Take One: May 25, 2008 - The Bharatiya Janata Party emerges victorious in Karnataka winning a historic 110 seats with its poster boy, a powerful Lingayat leader BS Yeddyurappa leading the party to its first ever government in a southern state.
Take Two: Five years on, BJP is completely routed in the polls losing out to the Congress and managing a mere 40 seats. It also loses in its strongholds, namely Northern and Coastal Karnataka and the Bellary region.
The scenario could not have been more contrasting and depressing for a party hoping to come to power in the next General Elections and rule the country. One can say that it not only lost but was decimated, not even offering a semblance of a fight to the Congress.
If one can use the terminology of the game of football, then it is more a case of self goal by the BJP. The reasons why the party lost are there for all to see and do not require rocket science to understand. Did the party really think that the people would vote them back to power after the mess that they had created in the state?
Its former chief minister, BS Yeddyurappa going to jail after being indicted by the state Lokayukta for corruption; its former ministers, the infamous Reddy brothers of Bellary, incarcerated in illegal mining case (one of the biggest scams to have hit the state); the accusations of nepotism and money power being bandied about; lack of governance; lack of infrastructure and civic amenities in both the rural and urban areas - the list is endless and can be an example and a study in politics as to why a party loses elections or rather what not to do to lose elections.
BJP’s Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, while seeking another term for his party, did ask for ‘forgiveness’ from the people for its lapses and maintained that those who had given the party a ‘bad name’ had left them. He also said that the party would seek another opportunity by ‘assuring the people of providing a spotless government’. However, as the results have clearly indicated, you cannot indulge in misdemeanors for five years, test the patience of the people and then hope to get re-elected by saying sorry. The voters of this country are increasingly voting on the plank of governance and are showing the door to those who take them for a ride.
If the BJP was serious about its image and tackling corruption, then why did it drag its feet in getting rid of BSY? Yes, the compulsion of caste equations was there but then you cannot have two standards for yourself – one for politics at the national level and one for politics at the state level. If the BJP has been going hammer and tongs at the UPA government at the Centre over corruption, then it has to play the same politics at the state level too.
Did the BJP think that it would win a second term in Karnataka by highlighting the drawbacks of Congress at the Centre? Yes, a beleaguered Congress may be in the line of fire for the way it has governed the country and may have been facing a serious credibility crisis at the moment, but then as the Karnataka results have shown, these issues clearly did not play on the minds of the people when they went to cast their votes. Local elections are fought on local issues and no party can hope to hoodwink the electorate by playing lip service.
Moreover, the BJP cannot say that BSY’s leaving the party and forming his own has hit them hard by cutting into their votes. The polls clearly indicate that the pattern of voting has been a clear swing away from the BJP and the KJP is not the main factor for the party losing the polls.
How could the BJP forget the fact that they have managed to come back to power in states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar (where they are in alliance with the JD-U) on the plank of development and good governance and because they have a strong leader at the helm who is seen to be delivering. No wonder, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who was voted back to power for the third time in December last year mainly on developmental plank, also could not save the party from doom in Karnataka, despite his last ditch effort to do so.
Time is running out for the main Opposition. If it has to pose a serious challenge to the Congress in the next elections, then it has to do some serious introspection. They have to present before the country an image of a united and clean party, a complete anti-thesis to the Congress at the moment, and they also have to convince the voters that they will not repeat the mistakes of the past.
The writing was on the wall and the BJP leaders must have known in their heart of hearts that they will lose their citadel in the South. However, they will take some time to get over it. Mainly because of the fact that they took years to build the party in Karnataka and now having lost power, one never knows how long before it will come back at the helm of affairs again. The BJP only has to think of the case of Uttar Pradesh to know why – after having lost power in UP, the party has been slipping further and further in the state, especially with Mulayam and Mayawati becoming stronger with passing years. So, as they say, it`s time for the Bhartiya Janata Party to pull up its socks and convince the people of India that they really are a ‘party with a difference’ and it’s not only a convenient tagline for them.