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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 20, May 13, 2023

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 13, 2023

Saturday 13 May 2023


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 13 –19, 2023

The results of the 2023 Karnataka state Assembly elections have just been declared and the Congress Party has surged ahead with a resounding victory over the unpopular BJP government. Many of the prominent figures of the BJP government have lost the elections. Sustained campaign work over nearly a year has paid off for hundreds of volunteers of the Congress party that focused on pro-poor and local issues and drew up a manifesto to address these. The Congress was pitted in this election against the BJP ruling both in the Southern state and also at the Centre with a huge money power at their disposal. In the past months, the BJP ran a high-octane election campaign bringing in all their star campaigners including the Prime Minister who held many rallies like a god on a tour of many regions; this campaign made ugly accusations to discredit the Congress party. Towards the end, the BJP even filed a complaint against a perfectly reasonable public speech given by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and sought derecognition of the Congress Party. The BJP ran a very socially divisive and controversial campaign coloured by hyper-nationalism. This was in sharp contrast with the nearly three-week-long passage of the innovative ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ (united India March) through many parts —corresponding to 20 assembly constituencies— of rural Karnataka. ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ was a joyous open public march that encouraged people from all walks to intermingle and join the march, and talk about their problems. Rahul Gandhi, a leading figure of the Congress walked the streets to interact with people. This experimental march provided stimulus to the local Congress party organisational machine. Bharat Jodo Yatra may have set the tone of a new bonhomie - social harmony organizational initiative, but undoubtedly it is the real hard groundwork of Congress party volunteers in Karnataka who are responsible for the political mobilization of people for this pathbreaking electoral campaign. This victory will boost the morale of the Congress party cadre across India. The big winner here is a coherent new style of energetic political campaigning in Congress that focused on exposing government corruption, and a range of local, and regional issues and it can be a template for peaceful political organizing elsewhere too. The message is that a politics that divides, people and incites them into a sectarian frame of mind for political gain can be resisted by sustained peaceful ground-level work of organizing people, gaining their trust by listening to them and encouraging them to collectively reject the path of violence and against a style of high polarisation. Now, Congress must build upon the popular goodwill in Karnataka and deliver on its progressive electoral promises.

May 13, 2023 — HK

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