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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 23, June 3, 2023

Electoral Verdict of Karnataka: Disapproval of UP Model of Governance | Nayakara Veeresha

Friday 2 June 2023


by Nayakara Veeresha *

The electoral verdict of the Karnataka assembly elections is out and the Indian National Congress has returned to power by winning 135 out of 224 constituencies. The analysis so far in the discourse has highlighted that strong anti-incumbency towards the outgoing BJP government is one of the key factors for the decisive victory. Other reasons cited are (i) failure to provide clean administration due to corruption (ii) price rise (iii) five guarantees of the Congress party. These factors are undeniable; however, a critical missing link both in the discourse and the contemporary analysis by political scientists is the replication of the Uttar Pradesh model of governance in the state.

In terms of political theory, the Karnataka voter has disapproved of the politics of hegemony of the BJP and voted for the politics of harmony. The same was well connected by the voter with the electoral slogan of the Congress party manifesto “Sarva Janangada Shanthiya Thota (Paradise of Peace to all)”. The environment of anxiety and fear especially among the minority communities created in the state by imposing the dominant and majoritarian religious nationalism has disturbed the political equilibrium well before the elections time. Many a times the political leadership of the BJP has indicated and referred to implement UP model of governance. Ever since the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP regained power in UP the model of governance has increasingly become dominant at the national level and the union and state politics wherever BJP has in power looked to replicate the same.

(i) Identity politics: The first and foremost is the politics played out based on the various identities, especially religion and communalism. The religious dominance to pursue majoritarian nationalism is clearly contrary to the constitutional goals of equitable governance and social justice. This is inapplicable to all the state especially Karnataka where politics of identity has its roots but not to the extent of threatening the social fabric of the state. Issues like Hijab, Anjan, episodes of Tippu Sultan, Uri Gowda, and Nanje Gowda, and changes in the school curriculum all hit hard the voters mindset in Karnataka. It would not be an exaggeration to mention this is the most pertinent issue that has diverted the attention of the electorate from BJP in spite of the efforts made to bring in development.

(ii) Legitimisation of social violence: the disturbance of social harmony through religious, and communal violence notably in the Coastal region of the state has led to political instability and violence. All was set to replicate what is called bulldozer demolitions in the state especially the encroachment of lakes and government land in the state. In fact, the in Madhya Pradesh and Delhi initiatives were undertaken to do the same; however, in Karnataka, it didn’t really pick up may be due to the elections on card this was kept under the carpet by the BJP government. The point is the discourse has manufactured fear among the minority communities of the state or those who are not aligned to the policies of the government.

(iii) Reservations over social justice: To accommodate the rising demands of the dominant caste especially Lingayat-Panchamasali and Vokkaliga communities the state has taken away the 4 percent of the Muslim reservation on the grounds of reservation on the basis of religion is unconstitutional. The same was included in the EWS category. This was felt unfair and unjust and certainly shifted the votes towards the congress party. The shuffling of internal reservations among the Scheduled Castes has created a rift among the Dalit communities and the rise in the extent of reservation from 15 to 17 and for Scheduled Tribes from 3 to 7 percent have been only produced more confusion among the adivasis communities. This is due to the increasing trend among the various state governments to extend the ST category status to many of the socially advanced migrated communities. The BJP’s loss in all the ST constituencies indicates this factor in a significant manner and the reduction of 10 seats among the SC constituencies reflects the politics of reservation over social justice politics.

(iv) National over local leadership: Due to failure in delivering good governance to the people of Karnataka and the reports of internal assessment within the party have pushed the state leadership to rope national leaders in a huge way. Almost all the top union leaders of the BJP have campaigned alongside some celebrities. The Karnataka voter has wondered where the local leadership is in this Lok Sabha or Assembly elections. As an electoral strategy, this move is alright however the leaders have failed to connect their political campaigns with that of local issues and the common citizen’s aspirations and needs. The same emotive issues of Hindutva, Nationalism, Religion, Caste, Class, and National Security have been highlighted rather than appraising the voter with the ever-growing price rise, unemployment, corruption and ineffective delivery of civic services.

Politics of harmony and peace

All the above-mentioned factors have played a key role in determining the power shift in Karnataka. The attempts of the BJP to convert Karnataka into a southern religious and communal laboratory for the ideological project and majoritarian governance has profusely refuted and discarded by the electorate. Antonio Gramsci’s idea of the hegemonic politics of BJP where consent was created as a relation and through the means of political and ideological leadership has got disapproved. The voter has clearly given a mandate for the Congress to build politics of harmony, aspiration of better governance, and equitable development. The BJP party and its national-level leadership has perceived the electorate as granted without heeding the conscience of the voter who has shown political maturity in electing the government in the state. Let us hope that along with the five guarantees, the Congress party under the joint leadership of Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar may deliver smooth and hassle-free life to the Bengalureans and a clean administration to the people of the state to uphold the voter’s mandate.

(Author: Nayakara Veeresha is an independent researcher and writer on the issues of governance and development. Email: nayakaraveeresha[at]

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