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Karnataka Election Results: Congress Gambit a Throwback to Sonia Gandhi’s 2004 ‘Sacrifice’

In 2004, when the she assiduously built a non-BJP alliance and had the numbers to stake claim, Sonia Gandhi played the master card by rejecting the prime ministership and nominating Manmohan Singh instead.

Sumit Pande | News18.com

Updated:May 16, 2018, 8:19 AM IST
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Karnataka Election Results: Congress Gambit a Throwback to Sonia Gandhi’s 2004 ‘Sacrifice’
File photo of former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. (PTI)
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New Delhi: Sonia Gandhi learnt one bitter lesson in politics in 1999 when she claimed majority after the fall of the 13-month Vajpayee government. “Migratory birds are coming,” proclaimed Arjun Singh, her chief advisor at the time.

To her consternation, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav refused to back a Congress-led government.

So five years later, in 2004, when the she assiduously built a non-BJP alliance and had the numbers to stake claim, Sonia played the master card by rejecting the prime ministership and nominating Manmohan Singh instead.

Fifteen years later, the Karnataka cliffhanger is a throwback to the fast-paced political developments that culminated with the formation of UPA in 2004.

It all started with the Shimla Conclave of the Congress where the party decided to rescind ‘ekla chalo’ (march alone) line endorsed at Panchmarhi in the 90s. That the Congress reached out to regional satraps and aggregated votes to challenge the BJP and emerge as the single-largest party was part of the tempered political line adopted at Shimla.

In Karnataka, the Congress leadership has shown flexibility to restrict options both for the BJP and the JD(S).

By offering the highest bid to the JD(S), the Congress left little scope for the BJP to better the offer. With 104 seats, the BJP could have at best offered deputy chief ministership to HD Kumaraswamy.

For the BJP, conceding the top job to Kumarawasmy would demand another sacrifice from BS Yeddyurappa, which in turn could invite a backlash from the Lingayats.

In challenging Kumaraswamy, the BJP could antagonise Vokkaliga community concentrated in the Old Mysore region, something which the central leadership of the party may want to avoid ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Beyond the complex caste considerations of the local state politics, the Congress is attempting to send a larger message to non-NDA parties ahead of the 2019 General Elections — that the Congress is willing to accommodate and work with regional satraps.

For the JD(S), an alliance with a weakened Congress works better than playing second fiddle to the BJP. At least till 2019, the Congress would not want to destabilise the government. With a bronze medal in Karnataka polls, the JD(S) has struck gold.

In the next 12 months, Deve Gowda will get enough time to settle issues within his family. He wants his grandson Prajwal Revanna to contest Lok Sabha elections from Hasan.

As for the Congress, it survives to fight another day, hoping Karnataka would emerge as the cradle of larger opposition unity in 2019.
| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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