The Congress party is poised to make a comeback in Karnataka, leading in 135 seats as the results of the 2023 state elections trickle in. The credit for the party’s success is being attributed to the campaign helmed by DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah, who worked together despite being accused of having opposite goals. The Congress focused on state issues and never strayed from their communications strategy, with top leaders such as Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra sticking to pre-decided themes such as corruption, increased cost of living, and skyrocketing LPG cylinder prices.
The BJP’s campaign was dominated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rallies, emphasizing the messages of “Double Engine Sarkar” and Hindutva. The Congress strategy focused on state issues, while the BJP misused the Congress’s promise to take legal action against groups like the Bajrang Dal, drawing a false equivalence between the Dal and the deity Hanuman. DK Shivakumar even went so far as to promise to build Hanuman temples, thwarting the BJP’s campaign.
The BJP’s Hindutva push may have placated its core voters, but it also helped the Congress consolidate the Muslim electorate. The BJP’s various Hindutva projects, including the anti-conversion and anti-cattle slaughter laws, were given state sanction, leading to communal incidents and the dropping of over 300 cases of hate speech and crimes. Meanwhile, the Congress manifesto focused on five guarantees, including schemes for free electricity and food grains, as well as providing financial assistance to unemployed graduates and women heads of households.
The Congress’s focus on women voters also seems to have paid dividends, with more than 1.91 crore women voting in the election. With the BJP suffering a massive defeat and the Congress set to return to power, it is clear that the state election in Karnataka centered around state issues, with the Congress strategy prevailing over the BJP’s Hindutva push.