Mine-rich Bellary in Karnataka, ensconced in the BJP corner for 14 long years, under the controversial Reddy brothers, has finally yielded to the ruling Congress-JD(S) alliance. First Gorakhpur, then Kairana, and now Bellary. The May bypoll in UP’s Kairana was a testing ground for the Grand Alliance which sought to take on the BJP might. And it did. The BJP can't miss the message between the lines ahead of the all-crucial 2019 General Election. The loss margin is substantial. In the Karnataka bypoll, four of five seats have gone to the Congress alliance, sending out a firm message: call it what you will, ‘grand alliance’ or mahagathbandhan, Opposition unity is gaining ground as a force multiplier.
The Bellary loss has, no doubt, been offset by the Shimoga win, which has taken the BJP count to 273 in the Lok Sabha, but the political significance of the defeat sits heavy. Political chemistry is acquiring a regional flavour: local issues, local players are taking precedence over national concerns. Political regroupings that may have stood no chance in the big national game are coming together for smaller victories, and are emerging triumphant. Certainly, not a hurriedly cobbled-up strategy. The caste and communal calculus, deeply intrinsic to our politics, is being carefully factored in. Regional needs are in stark variance with national aspirations.
Regional positioning is here to stay, as also should a responsible Opposition — indispensable for a dynamic, mature democracy. The current political situation is fluid, virtually lacking a credible Opposition. A walkover does not portend well. Karnataka has shown the way. For a formidable alternative alliance that can take on a monolithic political entity (earlier the Congress), it is vital that regional players understand, and deliver, on the core needs of the local populace. Jobs, potable water, crime-free neighbourhoods, fair price for produce, corruption, etc., impact the everydayness of life. The BJP must smell the coffee: the fevered pitch for Ram temple, and the like, may sway a small section for a short period of time. People are impatient for more — for issues that really, really matter.