THE Congress party in its manifesto for Karnataka Assembly polls has promised to ban organizations that promote hatred among communities. And surprisingly enough, the party has made it clear that if voted to power it would ban the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s youth wing, Bajrang Dal, equating it with the banned Islamic outfit Popular Front of India (PFI). The party also pledged to repeal “anti-people laws” passed by the BJP government in the state within a year of coming to power. The party’s manifesto includes five guarantees related to free electricity, financial assistance to women heads of households, food grains, unemployment benefits, and free travel for women. Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge has promised to implement these guarantees in the first cabinet meeting on the first day of government formation.
But whether such promises will help Congress win the election remains to be seen. There are indications though, that the party is poised to do well in the polls relative to the BJP. The opinion polls about election have given the party an edge over the BJP. The poll, conducted by CVoter in March, projected between 115 and 127 seats for the Congress in the 224-member assembly, with the BJP a distant second at somewhere between 68 and 80 seats. Zee News Opinion Poll, on the other hand, was favourably disposed towards the BJP. But even that ddidn’t give a cake walk to the BJP, something that should be cause for concern for a party that is perceived to command a majority of support in the country.
A lot rides on the outcome of the polls in Karnataka, more so, as it would set the stage for the 2024 general elections. Around ten Assembly elections are scheduled to be held before the national polls. Among them, the elections in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telengana will be very consequential. The BJP will hope to win all of them. Should the party suffer reverses in the majority of these states, this may not bode well for its 2024 chances. But despite the reverses, it could still carry the day as happened in 2019 when the saffron party secured a landslide in general elections despite losing state polls in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan.
The elections in these major states represent the last chance for the opposition, especially Congress, to hurtle back into the reckoning. For now, Congress can take heart from the victory in Himachal. But a win in Karnataka could position it once again as a national party that the wider opposition respects and the BJP takes more seriously in the run up to 2024.
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