The Karnataka Assembly results must have shocked even those who had been seeing the writing on the wall for some time now. For, the defeat was so comprehensive and staggering.
In India, an election is largely decided by 10-15 per cent floating voters, mostly Hindus, who exercise their electoral rights as per their understanding of the political scenario, performance of parties, et al. Being young, educated, urbane voters, they are largely expected to go the BJP way more often than not. But when they don’t, the impact is devastating for the saffron party, as in 2023 Karnataka, or as was the case in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
This ‘unreliable’ voter has certain basic expectations from the party it votes into power. Once met, it doesn’t leave.
So, what went wrong in Karnataka for the BJP? Of course, it was the perception of being a corrupt, inefficient government running a lackadaisical administration that damaged the reputation of the state dispensation.
The biggest, though the least deliberated upon, reason for the BJP’s electoral rout has been the lack of any perceptible ideological difference between the BJP and the Congress in Karnataka.
Though many Left-‘liberal’ commentators would try to twist this verdict to project how hijab was a non-issue, the reality is just the opposite: The region has seen the rise of Islamist forces, with the Hindutva activists targeted and killed/maimed by PFI terrorists as the state looked the other way. The murder of 32-year-old BJP youth-wing worker Praveen Nettaru in the coastal district of Dakshina Kannada in July last year, for instance, sparked widespread outrage; it saw mass resignations by party workers and also the vehicle of state unit president Nalin Kumar Kateel was targeted.
There are many instances of callous indifference — from the story of Meenakshamma, the mother of a BJP leader killed by PFI terrorists in 2015, who, as per a story by The Print in 2022, “collects plastic trash to eke out a living, lives in penury and is the sole caretaker of her grandson”, to Yashoda, whose son Prashanth Poojary was again hacked to death by PFI men in 2015, surviving on the “rent she receives from their flower shop — where her son was killed — and a widow pension of Rs 600”.
How can a party that fails to look after its own cadre expect to win?