While the BJP appears to be recovering lost ground in Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, albeit partially, as elections to their assemblies approach, if ground reports and opinion polls are anything to go by, in Rajasthan it continues to be on the back foot. But for the ruling party at the Centre the real cause of concern is the continuing slide in its hitherto southern bastion of Karnataka where it was recently mauled in byelections reflecting an appalling failure of strategy and a crisis of leadership under State party president Yeddyurappa which can hardly be ignored.
That the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) combine coasted to victory in two of the three Lok Sabha contests with big margins and in both the Assembly byelections, leaving only one Lok Sabha seat for the BJP, was a surprisingly poor showing from a party that had secured the highest number of seats in the Assembly polls but was short-changed by a seemingly unprincipled post-poll alliance between the Congress and the JD (S) in snatching power. That the people have endorsed the alliance for stability’s sake despite a lacklustre performance is also an index of the BJP failing to inspire confidence of providing a better government.
It was uncharacteristic of the BJP central leadership to leave the campaign wholly to the local leadership led by Yeddyurappa whose own corruption taint has stayed on for long. Central leaders chose to stay away from the electioneering in a state that was so crucial for the BJP’s rise in the South. The Congress’ VS Ugrappa wrested the Bellary seat by nearly 3 lakh votes, overturning the 95,000 margin by which the BJP had won the seat in 2014. That the hugely-tainted Reddy brothers of the infamous mining mafia were active on BJP’s side reinforced the message that the BJP was not serious about fighting corruption in this southern citadel. In Mandya, the JD(S) won by almost 3.25 lakh votes, but in 2014, it had scored a narrow victory over the Congress, with the BJP finishing a distant third. In the Assembly contest in Ramanagaram, Anitha Kumaraswami won the seat her husband Chief Minister H.D.
Kumaraswamy had vacated by almost 1.1 lakh votes. In Jamakhandi, the Congress candidate retained the seat by a margin of close to 40,000 votes, while earlier this year, it had secured a margin of a little less than 3,000 votes. The BJP high command will indeed have to think hard on how it can retrieve lost ground in Karnataka as also in Rajasthan where the ground is slipping from under their feet under Vasundhara Raje’s stewardship.