Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at an election campaign meeting during the Karnataka elections in Hirekerur on May 4, 2023. (PTI)
Karnataka Election Results 2023: Congress has found a magic potion to win state elections after success in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka – to woo loyal women voters of BJP with promises of cash
Eventually, it became a ‘Rs 2,000 election’. The Congress’s poll promise of giving a cash grant of Rs 2,000 to every woman in the state seems to have handed the opposition party a major victory, to some extent a voter loyal to the Narendra Modi-led BJP.
Women voters have always been important, but it was even more so in the Karnataka elections, where they outnumbered male voters in 122 out of 224 seats. Traditionally, after the BJP’s victory in Lok Sabha elections and state elections, women have strongly supported the saffron party for various reasons – sense of security and law and order, Ujjwala scheme, toilet scheme, free ration during Covid, et cetera.
However, in KarnatakaThe issue of price rise seems to have prompted women to turn to the Congress to an extent, which promised an aid of Rs 2,000 per month to every woman to beat inflation. An LPG cylinder in Karnataka was selling for more than Rs 1,100 and state Congress chief DK Shivakumar had placed a cylinder in the press conference hall of the party office in Bengaluru as a symbolic move to highlight this.
BJP has run out of gas
The BJP realized it had a problem on its hands and therefore promised three free LPG cylinders every year to every poor family in Karnataka. Senior party leader BL Santhosh recently said in a Twitter space: “LPG has become costlier due to the Russia-Ukraine war. We had provided Ujjwala but due to prices, Ujjwala is not giving results, so we decided to provide three cylinders free of cost to people in Karnataka to tackle the crisis… It is not for everyone, it is only for BPL families ”
But women voters calculated that they stood to gain more from the Congress promise. An elderly woman this reporter met in a Mysuru village said a donation of Rs 2,000 was huge as her family also had an unemployed graduate son who was eligible for another Congress guarantee of Rs 3,000 per month. “Rs 5,000 per month is a big help for our family. We also get PM Kisan Nidhi of Rs 6,000 annually from the central government, which will not be closed under any circumstances.
The Congress had quickened its move by adding a ‘fifth guarantee’ to its set of promises, which was free bus travel for women across the state. Rahul Gandhi even took a bus ride with women to reiterate this and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was the first to deliver on that promise. The promise of 10 kg rice and Rs 2,000 per month was an attractive proposition for women voters in Karnataka. Pointing to longer queues of women on polling day as compared to men, a Congress leader explained to News18, “The decision of a woman voter affects the entire family as well.”
template for the future
Santosh had admitted that the promise of Rs 2,000 for women was the Congress’ biggest campaign point in Karnataka and the opposition party was “going door-to-door” with him. ‘Guarantee cards’ with these promises were distributed to each of the state’s two crore households co-signed by DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah, creating credibility. The BJP ran a campaign to discredit the ‘guarantees’, saying the Congress did not fulfill such promises after victories in other states, but voters did not believe it.
The Congress, after its success in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, seems to have found a magic potion to win state elections – to woo loyal women voters of the BJP with promises of cash. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra promised Rs 1,500 per month to women in Himachal and now Kamal Nath has done the same in Madhya Pradesh for elections later this year. A similar strategy may be adopted by the Congress in Telangana, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh as well. There could also be a promise of ‘justice 2.0’ type cash grants for women across the country during the 2024 general elections.
The BJP plans to send a message to women that such cash assistance is a “fiscal disaster” for the economy and that its plans to empower them are much better. There is a lesson for Karnataka to learn from this.