ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Cracking the Code

How the Congress Scripted Its Victory in the 2023 Karnataka Assembly Elections

The Congress secured a thumping majority in the 2023 Karnataka assembly elections. The election results gave a much-required lifeline to the existential crisis faced by the Congress and opened the eyes of the Bharatiya Janata Party to recognise that the Prime Minister’s persona and the Hindutva card do not always get converted into votes.

The 16th Karnataka assembly election results send out a clear signal for change as Karnataka voters have defeated the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and given the Congress a clear-cut mandate, with 135 seats in the 224-member legislative assembly. This also provided a much-awaited and required rejuvenation to the Congress. The BJP’s defeat in the only South Indian state where it had established a significant presence is a startling blow for a party that has worked hard to expand outside the Hindi heartland. The loss in Karnataka would hurt the BJP’s image as a supposedly “North Indian” party that is out of touch with the political and cultural sensitivities of the southern states. It also gave the realisation to the BJP that the “Modi factor” cannot win in every state, and the “Hindutva card” is not particularly effective electorally in the southern part of India. In terms of the vote share, the Congress has secured the highest vote share and seats after 34 years. According to the psephologist Yogendra Yadav, this election is the largest triumph for “any party in Karnataka” since 1989, when the Congress won 178 seats with a vote share of 43.76% (Livemint 2023).

Due to multiple reasons, it is worth examining the ingredients of the Congress’s successful recipe for winning the Karnataka assembly elections. The Congress’s victory is a significant political event, as it marked the party’s return to power in the state after a gap of several years. The result provided a new lease of life for the party and it helped to cement the Congress’s position as a key player in the politics of southern India in general and Karnataka in particular. The victory boosts the spirit of Congress party workers on the ground, who are so used to losing that they sometimes give up before the combat even begins. It also allows the party to generate resources in a situation where the Congress controls only three additional states (Himachal Pradesh [HP], Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh). It also enhances the Congress’s profile within the greater national opposition and may persuade some other parties, who have been sceptical of the party’s political judgment and ability, to consider working with them. It may help the Congress, which won only one Lok Sabha seat in Karnataka in 2019, to increase its score in 2024. Understanding the components of the Congress’s electoral strategy in Karnataka might therefore throw a light on the party’s overall app­roach to the future assembly and Lok Sabha elections. Examining the reasons that influenced the Congress’s win in Karnataka can give useful insights into India’s larger political scene and shed light on the anticipated outcomes of future elections in the nation.

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Updated On : 10th Jul, 2023
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