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As expected, BJP loses Karnataka state elections to surging Congress


Votes from Sunday’s elections in the Indian state of Karnataka were counted today and, as polls suggested, the troubled government of the conservative, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, or भारतीय जनता पार्टी) has overwhelmingly lost.India Flag Iconkarnataka flag

The Indian National Congress (Congress, or भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस) has won 121 seats — an absolute majority — among the 223 seats up for election in the Karnataka legislative assembly, the Vidhan Sabha (विधान सभा).  In contrast, the BJP lost 72 seats and now holds just 40.


So what do the results mean for Indian national politics?  As with most special elections and regional and local elections, it’s hard to extrapolate trends from a local election for national significance.  But given that India’s national leaders, including very likely its next prime minister, all campaigned in Karnataka, there are some points worth noting, with India’s own national elections set to take place before May 2014.

First, critics of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, both inside and outside the BJP, will have an argument that Modi’s brand of campaign magic isn’t transferable outside his own state.  Modi campaigned vigorously in the final days of the campaign, and he’s widely seen as the frontrunner to lead the BJP in next year’s general election and even a slight frontrunner to become India’s next prime minister.  But the BJP in Karnataka was always facing an uphill battle, so Modi’s failure to change the dynamic is no more or less indicative of his national appeal than Rahul Gandhi’s inability to help Congress win last year’s elections in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.

Second, the Karnataka election was the first state election since Rahul (pictured above) became the vice president of Congress, so a loss or a closer-than-expected race might have demonstrated that Congress’s brand — and the Gandhi brand — is wearing thin nationally.  That didn’t happen, so from Rahul’s perspective, the election is a success.

Perhaps the most important lesson is the anti-incumbent mood, and it wouldn’t be surprising if many of Karnataka’s voters, who just ejected a BJP government this week, will be equally keen to eject the national Congress-led government next year — a government that’s been in office nearly a decade and has received much criticism, even abroad, for a drop in India’s economic growth and its relative lack of energy in pursuing economic reforms.

Back in Karnataka, however, attention will now turn to the next chief minister of a state that remains a technology-fueled economic star within India.   Continue reading As expected, BJP loses Karnataka state elections to surging Congress

Karnataka, India’s high-growth power state, votes in shadow of 2014 national campaign


In 2004, when the national government of the center-right, Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP, or भारतीय जनता पार्टी) sought reelection, it did so with the slogan of ‘India Shining,’ a catchphrase that it hoped would capture the progress India was making in catching up to the economic development that for so long eluded it.  That campaign failed, and the slogan itself largely backfired, but make no mistake — no city was shining brighter than Bangalore, the capital of the state of Karnataka.karnataka flagIndia Flag Icon

Bangalore, in the 1990s and the 2000s, rapidly developed into the so-called ‘Silicon Valley’ of India, with a rapid, increasingly technology-fueled growth wave that made the city a favorite among multinational corporations and that made Karnataka one of the fastest-growing regions in the world.  Bangalore’s population went from 5.1 million to 8.4 million from 2001 to 2011 alone.

Karnataka itself has a population of nearly 62 million people — although it ranks as only the ninth-most populous state within India, it nonetheless has a slightly larger population than Italy and a population twice as large as Malaysia, though I’m sure you’ve heard much more about the recent Italian elections and the Malaysian parliamentary elections scheduled for the same day as Karnataka’s state elections on May 5.  But given the rising economic, cultural, demographic and political importance of India, and the central role than Bangalore and its economic hinterland has played in India’s 2000s economic boom, there’s really no reason why Italian politics should necessarily be any more important than Karnataka state politics.

Its importance comes especially into relief when you view the Karnataka campaign in the context of India’s highly anticipated 2014 national election showdown between the BJP, which will likely (though not certainly) be led by Gujarati chief minister Narendra Modi and the current governing party, the Indian National Congress (Congress, or भारतीय राष्ट्रीय कांग्रेस), which will almost certainly be led by Rahul Gandhi, the son of current Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, and both Rahul and Modi have recently visited Karnataka state to campaign for their parties and to take swipes at one another.

So what do you need to know about the politics of Karnataka? Continue reading Karnataka, India’s high-growth power state, votes in shadow of 2014 national campaign