What is the biggest takeaway from the Karnataka election? From some, it was that the BJP juggernaut is not an unstoppable force. For others, the results showed that anti-incumbency is tough to defeat. But the polls just reiterated the fact that national parties need regional leaders to be successful at the State level. Here’s why.
The Congress was able to leverage its strong regional leaders — Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar among many others — to convince the people of the State to pick them.
For the BJP, senior leaders like Jagadish Shettar and Laxman Savadi left the party after they were denied tickets. Basavaraj Bommai, who was leading the BJP into the elections, and Nalin Kumar Kateel, were seen too closely tied to party’s high command. The party relied heavily on its central leadership, hoping that the trio of Modi-Shah-Nadda can keep their rivals at bay. In short, dissent and weak leaders spoilt the game for the BJP.
This can be a big problem for the party, especially as it seeks to breach the fort of regional parties in Southern India in 2024. Luring Opposition party leaders into the party isn’t a problem, but keeping them within the party fold is.
The Congress knows these problems all too well. The party has relied on the Gandhis to charm voters for decades and ignored regional leaders. In most States, the party does not have a strong organisational structure and this will not only hurt the party in the 2024 general elections but also in the upcoming polls in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana.
Even in Karnataka, Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar are not young, and the next-gen leadership is not very strong. The “Modi magic” could very well help the BJP win the 2024 elections, yet again. Most of BJP’s current leadership was nurtured by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani. Can the current dispensation boast of the same?