A crisis of political courage

Instead of collecting small victories in the shadow of impending defeats, the Congress needs to inject itself with some political adrenaline

The assembly outcome in Karnataka was that strange moment when the victor is unable to draw much benefit from the victory but thinks that it is in a position of advantage, and the vanquished can take recourse to excuses, thus leading both to self-delusion. The results of the assembly election themselves did not bring much surprise ó the Congress was expected to win and nobody expected the BJP to fare better than it did. As is the case with any assembly election in the year preceding the national election, the key question, however, is: what does this mean for the national level contest?

The smaller part of this question is if the Congress can expect to bank upon its victory in Karnataka as an indication of the changing tide. For some time now, parties that win elections in the proximity of a parliamentary election tend to perform well from those states in the subsequent parliamentary election. So, the Congress has reason for hope. But will this hope be realised?

The latest victory of the Congress is in one sense very unreal. There is mystery about how much of this has happened due to B.S. Yeddyurappa and how much the Congress managed on its own. For instance, of the 79 seats it won last time, the Congress has been able to retain only 50 this time and its inability to retain almost 40 per cent of its own seats should be cause for worry. Besides, of the 121 assembly seats it won, at least 24 victories are with a margin of less than 5,000. It is tough for the Congress to translate these victories into dependable leads in a parliamentary election. In other words, for the Congress to perform well in the parliamentary election, the onus will be on the newly elected government and it will have only under 10 months to win over sizeable support among different communities (particularly the Lingayats) and register a good performance in the urban areas of the state.

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