Karnataka key to Modi's last challenge of conquering Nehru and Indira's India
The state of Karnataka is the beginning of what can be considered the BJP's, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, final frontier on the journey to close in on the dominance that the Congress enjoyed under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.
It is the start of the last stretch of the journey for the BJP, which it hopes can lead them to a position where no party has found itself in since the Congress and that is the reason why it is of utmost importance it to win there.
The BJP which is in power in 17 states, either by itself or in coalition, just gave a drubbing to one of the leaders, in his own backyard, who was hoping to take on the prime minister in 2019 , and has won the most populous state in the country which sends the maximum number of members to the parliament with a thumping majority.
The party has even been able to make space for itself in the Indian states of the north-east, forming governments in the states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, where once it had no presence at all. It has also been able to be an equal partner in a government of Jammu and Kashmir, an idea which not too long ago would have not even been considered.
This shows that barring a few exceptions, the BJP has had a rosy ride ever since it came to power at the centre under the prime minister's leadership.
The last challenge
But now what lies ahead of it is most probably its biggest challenge of creating a space for itself in the states of Karnataka, Odisha, Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and also the hope to come to power or form a solid coalition in at least one out of the two states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
While the left bastions of Kerala and Bengal were the first ones to challenge the Congress's dominance over the country, states like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra, and Odisha have now seen the presence of Congress almost disappear, after what are considered grave political mistakes, and as it conceded the political space to regional parties and leaders.
Other than not repeating these mistakes, the BJP would also attempt to become the only party to have a stronghold in more than a couple of these states at the same time, as it is the only political entity since the Congress to be considered a truly national party.
And so these are the states which have become the last challenge for the BJP's desire to be the dominant presence all over the country and its need for seats from them for the Lok Sabha elections to be held in a couple of years time.
And the battle begins here
But it is not going to be easy as except for Karnataka, the BJP has never been in power in any of these states, though it did play the part of the junior partner to the BJD in Odisha till the coalition broke and the current scenario where it opposes its former coalition partner was reached.
With the assembly elections in the other states not to be held anytime soon, the fight to conquer the final frontier begins in Karnataka, and the state will be at the centre of attention for the ruling party of the country.
As the Lok Sabha elections approach in a couple of years time, and the assembly elections in the other states mentioned far away, a victory in Karnataka would be a major push for the party.
But this fight for the BJP will be dealt a blow if it gets defeated in what is considered the easiest state from the list. And such a result can lead to not only being seen as a loss of face but also major setbacks in the other states where its chances can already be described as slim at best.
It is important for the party at this stage to make a dent in the opposition space and be considered a growing presence in these states and hope that in a couple of elections time, such a performance can lead to prospects of coming to power in them.
But what is even more essential for the party is to make sure that when it comes to the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, BJP is the preferred choice of the people as they see Narendra Modi as the only national leader and ditch the choice of other leaders and parties from the BJP's opposition, who usually win seats in the general elections in these states.
The current scenario in Karnataka
BJP has already announced that its target is to win at least 150 seats out of the 224 in the assembly elections to be held early next year. The state at present has a Congress government, under Chief Minister K Siddaramaiah, which the BJP is hoping it will help it with anti-incumbency factor.
The previous elections witnessed the BJP defeated as its former Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa, had broken from the party to form his own, Karnataka Janata Paksha, party after he was removed from his post following corruption charges.
Analysts believe this was one of the major reasons that the BJP suffered defeat after being in power and after having given its best ever performance in the state. And now in order to ensure that such a situation does not arise again, the BJP has brought the former chief minister back into the party fold.
It has already started efforts to reduce the infighting among senior leaders such as Yeddyurappa and K S Eshwarappa and to make sure that party shows a unified face which leaves no doubt among voters that Yeddyurappa would lead the government in case the BJP comes to power.
The struggle for the party though seems to be in the situation of a three-way fight between them, Congress and the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda's JD (S).
And the party might be wary of a 'southern mahagathbandhan' between its rivals, either before or after the elections which might seriously hurt its chances of coming to power.
A similar tie-up at a smaller level by its opponents, when the JD(S) did not put up a candidate in the recently concluded by-elections for two assembly elections in the constituencies of Nanjagud and Gundulpet is thought to have played a part in the BJP's defeat.
This is the reason the party is going to try top put out a narrative that forms the picture of the elections being BJP versus the rest, and play out the logic that voting for the Congress would be the same as voting for the JD(S) and vice versa, hence taking the position of the only alternative.
An aggressive campaign to follow
The coming to power of the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi and the party president Amit Shah has also seen a change in how the exercise of elections are handled by the party. Each state sees the central leadership taking up an active participation.
And the elections of Karnataka will not be any different. So an aggressive campaign from the BJP can be expected, where the state leadership will see the kind of support from the central leadership unlike any elections in the past.
This would be understandable given the importance of the state in the growth of its party in all its neighbouring state and the overall narrative of domination that it is weaving, and to have any hope of increasing its standing in the states that are considered as the final frontier for Modi and the BJP to achieve what only Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi have done so far.