The Congress Karnataka Model


The Congress may or may not win Karnataka but the leadership model on ground is worth taking a note of. For one, Rahul Gandhi is not the chief campaigner or the face of the campaign. The local leadership is fronting the campaign with both Siddaramaiah and DK Shivkumar holding dual charge. Also, more important, the inner fighting is not out there on public display as much as it is within the state BJP. (Or for that matter, as in the Congress state unit in Rajasthan!). That sends a reassuring message to the voters.
Also, when the party released its manifesto, it was done by the Congress President Malliarjun Kharge and the state leadership. None of the central leaders were visible, not even Rahul Gandhi. Given that Kharge is also from Karnataka, his presence as the Congress Chief only adds heft to the party’s campaign. If not for the voters, then definitely for the Congress workers.
In fact, it is not Rahul who is emerging as the star campaigner from the centre, but his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. A charismatic campaigner who is always on message, she is delivering some of the smartest lines in taking on the Prime Minister and the BJP.
This is a model that can be replicated—keep Priyanka and Rahul—more of Priyanka than Rahul for the campaign, let Kharge take the leadership centrestage, flanked by local leaders (who are not sniping at each other, at least in public). The issues raised are also local and given the fact that there is a BJP CM in place the Congress can use anti-incumbency to its advantage. The BJP is trying to divert the campaign by bringing in central issues and the PM’s own track record, but if the Congress stays on message and sticks to the local issues, then it will only increase its chances with the state voters.
This may not work at the central level during the 2024 elections where the Congress lacks a tall leader to take on PM Modi and the BJP will do its best to make it a presidential fight for this very same reason though the Opposition would prefer to make it an issue-based one. But, that is for later. For now, for the state elections, this is a very good model for the Opposition, specially the Congress to follow.