The power of poor people defeated the might of crony capitalists and it will be repeated in other elections, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi announced hours after his party wrested Karnataka from the BJP.
“I am happy we contested the Karnataka polls without using hate, bad language. We fought the polls with love. In Karnataka, ‘nafrat ka bazaar’ (market of hate) has closed down’ and ‘mohabbat ki dukaanein’ (shops of love) have opened,” Mr Gandhi said amidst loud cheers from party workers and bursting of crackers at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters.
“This is the victory of everyone, Firstly of the people of Karnataka. We have made five promises to the people of Karnataka and we will fulfil these promises on the first day and in the first cabinet meeting,” he added.
The 2023 results are also the Congress’ best-ever performance since 1999, when S M Krishna became the Chief Minister after the party had won 132 seats. The spectacular win in Karnataka, riding on its campaign of five guarantees, has provided some key lessons for the next round of Assembly elections in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
The Guarantee route to victory
The party’s poll ‘guarantees’ include providing 200 units of free power to all households (Gruha Jyoti), ₹2,000 monthly assistance to the woman head of every family (Gruha Lakshmi), 10 kg of rice free to every member of a BPL household (Anna Bhagya), ₹3,000 every month for graduate youth and ₹1,500 for diploma holders (both in the age group of 18-25) for two years (YuvaNidhi), and free travel for women in public transport buses.
“It was during the Bharat Jodo Yatra, from the many conversations @RahulGandhi had with the people of Karnataka, that the Guarantees and the promises in our manifesto were discussed and finalised,” Congress’ Jairam Ramesh tweeted. In fact, data shared by Mr Ramesh claimed that of the 20 Assembly constituencies that the yatra passed through, the Congress 15 seats.
Taking a cue from Karnataka’s poll guarantees, Madhya Pradesh Congress has already started registering women voters for the Nari Samman Yojana that two components: direct transfer of Rs 1,500 to the accounts of the beneficiary women every month and cooking gas cylinders at Rs 500.
Local narrative, local leadership
Though Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge’s “venomous snake” comment at Prime Minister Modi and the party manifesto’s promise of decisive action against Bajrang Dal were being aggressively by the BJP to charge the Congress of insulting Lord Hanuman and hurling abuse at Mr Modi, the party, instead of responding, stuck to its campaign of “misgovernance” and “40 per cent commission sakara” against the BJP.
While the BJP relied on Mr Modi’s charisma, the Congress campaign mostly focussed on local leadership of Basavraj Bommai and contrasted it with the leadership of Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar.
“The BJP had made its election campaign a referendum on the PM and on the state getting his ‘ashirwaad’. That has been decisively rejected!” Mr Ramesh said in another tweet.
“The message is that the kind of politics that people want is the politics that can solve their problems,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra told reporters in Shimla.
Leadership role for 2024
Though much will depend on Congress’ performance in the one on one battle with the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the Karnataka win will give the party a boost to reclaim its position as a rallying point for Opposition parties in the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Trinamool’s Derek O Brien, Bahujan Samaj Party’s Danish Ali were among those Opposition leaders who tweeted that Karnataka results would have a bearing in the next Lok Sabha polls.
“It is an extraordinary result for the Congress party in Chikmagalur district which had become a BJP bastion of late. It won all 5 of the 5 seats there. In 1978, Chikmagalur heralded the revival of @INCIndia nationally by electing Indira Gandhi. History will soon repeat itself!”Mr Ramesh said in another tweet.