"Modi Magic", the preternatural covenant that Narendra Modi appears to have with voters, crossed the Vindhyas this morning as his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took Karnataka with what a crestfallen Congress leader described as a "silent wave" (the result is decisive and far from silent, but that's the Congres for you).
The Congress is now reduced to two and a half states (Punjab, Puducherry and Mizoram) while the BJP has charge of 21.
Karnataka has given a huge fillip to the BJP's twin Goliaths, Modi and party president Amit Shah
, who now approach the general election as all-conquering warriors. The Karnataka win could also ensure that Rajasthan, where the BJP is on a sticky wicket, and Madhya Pradesh where after three unbroken terms it faces anti-incumbency, are clubbed together with early general elections as the BJP seeks to surf the Modi wave all the way home.
The Karnataka verdict is going the bellwether
for 2019 as I have written several times here. As the embattled incumbent, Siddaramaiah gave the fight his all, pulling out sub-nationalism, minority status for Lingayats (who nevertheless stuck by the BJP) and imaginative welfare schemes, but Karnataka stuck to its habit of not re-electing the party in power.
"Modi Magic" certainly has the analysts baffled as this time around in Karnataka where even the pretence of asking for votes for "development" and "good governance" was given up. Shah bet big on the Bellary Brothers
and their associates who were given eight tickets; they delivered around 20 seats so abandoning the anti-corruption plank has paid off. So has pushing a lead role for B Sriramulu, the choice for Deputy Chief Minister under a greatly weakened B S Yeddyurappa, who during his earlier tenure was tainted by the Bellary Brothers and the serious cases of corruption they faced.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the poll pitch in Karnataka with over 20 rallies.
Modi did not refer to his own track record in governance for the past four years; yet it did not seem to matter. He made savage personal attacks on the opposition, especially on Rahul and his mother Sonia Gandhi; evidence suggests they worked like a charm on the Kannadiga voters.
If the Congress had allied with the JDS, it would have trounced the BJP. The writing on the wall is clear: to survive, the opposition needs to sink its differences and cross-purpose ambitions. It needs to view Karnataka as final wake-up call with just 12 months to go for the national election. If Rahul Gandhi could act as a catalyst to get together Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mewani in Gujarat, he needs to abandon any false pride of the Congress and do the same at the national level.
A possible blueprint for him is the unlikely alliance between the Akhilesh Yadav Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, the state with 80 Lok Sabha seats. Gandhi needs to give up delusions of grandeur and the arrogance of being a national party and sign up even as a junior ally of "Bua and Bhatija". It is reflective of the Congress's stature and position today that neither Mayawati nor Akhilesh Yadav have made any particular overtures to Gandhi or his party. Yadav Jr is still burnt from his disastrous alliance with Gandhi for the UP state election last year.
While the Congress party make not be asking questions of Gandhi, particularly because they have no options, the entire opposition leadership is. For leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Navin Patnaik, Sharad Pawar, Gandhi is not at all the unquestioned nominee of a united opposition.
The opposition also needs to chart out a new script and a agenda since the voters are not buying the current version on sale despite the fairly mediocre track record of the Modi government at the centre and the states the BJP rules.
Banerjee today wrote the writing on the social media wall when she congratulated the victor (pointedly not naming the BJP) and said that the results would have been very different if the Congress had allied with Deve Gowda's Janata Dal Secular. The nudge to Gandhi was public. Expect vocal leaders of other political parties to join the chorus in the coming days.
Finally, hand it to Amit Shah. Despite campaign glitches, he ran a fierce campaign
which outgunned the opposition booth by booth. He commandeered untold resources in a very expensively-fought election and will now enter 2019 with a giant war chest. Even the quiet voices of dissent against him in the Sangh will now fade away. (Swati Chaturvedi is an author and a journalist who has worked with The Indian Express, The Statesman and The Hindustan Times.)Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.