The second phase of state assembly elections has been announced and starts on May 10, with results to be declared on May 13. The state that goes to polls this time is Karnataka (a one-day affair), a pretty important state, considering that this is the only state in the south of the country within the grasp of the ruling BJP and also a state where the strength of the Congress is pretty much at duel level.
This will be the first of six – there will be five more fought out this year, with three having already been decided – and become important milestones on way to the general elections set for next year.
Ground realities have changed since the last assembly elections, with Congress leader and former president of the party, Rahul Gandhi, having been convicted in a 2019 defamation suit. Since the punishment has been of 2 years, the minimum required for the disqualification of a legislature, Rahul has been promptly disqualified and has also been asked to vacate the official premises in New Delhi by April 22.
Rahul, probably, sees this as an opportunity and wants to play the martyr card to get Congress some sympathy votes during the election campaigns. Surely, his Bharat Jodo Yatra did gain a great deal of traction among the masses, but whether a martyr card will help Rahul as it may have helped the likes of seasoned politicians of yesteryears, such as Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav, is to be seen. Moreover, the Congress, as of writing this, has failed to appeal the conviction of Rahul at any higher court, which lends credence to the martyr angle.
In between, Rahul, at a press conference, said disparaging words about Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, which has led to Uddhav Thackeray protesting loudly and distancing himself from Rahul’s tirade. That was not good politics.
Whatever is happening now, Karnataka is where a lot of decisions will be made. It is a critical state of both parties – BJP and the Congress. BJP did emerge as the single largest party in 2018, with 104 seats in the 224-member assembly, with Congress not too far behind with 80.
One has to remember that Congress and Janata Dal, Secular (a tally of 37) had formed a coalition government, with the latter’s HD Kumaraswamy taking oath as the chief minister. That was before some Congress-JD(S) legislators rebelled, leading to a collapse of the coalition government. The BJP was back at the top.
One has to wait and see how the two parties tie the ends this time.