After the BJP's win in Gujarat, the spotlight will shift to Karnataka, the party's 'gateway' to the south which it hopes to make Congress-mukt. There are still a few months to go before polls in the southern state but the noise levels are already getting shrill here given that both parties have hit the road, literally, with yatras.
As the Gujarat verdict became clear on Monday, BJP strongman B S Yeddyurappa tweeted that the countdown has begun for Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. "The writing on the wall is clear for Karnataka govt. People want development & good governance. They will pack off @siddaramaiah and his flock," he tweeted. Meanwhile, Siddaramaiah, whose five-year tenure ends in May and is currently touring the state, has been reminding people about the BJP's scam-tainted earlier term in office.
Economist and commentator Narendar Pani says that the Congress in Karnataka will have reason to be a little happier than the BJP after the Gujarat verdict. The party, he reckons, appears to be taking the steps it did in Punjab, that is, primarily, backing the local leadership. "Right now, it's Siddaramaiah's election to lose," he says. But, for those painting it as a Congress versus BJP fight, Pani also points out that H D Deve Gowda's Janata Dal (Secular) too figures as a significant factor in state elections in Karnataka.
To many, the Congress under Siddaramaiah in Karnataka has been uncharacteristically streetwise in recent months and some of that has to do with his brand of politics. He's claimed social equity as his central plank and appropriated the regional culture approach (case in point being the row over Hindi signages in the Bangalore Metro rail stations). Besides, he's also waded into the debate over the religious identity of the Lingayats, who are a large community that has traditionally backed the BJP.
Siddaramaiah, political observers say, is in a stronger position within his own party than when he became CM in 2013, given the Congress' current situation nationally.
The BJP's approach, meanwhile, has been to showcase Prime Minister Narendra Modi's track record while attacking Siddaramaiah over corruption allegations, the state's law and order situation and his government's celebration of Tipu Jayanti --- the birth anniversary of the 18th century Mysore ruler.
"With this rate of decimation, @INCIndia's final nail of its coffin would be hammered in #KarnatakaElection2018," tweeted Union Minister for Skill development Anantkumar Hegde who hails from coastal Karnataka and is known for his hardline Hindutva stance.
The BJP too has seen its share of problems, particularly the internal factions opposed to Yeddyurappa even though the central leadership has declared him the chief ministerial candidate. Since August, when Amit Shah conducted a review, the noisy infighting has cooled off somewhat and the party's local leaders have picked up pace with campaigns, rallies and protests.
Political commentator Harish Ramaswamy says that the Gujarat verdict indicates that the BJP would have to focus on local issues. "Siddaramaiah has put the ball in their court with cultural politics taken out of their grip. So, they will have to do more homework," he says. "They'll have to think in terms of local leadership, local issues and also in terms of how local people see and analyse the kind of programmes and policies they are promoting," says Ramaswamy.