India’s opposition Congress gains key foothold with state election win

  • India’s embattled Congress party won big in a southern state election this weekend, exceeding expectations and gaining fresh momentum to take on entrenched Prime Minister Narendra Modi in national elections in 2024, top politicians and analysts said.
  • At the same time, they cautioned that Congress’ victory on Saturday in Karnataka state, home to the booming tech hub of Bengaluru, was largely due to local factors.
  • The popular Modi’s strongman image and Hindu polarisation strategy, they said, would likely power his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to victory in upcoming elections in the heartland states and nationally.
  • But for the beleaguered opposition party, which won fewer than 10% of the 545 seats in parliament’s lower house in 2019, the win provides a foothold to re-establish itself as a political force to be reckoned with in the world’s largest democracy.
  • “This is an opportunity for Congress to enhance state efficiencies in Karnataka, build a new governance model and showcase that to the country,” said Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi, a political commentator who teaches at Krea University in southern India.
  • For the near term, however, he added: “These results have no bearing on the 2024 elections, they don’t help us to predict what might happen either in Karnataka or nationally so far as Congress’ chances are concerned.”
  • Congress, which fared poorly in 13 May’s municipal elections in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh in the north, where the BJP swept all 17 mayoral seats, next faces elections late this year in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh states.

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