To Remain Relevant, Rahul Must Win Karnataka Face-Off With ModiThe Congress is in a conundrum it climbs one step on the stairs only to slip back two. The euphoria generated by the partys strong showing in Punjab, Goa, Gujarat and Rajasthan has all but vanished after its near rout in the north-east. The rejection of the party by the people has been the strongest in Tripura, where its obliteration helped the BJP secure a historic and massive mandate. From 36.5% of votes in 2013 to below 2% now is an embarrassing fall. The party is unlikely to get over this humiliation in a hurry.
By Sunil Garodia
In Nagaland too, the Congress has been wiped out. It failed to win even a single seat against the 10 it held in the outgoing assembly. In Mehgalaya, it managed to hang on to 21 seats against 29 it had, but that is not likely to put it in a position to form the next government. The Congress used to shout from the rooftops that the BJP is a Hindu party and it wins votes by polarizing the electorate along religious lines. But the north-east has a Christian majority in most states. Hence, that excuse is not going to work this time. The fact is that the Congress and its cronies looted the north-eastern states by siphoning out funds meant for development. It has been made to pay for the Congress culture that only built crony capitalists without ushering in development.
With these three states gone, Rahul Gandhi must now work to retain Karnataka if he has any pretensions of being a serious challenger to Narendra Modi in 2019. He bungled in the north-east, especially in Tripura, by not entering into meaningful alliances. Although people in the southern part of India are not enamored of the BJP but he needs to keep in mind that Karnataka was once ruled by the party and it has a good block-level infrastructure in the state. If the BJP can wrest any state in the south, it is Karnataka. Given the winning momentum, its well-oiled election machinery, Narendra Modis charisma which shows no sign of ebbing, Amit Shahs guiles and the endless funds, the BJP is going to make a strong pitch for Karnataka. It will be Rahuls biggest test till date. He has to retain the state to keep himself and his party relevant in Indian politics.