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Even Keel

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The BJP’s emphatic victory in the Karnataka bypolls will give more than enough seats to its state government to provide stable governance. There is no doubt that the reversal of the public mandate in Maharashtra helped voters in Karnataka to make their choice. With this, the BJP’s bad form at state level elections has eased a bit.

Statistically speaking, also, it is not a surprise. In the longer term, results will naturally reflect the general percentage of votes every party polls. While the BJP was on a roll, it was not as if the Congress was not receiving a good percentage of the votes. While the BJP formed the governments on the basis of the first past the post system, the Congress and other parties had cumulatively taken away the actual majority of the votes. These were not necessarily anti- BJP, because many voters may prefer a particular party but, if required to, choose the BJP as its next option. Over time, as in the case of Maharashtra, coalitions of interest may form against the largest party.

This is why, after its stupendous victories at the national level under PM Narendra Modi, the BJP has been working on crossing the fifty percent mark in votes polled. This would put it beyond the reach of every other party.In presidential forms of government, this is the minimum required, providing the leader greater executive power than available under the Westminster model. With its enormous diversity, India has done well with its parliamentary form of democracy, but could do better if the parties could cooperate more in legislative functioning. Vested and partisan interests have prevented this to a great extent, inclining Indians more towards decisive mandates and governments.

While the BJP has been depending on big ticket items such as abrogation of Article 370, the Triple Talaaq law and, now, the Citizenship Amendment Bill, to garner a majority of the votes, there are only a few of such galvanising issues available. It will have to depend more on better governance at the state level to avoid the kind of defeats that took place in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh. The ongoing polls in Jharkhand will be a test of whether it has succeeded in changing voter attitudes. The till now tepid performance of the MP and Rajasthan governments should help decide this. An even more crucial test awaits in Delhi. State level leaderships will have to pull up their socks if BJP’s goals are to be achieved.