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Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was in New Delhi on Saturday when the chief minister-designate in neighbouring, new Seemandhra, Chandrababu Naidu, declared in a television interview, “Modi and I are a deadly combination, we are both development persons. Our goal is to take both (Seemandhra and Telangana) states forward”. On Sunday, his Tamil Nadu counterpart J. Jayalalithaa’s government consumed newspaper front pages with ads that listed her three-year-old government’s “splendid achievements”.
Around the time Naidu was making these utterances in Hyderabad, Siddaramaiah was scheduled to meet Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi in back-to-back half-hour meetings in Delhi. There, no doubt, the conversation would have turned to the question foremost on many Congressmen’s minds: how could things have changed so drastically in Karnataka that a party, which swept the assembly elections in May 2013 to form the government, had, exactly a year later, got downgraded to an enervating nine Lok Sabha seats out of 28?
This week, as Siddaramaiah prepares to launch a gala celebration to mark the first anniversary of his government, he — and many chief ministers around the country — will ponder over Modi’s spectacular victory that stunned his opponents. None of them could have imagined that one chief minister’s crystallised idea of strong leadership and a development agenda could be such a potent and convincing countrywide election platform, despite his carrying the baggage of the 2002 communal violence.
“The general election results are a wake-up call to all political parties, and every chief minister in the country ought to focus on economic development that reaches all strata of society,” said Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman of Biocon and a rare voice in corporate India who speaks on political issues. The election results have demonstrated that, for the man on the street, it is all about jobs and a better life. “Modi’s journey contains one lesson for fellow chief ministers: if you don’t show the vikas story in your state, you will go out of business,” said V. Ravichandar, a civic expert. Siddaramaiah and his chief minister peers will have to gaze at the writing on the wall and reorient themselves.
For the first time in an election campaign, candidate after candidate was confronted by every category of voter, from the rural poor living in backward villages to the upper middle class ensconced in urban homes, with questions about what they had delivered to the constituency and what they promised for its future. For candidates of every hue, whether the outgoing Congress, the victorious BJP or the relatively new
Aam Aadmi Party, the pressure was just enormous. India’s aspiring middle class alone, set to grow to 267 million by 2016 from just 160 million in 2011, has a minimum common expectation of an efficient administration that delivers balanced growth.
In Karnataka, the Congress’s single-digit gains continued…