done well.”
Corruption was on the key issue during the campaign. Yet, the BJP banked on former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, who was booked in the mining scam and even arrested. The party even roped in the Reddy brothers of Bellary who were also named in the scandal. And that helped the party.
Projecting Yeddyurappa as the chief ministerial candidate helped boost BJP’s chances in the state, Pani said. The “supporting role” of the Reddy brothers and the electoral machinery of Modi and BJP President Amit Shah were the other factors that helped tilt the scales in its favour, he said.
There was also an element of anti-incumbency. More so because no party has won two successive terms in the state since 1985. People wanted a change and the JD(S) couldn’t put its view point forward very clearly, Lal said. “It is a cumulative effect of whatever BJP has done at the Centre and in the states where it is in power. It could be implemented on a larger and more advantageous scale in Karnataka itself.”
Pani said the lesson is that welfare schemes have no political impact. Lal agrees: “BJP managed to encourage the aspirational part among society... probably that BJP will do something more than just giving freebies. And that seems to be clicking.”