South Indians are unique in many ways. This was confirmed again on May 10th. Despite Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, leveraging his charisma, his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, aka BJP, was voted out of office in the assembly election in the southern state of Karnataka. Politicos in India were quick to predict probable rout for Mr Modi and BJP in the nationwide general election in 2024. They will probably be disappointed.

Major States are BJP Fortresses

The politicos argue that Karnataka has been the epicentre of Mr Modi’s politics of polarisation. As a crucible of Hindutva, aka political Hinduism, Karnataka has been a showcase for Mr Modi’s appeal. They argue that losing its only state in India’s south portends trouble lying ahead for Mr Modi. They may be wrong. South India is a peninsula with a mere 19.31 percent of India’s area and just 20 percent of its population.

Bad luck for analysts, the entire Hindi heartland of India continues to be under Mr Modi’s sway. Consider BJP swept the civic polls in the largest Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, winning all the 17 mayoral seats nearly a week ago. Uttar Pradesh decides for the rest of India and losing Karnataka will not mean Mr Modi losing India. Major Indian states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana continue to be BJP fortresses. civic-polls-2023-results-live-updates-nagar-nigam-panchayat- municipal-election-bjp-bsp-congress-samajwadi-party- 101683890044477.html

Video Courtesy: YouTube/WION

BJP’s Double-Engine Brags

Analysts in a hurry say BJP lost power in Karnataka despite Mr Modi’s 19 statewide public rallies and six road shows during the week before the election. Yet, Mr Modi’s party took a beating in Karnataka because the incumbent BJP government was mired in corruption. The state government was notorious for its ‘40 percent reign.’ The 40-percent moniker implied BJP ministers in Karnataka demanded 40 per cent of every contract awarded by the state government.

The scale of corruption seen in Karnataka may not be true for rest of India. States that are BJP strongholds continue to brag about their ‘double-engine’ governments, which means a BJP government at the centre and in the state. Mr Modi has never lost an opportunity to sell this theme. He did so in his Karnataka poll campaign too, saying it would sustain the boom in its economy and its enviable 10-year average growth of nearly 8 percent. message-pm-narendra-modi-urges-karnatakas-electorate-to-help- make-the-state-number-1/cid/1935625

National Issues Fail to Enthuse

The ploy failed in Karnataka and Mr Modi’s party won a mere 66 of 224 seats. A major reason for this failure lies with Mr Modi. He attempted to convert the Karnataka election into a national referendum on himself and his national government. As corruption in Karnataka had assumed monstrous proportions under the BJP reign, frivolous national issues failed to grab the voters’ attention. Mind you, Mr Modi is a quick learner.

Moreover, Karnataka in general and the capital city of Bangalore in particular are mired in a host of civic problems. Despite numerous civic contracts, the roads are filled with potholes. Deaths rose on roads that sport craters like the moon’s. Traffic jams are unavoidable features of daily lives today. Water and power supplies too have become contentious issues. National issues thus failed to strike a chord with voters. c-infrastructure-continues-to-fall-apart-in- bengaluru/videoshow/97808348.cms

Expect Fast Course-Corrections

In such a depressing scenario, the state was hungering for local solutions to ease the pains of daily living. Little surprise, then, Mr Modi’s pitches of national pride failed to cast a magic spell. Politicos argue that always Mr Modi has viewed India’s fifth-largest economy of Karnataka as an igniting spark for BJP’s southern expansion. Plus, Mr Modi has not taken his eyes off National Register of Citizens and other similar partisan programmes. didnt-work-in-karnataka

Quick to learn, Mr Modi and his poll-savvy lieutenant home minister Amit Shah, known as an Indian Machiavelli, will lose no time to make course-corrections. Moreover, southern states are more prosperous than their counterparts in India’s north, less populous and more technology-friendly. The hardworking South, Mr Modi believes, can be successfully showcased as an icon of his business-friendliness to the world.

Strategy Running out of Ammo

Another reason why BJP lost Karnataka lies in the party’s penchant for anti-muslim propaganda. Its Islamophbic strategy failed to sway the voters who had to put up with creaky civic infrastructure, condemnable corruption and choking unemployment. As Mr Modi’s party failed to address these issues, the state’s voters saw no hope in him. Opposition Congress was quick to capitalise on these gaping holes in BJP’s poll campaign.

Anti-muslim approach has always been the hallmark of BJP’s politics in Karnataka, home to 8m muslims. The state slapped a ban on headscarf (hijab) in schools for Muslim girls. Also banned was halal meat produced by ritual slaughter. Quotas for government jobs meant for poor Muslims were withdrawn and assigned to Hindu caste-groups. As anti-muslim strategy ran out of ammo and quality of life mattered the most, BJP lost the election. the-shadow-of-hatred-in-indias-karnataka

Despite Congress Being Upbeat

Pained voters made the right choice. Yet, Mr Modi and his party are unflustered. They say they have lost the state, but not the vote share. They are confident of converting their 36 percent vote share into an easy win next time. Probable, as BJP knows Congress got its increased vote share at the expense of a largely-localised party called Janata Dal (Secular), which will not be in the reckoning in the 2024 nationwide general election. its-vote-share-in-karnataka-but-its-downfall-is-worthy-of- analysis-news-286072

With an increased vote share of 43 percent and 135 seats, battle-scarred Congress is upbeat. The party has realised the anti-muslim plank could not carry BJP through. The Congress is sure to use its tested strategy of focusing on local issues in 2024 as well. Yet, much of India may not vote against Mr Modi and his party, as they are seen as sure ‘protectors’ of Hindus, who form an election-deciding 79 percent of India’s population. Probably, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Unite India March’ too helped his party in its own small way.

In Conclusion

Doomsday politicos argue that despite absolute majority in parliament, BJP controls only 14 of the 28 state governments. Yet, it is too early to write off BJP, which wields enormous money and muscle power. It gets 90 percent of electoral bonds and allegedly uses these resources to buy defectors to topple non-BJP governments and to carry on with its anti-democratic adventures. order-democracy/ Even in Karnataka, BJP did make gains in Bangalore and southern Karnataka. All these may weigh in BJP’s favour. Mr Modi winning a third term is thus highly probable. What has changed post-Karnataka election is this. A definite 2024 outlook has turned into a probable scenario. Bad luck for India, end of divisiveness seems distant.