More we look, stronger becomes the realisation that every State election is unique and throws up it own logic and no trend is common. The caste combination differs from State to State and so do the issues. Another realisation is that common folks are more affected by the manner in which State Government functions as compared to Center. For large corporations Central policies may have an impact as policies relating to excise duties import and export make the difference.
But for small industrialists, traders and farmers local issues like price of land, availability of power , administration efficiency, delivery system and development of infrastructure in terms of roads make more difference. The most important issue is state of law and order as in its absence no development can take place. The result is that every election in Sate is more a refrendum on State policies and less on Center. The exception being steps like demonetisation, fixing prices of farm produce and inputs for agriculture.
For instance rare is the case when a political party wins the polls without a strong set up in the State . A strong leadership in State implies that its case with regard to vital interests in deciding issues relating to water resources or in other sectors will not be neglected. The point being driven home by me is in the absence of a overall trend, local factors will continue to drive the outcome of State elections. The domination by a national party or a common trend across the country is an exception which may influence the voters for one term, but does not last.
The emergence of leaders like Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi make them look invincible at a particular time, but it does not last if past is any guide. The reason is obvious that a diverse and poor country with host of problems presents a challenge which makes it impossible for anyone to live up to his promises. It is for this reason that incumbency factor is very high in India. Rarely any leader gets a second term and anyone winning third term becomes a legend.
This scenario is becoming clear as 2019 poll comes closer. The scenario when U.P Assembly poll took place was different while Punjab presented a different picture. North East and Assam again showed the dominance of BJP and its expansion drive. Gujarat Assembly poll showed BJP vulnerability and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to use every trick in his large armoury to win a paper thin majority. It was not failure of BJP on national front , but weakness of State unit which made situation difficult for ruling party.
Same logic led to fall of Congress in Himachal Pradesh and losses suffered by BJP in by-polls in U.P where Samajwadi party and Bahujan Samaj party joined hands. The signal was a united opposition which will be a challenge for BJP which won a majority in 2014 with thirty three per cent vote. The next challenge will be faced in Karnataka. BJP will not only have to overcome the failure to deliver on promises made in 2014 Lok Sabha poll but also weakness and division in the local ranks.
To overcome the challenge poses by crafty Siddaramaiah who has decided to build up Karnatka pride against BJP challenge of Hindutva. He has also made a strong move to divide Lingayat community which has been solidly in BJP camp in the past by recommending that they may be granted a minority status. He is also matching BJP by holding large number of rallies . He also is working a strong caste combination with support of backwards, minority and a division in the ranks of Vokalingas and Lingayats.
The BJP has not thrown in the towel yet and is fighting back by taking help of notorious Reddy Brothers who were guilty and caused huge mining scams and tried for a strategic alliance with Janta Dal led by former Prime Minister Deve Gowda to defeat Congress. BJP leadership officially maintains that it has no alliance with Reddy brothers, but has given six seats to their nominees. The result of Karnataka poll will be watched with interest as it cloud be a morale booster for the winner, but it will certainly not indicate a national trend.
India is basically a federation and every State votes according to its own peculiarities. As such a federal combination can be a effective challenge to BJP provided it also has support of one other national party. As state parties can be easily influenced by a national party if there is no possibility of an opposition combination coming to power and maths will not work without a national party.
(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)