Published: Friday, May 10, 2013

Karnataka Poll: A rare boost to Congress

India’s ruling Congress party, some of whose leaders have faced a string of corruption charges, won a much-needed victory in an election in the key southern state of Karnataka by securing majority on its own.
The Sonia Gandhi-led party wrested power from Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka in the voting was watched as a possible bellwether for next year’s national parliamentary elections.
Congress party bagged 121 seats, eight more than needed for majority in the state’s 224-strong legislature. BJP was routed and managed to win just 40 seats, 70 less than the previous elections in the state in 2008.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi hailed the party’s showing in Karnataka polls, saying the result was a rejection of BJP’s ideology and suggested the same would be repeated in the parliamentary elections as well.
Singh praised the efforts of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, saying he took a “leading role” in the campaigning for the polls held on May 5.
Salman Khurshid, a senior Congress leader and India’s External Affairs Minister, said the outcome “has given us a great shot in the arm.”
Several Congress leaders are facing corruption allegations stemming from scandals over the hosting of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, allegedly irregular sale of mobile phone spectrum and allocation of coal mines that official auditors said cost the country billions of dollars.
BJP in Karnataka had scandals of its own. Although the party came to power in the state only five years ago, its lawmakers quickly became embroiled in an alleged multibillion-dollar scam involving the granting of illegal iron ore mining contracts. The lawmakers, along with hundreds of government officials, are being prosecuted on bribery charges.
The defeat of BJP in Karnataka deprived India’s main opposition party of its only stronghold in southern India but analysts said Congress victory was based less on its strength and more on the weakness of its rivals.
“Congress party benefited through default,” said Vinod Mehta, a political analyst and former Editor of “Outlook.”