Ideally, elections should be fought constituency-wise, as each is represented by an individual MLA or MP. Each constituency has its specific needs and priorities, and voters have to decide on the basis of candidates’ ability to deliver. So, while there might be a state-wide inclination towards a party, a deserving opposition candidate can win from a particular constituency. However, lack of citizens’ awareness and poor quality of candidates on offer can lead to selections made more generally on the basis of party and ideology.
Political analysts are trying to predict the results of the ongoing Karnataka elections on the basis of various parameters but are undecided on whether it will be a battle between ideologies or the sum total of what candidates have to offer. The Congress seems to have abandoned its attempt at ‘soft Hindutva’ as this has failed to deliver results anywhere. It has, instead, taken the old route of trying to unite community and caste votebanks. The BJP, while willing to accommodate caste interests, is hoping for Hindu consolidation to overcome natural anti-incumbency as the party in power.
In its desperation to ensure Muslim votes don’t get divided between it and the JDS, the Congress has declared it could ban the Bajrang Dal on coming to power. In this process, it has equated the Dal with the PFI. While there can be doubts about how much this will ‘appease’ the mainstream Muslims, it will certainly have pleased the Leftists and radicals of various shades. It remains to be seen how much this gambit will influence voters in Karnataka, but it will deal a severe blow to the future prospects of the Congress in the Hindi Heartland. This desperate measure may or may not pay dividends in Karnataka but will come back to haunt the party in the north.
And, out of nowhere, the BJP has been handed another advantage just when campaigning is at its peak, because it has further proof to present before the public about the Congress mindset. The Bajrang Dal may comprise mostly a bunch of ruffians with an unsophisticated understanding of Hinduism, but it is by no means a ‘terrorist’ organisation to be banned outright. It is better handled through the normal processes of law depending on the specific transgressions, event-wise. A generous description of the organisation would be that it wishes to ‘defend’ Hinduism and Hindus, but bears no fundamental animosity towards any other faith. Sub-consciously, most people recognise this fact, which is why the Congress will face a backlash. What effect is experienced in Karnataka will become known soon enough.