CLUELESS IN KARNATAKA

CLUELESS IN KARNATAKA
01 Feb 2020

The Congress party’s fortunes continue to free fall in a state that was once its stronghold

The country's grand old party – Congress – has been going downhill in Karnataka since May 2018 when it lost power after a shock defeat in the state assembly elections and won only one seat in the May 2019 Lok Sabha polls and two seats in the December 5 assembly by-elections, political analysts said.

"Out of power, the Congress seems to be in the dumps, especially in Karnataka where it ruled for decades, but has lost elections consecutively since May 2018, as evident from the results of the state assembly and parliamentary polls and the recent by-elections," one analyst said on the condition of anonymity.

The Congress' hasty decision to ally with its arch rival Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) to keep the BJP out of power in the southern state at any cost and form a coalition government in May 2018 proved counter-productive, as it collapsed after 14 months in July 2019.

The opposition party's decision to jointly contest the general elections with the JD-S also proved costly again, as its Lok Sabha member D.K. Suresh was its lone candidate to win and retain the Bangalore Rural constituency, though it contested 21 of the 28 seats across the state.

The JD-S also suffered a setback as it won only one of the 7 parliamentary seats it contested under a pre-poll alliance.

In the December 5 assembly by-elections to 15 seats, the Congress won only two, retaining one (Shivajinagar in Bengaluru) and wresting another (Hunsur in Mysore district) from the JD-S, as both the coalition allies contested separately.

Ally JD-S won none while the ruling BJP bagged 12 of the 15 seats.

"The Congress' post-assembly poll and pre-poll alliance with the JD-S in the Lok Sabha turned disastrous, as evident from the results, which showed that it lost its base in the rural and urban areas, including the reserved constituencies," recalled another analyst.

Refuting the experts' assessment and analysis, a Congress spokesman claimed that the party was strong and would bounce back whenever the next elections are held in the state.

"Congress vote share was more than that of the BJP and the JD-S in the May 2018 assembly elections but got fragmented due to vote spilt or division of secular votes among the non-BJP candidates," lamented the party spokesman.

Admitting that alliance with the JD-S to form the coalition government and jointly contest in the Lok Sabha polls subsequently eroded its vote base and its strong hold in many constituencies across the state, the spokesmen, however, alleged that the BJP won 25 parliamentary seats and 12 assembly seats in the by-elections due to manipulation of the EVMs (electronic voting machines).

"As the Supreme Court and the Election Commission declined to hear our petitions on the reported manipulation of the EVMs new model (M3) in the Lok Sabha and Assembly by-polls, we wait for the next elections to prove that the Congress is resilient and can return to power again," asserted the official.

Terming the differences between the party's state unit leaders over many issues that emerged after three electoral defeats as normal and even 'healthy' in a democratic set-up, the spokesman said the party high command would soon name the next president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC).

"As usual, the media jumped the gun and declared that D.K. Shivakumar would be the new KPCC president although there was no official announcement so far. Our high command will meet soon and decide who should head the party's state unit as an effective opposition and lead us to the next elections," the official said.

Playing down media reports that Sonia had accused leader of the party and former chief minister Siddaramaiah of encouraging groupism and that his recommendation to appoint party's senior leader M.B. Patil as the new KPCC president was rejected, the spokesman said what transpired between the two was known only to them and none was privy to it.

KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah resigned on December 9 owning moral responsibility for the party's humiliating defeat in the assembly by-elections with only two wins from 15 seats.

"When Siddaramaiah met madam (Sonia) at her residence in New Delhi and discussed the party's issues in the state, no third person was present there at that time. How can the media make such a claim without being privy to what transpired between them at the meeting without an official statement on it?" the official reiterated.

With the BJP returning to power for the third time in the state on July 26, 2019 and securing majority in the 225-member House after winning 12 assembly seats to complete the remaining three years of its five-year term till May 2023, the Congress has lost its moorings without a leader since a month and is battling for survival.

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