Congress will try to replicate Karnataka model in other states

But BJP has also learnt its lessons

PTI05_14_2023_000091B PTI

After a long time, for the Congress, there is a respite from that sinking feeling. The triumph in Karnataka has come as a morale booster for the party that appeared to be in a free fall. The decisive victory has had the immediate effect of setting the tone for its preparations for the upcoming state polls and the big fight in 2024.

The mood is certainly upbeat in the party. After the Karnataka win, the party leadership leapt straight into preparations for the next round of assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where it will be engaged in a direct fight with the BJP.

While every election is distinct, with its own set of issues, personalities and circumstances, the Congress believes that the Karnataka elections have provided it with a template to outsmart the formidable election machinery of the BJP. It is seeking to implement the lessons learnt in Karnataka in the elections to be held later this year. It believes the ‘guarantees’ it announced in the southern state struck a chord with the poor and would want to repeat it in the other states. In Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, it is seeking to project the welfare measures of its governments. Also, like in Karnataka, candidates will be selected largely on the basis of internal surveys.

The party is also keen to project the local leadership to the electorate, with the national leaders playing a supporting role. For example, in the discussions on Madhya Pradesh, where the party feels it has a chance to unseat the BJP, a key issue discussed is projecting veteran leader Kamal Nath as the chief ministerial face. He is already the face of the party’s campaign.

The Lok Sabha elections are expected to be a different ball game, though. In 2018, the Congress had won Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, and had formed government in Karnataka together with the JD(S) just a few months before the Lok Sabha polls, but was decimated by the BJP in the general elections. The party, however, believes that the situation is different this time. It is felt that Rahul Gandhi’s image has undergone a vast change after the Bharat Jodo Yatra, and he is increasingly being viewed as a leader committed to people’s issues. Also, the party believes that its pro-poor messaging and its support for caste census would help it deal with the hindutva-laden electioneering of the BJP.

The Congress also feels that Karnataka has proved that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not invincible. The challenge before it is to build on that sentiment. It also faces the tough task of getting the opposition parties together in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls. The inherent contradictions that make it difficult to get the anti-BJP parties on a common platform are already visible, even within the Congress itself. Its state units in Delhi and Punjab are vehemently opposing the party offering the Aam Aadmi Party any support over the Centre’s ordinance promulgated to keep the services department out of the purview of the Kejriwal government. As it reaches out to other parties, the extent to which it will be willing to make sacrifices will have to be worked out.