The Karnataka voters have cast their votes. No one can forecast the result though many will claim they did after it has been declared. It will be close. Neither of the two big parties is likely to win an outright majority. For the Congress, Karnataka will be like Gujarat in reverse, but with not even a small majority. We will get neither Congress-mukt Karnataka (let alone Bharat) nor will the BJP Hindutva juggernaut face a reverse.
Karnataka has always been unique, a tough state to control from the Centre. It has given the Congress such stars as Devraj Urs. In Siddaramaiah, it has a formidable Chief Minister. He does not need Rahul Gandhi so much as Rahul Gandhi needs him. This may just be one election which could improve Rahul Gandhi’s dismal record so far. It would at least not be a defeat and even a moderate victory if the Congress were to be the largest party.
The BJP has no control over the local party either. It tried to assert control by denying B S Yeddyurappa a ticket last time, and lost the election. So this time the national party has abjectly surrendered. Not only Yeddyurappa but the Reddy brothers have also been given tickets. Denying Yeddyurappa’s son a ticket is not enough. The anti-corruption attack looks weak with those choices. Modi’s problem is also the party nationally, whose members embarrass him every day by making shocking remarks on Kathua tragedy or beat up Dalits and Muslims as they fancy. This is not what Modi promised with sabka saath.
In case of no party with a clear majority, there will no doubt be a bidding frenzy for JD(S) support. Vast sums of money will be promised. Nearly everyone is a crorepati among the candidates of the two national parties and 30 per cent have a criminal record. Politics has always been a lucrative business in the South, excepting Kerala. It is not a good ground for fighting corruption.
There is a radical way of avoiding the vulgar auction of support from the third party. What the campaign has shown is that not much separates the two parties. Neither is more corrupt than the other nor more effective in the delivery of good policies. They should bury their differences and try a grand coalition. It will save both parties a lot of money because they won’t need to buy JD(S) votes. Indeed, if a grand coalition was announced, many JD(S) members will get into one or the other parry.
There is no serious ideological difference left between the two parties, with the Congress repositioning itself as a liberal Hindutva party. They can have a trial run in Karnataka. The Congress can keep the BJP liberal and tolerant while the BJP can keep the Congress honest and wean it away from crony capitalism. If it works in Karnataka, it could be adopted at the Centre. It will be a win- win situation for India.
I proposed this idea 15 years ago. How much parliamentary time is wasted in useless party posturing when both are agreed on the fundamentals? The GST could have been implemented 10 years ago. Reform of the public sector, help for a viable farming sector would deliver rapid growth, with India overtaking China. I know it won’t happen. But if only.