After Congress’s dismal showing in the Karnataka bypolls, where the party managed to win only two (Hunsur and Shivajinagar) out of 15 seats, senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah resigned as the Congress Legislature Party leader. Dinesh Gundu Rao, the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Party (KPCC) president, also stepped down, taking responsibility for the poor performance.
However, the Congress high command in Delhi is yet to take a call on these resignations.
On Monday, soon after the results, Siddaramaiah announced his resignation. “Express my sincere regrets for not being able to give satisfactory results in the recently concluded bye-elections held to Karnataka Legislative Assembly despite my sincere efforts,” Siddaramaiah said in a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. “I deem it necessary to step down as Leader of CLP by taking moral responsibility,” he added.
Addressing a press briefing in the KPCC office, Bengaluru, Siddaramaiah said, “We accept the mandate of the people. Our expectation was that the voters would teach a lesson to those who went against the tenets of democracy, but that expectation has gone now. In the interests of the Congress party, I have resigned as Congress Legislature Party and will be sending my resignation letter to AICC president Sonia Gandhi.”
I sincerely thank @INCIndia President Smt. Sonia Gandhi for having entrusted me with the responsibilities and I will continue my efforts as a loyal Congressman to strengthen the party. pic.twitter.com/VAwPicLRTU
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) December 9, 2019
Siddaramaiah was elected as the CLP leader in May last year ahead of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition’s trust vote on the floor of the state Assembly.
Gundu Rao too tendered his resignation Monday. “We accept the mandate in Karnataka. I was given a free-hand during bypolls by AICC to choose the candidates for the bypoll. I have given my resignation to the post of KPCC President,” Gundu Rao said, addressing media.
“Taking moral responsibility, I am submitting resignation as president of KPCC. I will send my resignation to AICC president and AICC general secretary,” Rao said, adding that he will meet the Congress president and give her a detailed report. “I had discussed with our Delhi-based leaders about our party’s poor prospects in the by-election and said if something goes awry, I will have to take decision accordingly,” Rao added.
It’s been an honour for me to have served the party as @KPCCPresident.
The election results have been disheartening but in a democracy the people’s court delivers the final verdict & that must be respected.
— ದಿನೇಶ್ ಗುಂಡೂರಾವ್/ Dinesh Gundu Rao (@dineshgrao) December 9, 2019
The bypoll results mean that the BJP, which won 12 seats, is now in a comfortable majority in the state Assembly.
The bye-elections were a result of a slew of events that began right after the 2018 state Assembly elections. The BJP won 104 seats, the Congress 80, and the JD(S) 37 seats in the 224-member House. Three seats were won by others.
After the BJP failed to muster a majority after three days of BS Yediyurappa being Chief Minister, the Congress and JD(S), whose leaders had forged an alliance soon after the results, formed the government with HD Kumaraswamy as CM.
In July this year, 14 MLAs from the Congress and three from the JD(S) quit the Assembly. The resignations were seen as linked to an attempt by the BJP to topple the state government. As the 17 rebels stayed away from the Assembly, the Congress-JD(S) government collapsed during a trust vote on July 23. The BJP staked claim to form a new government under Yediyurappa on July 26.
In the interim, however, on July 25 and 28, then-Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar issued two separate orders under the anti-defection law, disqualifying the 17 MLAs from the House and barring them from contesting elections during the tenure of the current Assembly (which is until 2023).
The MLAs moved Supreme Court against this. Congress and JD(S) too approached the court, seeking enforcement of the disqualifications. On September 27, the Election Commission announced by-elections to 15 of the 17 vacant seats. On November 13, the Supreme Court passed an order upholding the disqualification of the 17 rebel MLAs, but allowed them to contest the by-elections.
In the by-polls, 13 of the rebels were fielded by the BJP, of whom 11 won.