He is a big, clear winner. Despite being Congress’s most acceptable face, he had to contend with opposition from arch in-house rival D K Shivakumar and the central leadership’s reluctance to project him as CM candidate. The victory is his vindication. He symbolises the rainbow coalition that powered Congress in the state. A second term would be just reward for the septuagenarian who had crossed over from Janata Dal but became Congress’s most influential leader.
His tenacity paid off. Undaunted by court cases, the high command’s doubts about him and the rivalry with Siddaramaiah, he campaigned hard. His leadership of the state unit is acknowledged as a major contributory factor. How he responds if Siddaramaiah is picked as CM could be the next big political show in Karnataka. Given his ambition and his resources, his actions could have a big impact on Congress’s post-victory trajectory.
He may not have been seen as Karnataka Congress’s main protagonist but his elevation as the party’s president appears to have been a factor in swaying a section of Dalits. The big victory in his home state will certainly enhance his standing in the party nationally. That in turn will give him heft while leading negotiations with anti-BJP parties in the run-up to 2024.
His involvement in the campaign may have been modest but he laid the foundation for the win with his 21-day Karnataka leg of Bharat Jodo Yatra. His aggressive pitch during the campaign helped energise the cadre. The success in Karnataka will help him prepare better for the ensuing headto-head state battles with BJP. It will also make him politically stronger vis-à-vis non-Congress opposition satraps eager to question Congress’s role as the opposition’s leading party in 2024.
Pitched as a star campaigner, she effectively complemented brother Rahul. The victory will help erase memories of disastrous campaigns in UP and elsewhere, and likely see her being drafted for more such responsibilities. With Rahul and Priyanka both strengthened politically, Congress’s ‘?rst family’ will act more decisively in settling party matters.
He was up against the state’s history of voting out incumbents. But not one to give up without putting up a fight, he threw everything into a battle that most would have preferred not to join for fear of blotting their record. He’d helped pull off pattern defying feats in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam and Uttarakhand, but this time his personal popularity was not enough to pull the party’s chestnuts out of the fire.
Another indefatigable saffron warrior. The co-architect of BJP’s victory last time, Shah knew that given the state’s revolving-door tradition, the odds were stacked against the party. But he decided to lead from the front, even though he is not the party chief. His statements predicting a big victory will be difficult to live down. Although he has ended up on the losing side, the setback, going by past experience, will not keep him down for long.
The powerful BJP general secretary got caught in a contradiction – he wanted to turn the party into an ideologically cohesive outfit but he also had to make compromises for electoral success. His inability to shake off the perception of being partisan, rather than a fair arbiter and taking everyone along, contributed to the debacle.
A win would have been the high point in the career of the Lingayat strongman who has been instrumental in BJP’s rise in Karnataka. He had proved his indispensability to the party by ensuring its defeat in 2013 and by facilitating its win in 2018. He will, however, remain critical to BJP in 2024, and for the career of his son.
The outcome rained on what would have been a perfect launch party for BSY’s son. The election marked the central leadership’s acquiescing to his and BSY’s claim that he is his father’s rightful legatee and the party’s chief Lingayat face. His victory in Shikaripura cannot compensate for the party’s loss, but it might prove to be the launch pad for the young and ambitious politician whose skills and resourcefulness are universally acknowledged.
Karnataka’s CM finally ran out of luck. His selection as Yediyurappa’s successor had surprised many – and was reinforced when the party decided to stick with him, contrary to the assessment that he may not last the rest of the BJP govt’s tenure, which turned out to be lacklustre and drew charges of corruption. Moreover, the party – under pressure to project a Lingayat face as the next CM – even dropped hints that he would not be replaced, at least not immediately, if BJP got another term. Voters, however, had another script for the mild-mannered politician.
He stands revealed as a diminished political force in the state where his party constituted the third pole till not long ago. A clear victory for Congress robbed him of the opportunity to play kingmaker and extract a grand bargain by maximising modest numbers. His son’s loss and his own narrow win are pointers to troubles ahead. With the hold over fellow Vokkaligas prised open, his flock will be vulnerable to poaching bids from the BJP and Congress.
HD DEVE GOWDA
Though he staved off predictions of irrelevance, his hectic campaign at the ripe old age of 90 did not result in the warm send-off he would have felt entitled to. One more sign that his devotion to his family is not shared by those who once doted on him. That nobody has picked up the mantle will contribute to an embittered retirement.