LONG haunted by successive electoral defeats at the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi, the Indian National Congress regained some of its lost electoral glory recently by dethroning its formidable rival in the key state of Karnataka.

Staging emphatic success, the Congress party won 136 seats in a house of 224 to de-seat the BJP, which had won in 2019 by inducing defections from the former Congress-led coalition government.

Even though Modi visited the southern state as many as 19 times to drum up support, the electorate firmly rejected the BJP’s Hindutva charm and its treatment of the minority communities in India.

Much of the Congress success had been attributed to the marathon long march across the country by Rahul Gandhi. However, with the national elections due in 2024, Congress still faces a formidable task in ousting its bitter rival from New Delhi, the throne that matters more than most others.

State assembly elections during the current year will also take place in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana. Additionally, there may be elections in the troubled occupied Kashmir where Article 370 was repealed in 2019.

The Congress party’s focus on agriculture, rural development, education and healthcare issues resonated with the voters. Furthermore, it also fielded a number of Muslim candidates many of whom actually won their seats. Besides, the party revamped and strengthened its organisational structure which was able to drum up its support base.

However, whether the secular Congress would be able to further its electoral fortunes in the upcoming other state elections remains to be seen. The lessons learned from the success in Karnataka could be the way forward.

Fawad Hashmey
Lahore

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2023

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