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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 13, March 30, 2024

History Repeats Itself with a Difference | J P Gadkari

Friday 29 March 2024, by J P Gadkari


One can recall the political situation in the country in early 1977 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suddenly decided to call for General Elections on the advice of her coterie ending the 21 month old Emergency and then what followed. The severe political storm that blew then swept away the rule of the Congress Party in the entire country except the two southern strongholds, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It was a landslide victory for Congress in both these States which were not affected by the excesses of Emergency.

Now as the elections to Lok Sabha are about to take place, both these States have proved that their loyalties are still intact with the Congress, though Andhra Pradesh has now been divided into two parts -Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and in former the Congress has recently gained power. Except for a period of last three-four decades when the power had gone into the hands of other political parties in both the States, they both are now in. Congress fold.

But now it will be interesting to see how history will play its role in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in these two States, including the erstwhile State of United Andhra Pradesh which had a total of 42 Lok Sabha seats. But let us first take the State of Karnataka which made history in the Assembly elections in June last year.

Till the Fifteenth Lok Sabha elections, Congress had contributed a respectable number of seats to the party’s kitty in Lok Sabha elections. But in subsequent two elections it came down drastically, with NINE seats in 2014 and touching the lowest of ONE seat only in 2019 election out of the total of 28 Lok Sabha seats from the State. On the other hand BJP won 17 and 25 in 2014 and 2019 respectively from the State.

Prior to 2019 election, BJP had turned Karnataka into a lab for communal by experiments.

Anti-Muslim campaigns such as Hijab, Ajan, and having petty shops owned by Muslims removed in the perrypherry of Hindu temples etc.were its main topics of communal agenda. This was fully supported by the BJP-led State Govt established through "OPERATION LOTUS", successfully planning defections from Congress and JDs parties who were running a coalition government in Karnataka. This helped BJP to get the highest number of seats - 25 out of 28 - in the 2019 election.The Modi wave that was created after the Pulwama incident on the eve of election also helped BJP in every State.

Now with the opening of Ram temple and launching of a massive campaign of unsubstantiated corruption charges against the opposition, arresting their top leaders including two sitting Chief Ministers, BJP is trying to create a same kind of atmosphere of ephoria. But it appears that it is boomeranging and damaging it’s own prospects. BJP, therefore is leaving no stone unturned, resorting to all kinds of dirty tricks.

But here the wheel of history is turning again in favour of opposition in general and in Karnataka and in Telengana in favour of Congress in particular with its massive victory against BJP in the Assembly election held last year. However, it is not only its triumph in election but by promptly and speedily implementing its five guarantees given during the Assembly election, almost within six months of assuming office helped it tremendously to boost its image in the State.. It has given a major boost to its popularity among the women for introducing free bus travel for women of all categories and Griha Lakshmi (Rs 2,000/- a month to the woman head of the family) schemes. So in general the atmosphere in the State is quite favourable for Congress. But the party should not become complacent about it while going into the LS election battlefield.

It should not be forgotten that the BJP has always considered Karnataka a political gateway to other Southern States where it has no influence. It will do everything including using its huge money power to retain its hold in Karnataka. Though its tallest leader in the State, B S Yediurappa was sidelined earlier, and there is a lot of dissatisfaction over the allocation of seats, there are lot of influential second rank stalwarts whom the party has thrown into the field and even going to the extent of denying tickets to nine sitting M PS from the State. Among those who were denied tickets were some hardcores who had created embarrassing situation for the party in the past with their rabid communal statements .

As against this, almost all old stalwarts and veterans in the Congress have disappeared from the scene except former Chief Minister M Veerappa Moily and Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, both being in their early eighties.For whatever reasons Kharge has refused to contest from his regular seat from Gulbarga(Kalburgi) from where he had won eight times, and party has yet to decide about Mr Moily’s candidature. Most of the candidates chosen so far are mostly young newcomers from the second/ third rank of the party, some of them being first timers. Ofcourse this may become advantageous to Congress if they win as they won’t be carrying the old baggage with them. It is also significant that Congress has chosen FOUR WOMEN and one Muslim candidates announced so far.

At the time of writing the Congress has yet to choose about a dozen candidates for the same number of constituencies. The BJP which has an alliance with JDs, led by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda on the other hand has almost chosen its candidates in most of the constituencies giving three to its ally, the JDs, in Vokkaliga stronghold of Hassan, Mandya and Kolar from where BJP candidate had won last time. Deve Gowda seems to have decided not to contest a Lok Sabha seat this time and probably wait for being nominated for a safer Rajya Sabha seat in future.

Karnataka which goes to polls in the second phase of elections on 26 April for half of its 28 seats situated in southern part of the State, has yet to warm up with a serious campaign. Ofcourse the main face of BJP campaign will be Prime Minister Modi again. It remains to be seen as to who will mainly lead the Congress campaign in Karnataka as Kharge being the all India President of the party will have to take charge all over the country. With the seizure of its bank accounts how much the other Central leaders of the Congress party will be able to travel to the State is a big question. But with all these problems and difficulties, the history may repeat itself with a difference with Karnataka emerging as one of the main strongholds of Congress But the question is will the Congress emerge victorious at the National level again as it did in 1978 after the general election of 2024 to make the wheel of history a full circle?

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