The grand old party scores an emphatic victory over BJP whose campaign was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Does Congress now have an advantage for more assembly elections in 2023 and the national election in 2024?
Jubilant Congress workers across the country started celebrating as the grand old party edged towards victory in the Karnataka Assembly elections on Saturday. The party workers gathered at Congress headquarters in Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Jharkhand, and Bihar to distribute sweets. They also danced in the streets to the tune of drums and waved flags.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the party’s victory in Karnataka is an outcome of “collective work” of party leaders and workers and that the party would work towards consensus to choose its chief ministerial candidate. Talking to reporters as the trends showed an emphatic Congress victory, Kharge said people of all communities voted for the Congress. He said the party will work towards fulfilling its election promises.
Congress won an emphatic victory in Karnataka polls on Saturday, pushing BJP out of power in the only southern state it ruled, and boosting its own prospects for the electoral battles ahead. Congress has won 137 seats, comfortably crossing the halfway mark in the 224-member Karnataka assembly. Bharatiya Janata Party is poised to win 65 seats. JD(S)won 19 seats, independents have won two seats, while Kalyana Rajya Pragathi Paksha and Sarvodaya Karnataka Paksha won one seat each.
An incumbent government has not returned to power in Karnataka after a full term of five years since 1985. In the 2018 assembly polls, BJP emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats, Congress won 80 seats and JD(S) got 37 seats.
The Congress victory has come at a time when it is seeking momentum ahead of assembly polls later this year in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Telangana and the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Congress over its victory in assembly polls. He appreciated the hard work of BJP workers and said that the party will serve Karnataka with even more vigour in the times to come. “Congratulations to the Congress Party for their victory in the Karnataka Assembly polls. My best wishes to them in fulfilling people’s aspirations,” PM Modi said in a tweet.
“I thank all those who have supported us in the Karnataka elections. I appreciate the hardwork of BJP Karyakartas. We shall serve Karnataka with even more vigour in the times to come,” he added.
The next task for the Congress is to choose a chief ministerial candidate with both state Congress chief DK Shivakumar and former chief minister Siddaramaiah aspirants for the post.
Congress leader and former MP Rahul Gandhi hailed the party’s victory in Karnataka assembly polls and said that people of the state defeated the “politics of hate”. Speaking to reporters at the Congress headquarters in the national capital, Rahul Gandhi said that the Congress stood with the poor. “The poor defeated crony capitalists in Karnataka…We fought the elections with love…,” he said.
Siddaramaiah said PM Modi had campaigned extensively in the state but it not did yield results for BJP. He also talked about his own victory from Varuna. “The people of the Varuna constituency have given a befitting reply. This is a stepping stone for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
Shivakumar talked about his own struggle and said the party had worked hard to achieve victory. “I can’t forget Sonia Gandhi visiting me in jail…when BJP people put me in jail,” said an emotional Shivakumar. “I credit my cadre and all my party leaders, they worked hard. People have posed faith in us, they supported us. It is collective leadership and we jointly worked…thinking together is progress, and working together is success”.
Shivakumar recalled his time in jail in 2019 in connection with an alleged money laundering case. “I had promised Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi and party president Mallikarjun Kharge that I will deliver the state. When these BJP people put me in jail, I remember Sonia Gandhi came to meet me there. Such is the faith the party, the Gandhi family and the whole country bestowed on me,” he said.
Accepting the verdict, senior BJP leader BS Yediyurappa said victory and defeat are not new for the party and it will introspect. “Victory and defeat aren’t new to BJP. Party workers need not be panicked by these results. We will introspect about the party’s setback. I respectfully accept this verdict,” he said.
Chief Minister Basavraj Bommai had conceded defeat as trends showed a massive Congress surge.
He said BJP will emerge victorious in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Bommai won with a margin of 35,978 votes from Shiggaon constituency but many of his ministerial colleagues lost. “…I take responsibility for this debacle. There are multiple reasons for this. We will find out all the reasons and strengthen the party once again for Parliament elections..,”he said.
Bommai said the party will make necessary corrections. “We accept the verdict of the people of Karnataka with due respect. We will take this verdict in our stride. We will analyse and correct our fault lines and rebuild the party and come back during parliamentary elections,” he said.
Congress’ performance beat the predictions of most pollsters. While many exit polls had said that Congress will be ahead, almost all of them could not accurately predict the scale of the party’s victory. With the Congress winning more than 130 seats in the assembly elections of Karnataka, Former Defense Minister AK Antony called it a historical win for his party and said that it showcased the victory of Secularism.
AK Antony said, “Congress’ victory is historical, it showcases the victory of secularism, win over hate politics. This shares many messages; the secular voters can unite and in the 2024 elections we can beat the Modi government.” Congress won an absolute majority in Karnataka with the party crossing the halfway mark of 113 seats in the 224-member assembly.
He said the win in the southern state gives a clear message that the people want development, peace and harmony. “Karnataka Election Win gives another message they want development, peace and harmony. They voted against hatred politics. On the national level, it shows secular voters can unite and throw away the PM Modi-led government,” said Antony.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Minister CN Ashwath Narayan on Saturday said the Bharatiya Janata Party accepts the verdict of the people and it is a setback for the party. “This is a setback for us in Karnataka. We accept the verdict of the people. We will work much harder, seek the blessings of the people and come out with flying colors. When it comes to the 2024 elections, we want to ensure that all our candidates win from all the 28 seats,” Narayan said.
With the party al set to form the government in Karnataka, Congress leader Siddaramaiah on Saturday said with the mandate for the party in the Karnataka Assembly elections he hopes for Rahul Gandhi to become the prime minister of the country. The Congress leader hoped that Rahul Gandhi, who was the prime ministerial candidate of the Congress in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, becomes the Prime Minister in 2024. Describing the results of the Karnataka Assembly polls as a mandate against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Siddaramaiah said that it would act as a “stepping stone” to the Lok Sabha election slated next year.
“The result of this election is a stepping stone to the Lok Sabha election. I hope all non-BJP parties come together and see that BJP is defeated and I also hope Rahul Gandhi may become PM of the country,” Siddaramaiah said. “It is a mandate against Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and JP Nadda. The PM had come to Karnataka 20 times, no PM in the past campaigned like this,” Siddaramaiah said.
“We will cross 130 seats also; it is a big victory of the Congress party. The people of Karnataka wanted a change because they were fed up with the BJP government. BJP spent a lot of money on Operation ‘Kamala’. Padyatra of Rahul ji helped as well in the enthusing cadre of party,” Siddaramaiah said.
Siddaramaiah also tweeted. “This is a victory for a secular party!! People of Karnataka wanted a stable government that delivers as promised, and hence have given the mandate for Congress!!”
As the counting of votes for the Karnataka Assembly elections gave a clear edge to the Congress, the grand old party on Saturday shared a video featuring Rahul Gandhi during his Bharat Jodo Yatra. “I’m invincible. I’m so confident. Yeah, I’m unstoppable today,” the Congress said in a Tweet.
With the party getting a seven per cent lead over the BJP in vote share, it is a crushing blow to Prime Minister Modi who personally led his party’s campaign in the state.
It is too early to predict how will this play out in other assembly elections due this year and in 2024 but the Congress party certainly has the momentum at the moment.