The Congress party had hope after the Himachal Pradesh victory in December 2022 thanks to a low-key local campaign and a well-executed communication plan that included social media and served as the foundation for the decisive Karnataka victory.
What then were the secret components of the Congress party’s victory in this crucial contest against a prominent Narendra Modi-led campaign?
Ironically, Congress adopted Modi’s adage “vocal for local” and limited the fight for Karnataka to the state’s basic needs of “bijli, sadak aur paani” (electricity, roads, and water). In Siddaramaiah, the Congress had a grassroots leader who was an icon in the poor constituencies of Karnataka.
The second stalwart, DK Shivakumar, waged a message-cohesive campaign exposing the “40% corruption cut” in every state project that the Congress alleged the Bommai-led BJP government was taking despite their frequent battle for the coveted chief minister’s position.
DKS, as he is well called, is a major troubleshooter for Congress who sequesters Congress members at his resorts. Despite the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) campaign of intimidation, DKS has remained unfazed. The Congress representative for Karnataka, Randeep Surjewala, set up shop there well before the official campaign started, which caught the BJP off guard.
He smacked the heads of the two regional leaders in order to run a disciplined campaign without any controversies. Surjewala told them directly, “We have to first win the election together then only can anyone become CM”.
The Congress representative for Karnataka, Randeep Surjewala, set up shop there well before the official campaign started, which caught the BJP off guard. He smacked the heads of the two regional leaders in order to run a disciplined campaign without any controversies. They were given the straightforward instruction from Surjewala that “we must first win the election together before anyone can become CM.”
Give credit where it’s due. With the help of Pawan Khera, Jairam Ramesh, the general secretary in charge of communication, and Supriya Shrinate, head of the information and technology department, the Congress’ new communications team engaged the BJP head-on. The trio takes no prisoners, counters fake news, and matches the BJP’s intensity.
This marks a significant turnaround for the party that had lagged behind the BJP, which had previously been the Godzilla of the social media (SM) room. The Congress now outperforms and outshines the saffron party in SM. The Congress’s social media has advanced to the point where it now surpasses the BJP on Instagram, the de facto social media app of choice. While the BJP lags behind with bland and monotonous content, Congress has a stronghold and creative Instagram posts.
The BJP, the most well-funded party in India, wants to catch up quickly as the big election of 2024 approaches. I regularly follow social media, and I’m amazed at how well the Congress has played the game. A significant conclusion from the Karnataka elections is the BJP’s fall in the SM game.
The BJP made an effort to divide voters in the Karnataka campaign by using Tipu Sultan and even Lord Hanuman to parody the Congress platform’s proposal to outlaw the Bajrang Dal. PM Modi urged voters to vote while remembering Hanumanji. The electorate didn’t. To their credit, the Congress kept the campaign focused on corruption and a lack of effective governance after sensing the lack of any Hindutva appeal in the state poll.
Keep elections local and grounded, empower regional leaders that the electorate knows, and run a tight campaign without stumbling on the Hindutva pitch that the BJP loves to play on are all important lessons learned from the Karnataka election.
Large-scale rural suffering was a focal point of the campaign in Karnataka for the Congress. The split Bommai government, which had an excessive number of power centers, lacked a compelling argument to use against Team Congress. Between BS Yediyurappa, BL Santhosh’s catastrophic ticket choice—he kept flashing the Modi card—and the underwhelming Bommai cabinet, the BJP lost the poll.
The last lesson to be learned is that Rahul Gandhi, who is still the top Congress leader, has reinvented himself. He has effectively shed the “Pappu image” the BJP had given him after the Bharat Jodo Yatra. In the 21 Karnataka Assembly seats that Gandhi walked, Congress performed well. While I was writing this, Congress was winning 17 of the 21 seats, which is a really amazing showing.
The election of Kannadiga Mallikarjun Kharge as the president of the Congress undoubtedly encouraged Karnataka to support the party, which is now on track to receive its highest vote total in fifty years. Kharge ran a vigorous campaign despite his advanced age. The Opposition can beat the Modi-BJP because it has secured the crucial 2024 “mahaul” (atmosphere) and “hawa” (support).