Nearly 18 months after it fell nine short of the magic number of 113 in the 2018 elections for the 224-member Karnataka Assembly, the BJP Monday established a clear majority of 117 with emphatic victories in 12 of 15 seats where bypolls were held last week.
Led by Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, the BJP’s wins doused all hopes nursed by the Congress, which won just two seats, and JD(S), which drew a blank, of a revival of their coalition that was forged soon after the state elections last year. A BJP rebel candidate from Hoskote was the lone Independent winner.
Following the big defeat, top Congress leaders — former CM and Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah and state chief Dinesh Gundu Rao — submitted their resignations to Congress president Sonia Gandhi owning responsibility for the setback.
The bypolls were necessitated after 17 Congress and JD(S) MLAs resigned and brought down the Congress-JDS coalition in July. Following a court ruling that disqualified them from the Assembly but enabled them to contest the bypolls, 16 joined the BJP, and 13 were given party tickets — of the 17 seats that fell vacant, two are in limbo due to a legal dispute.
Of the 13 defectors who got BJP tickets, 11 won while two — former JD(S) leader A H Vishwanath and former Congress leader M T B Nagaraj — were defeated in Hunsur and Hoskote, respectively. Yediyurappa, who has promised ministerial posts to all the winning rebels, said that the BJP would keep its word. The state government had left 17 Cabinet positions vacant to accommodate the defectors.
“We have created history. Our candidates have won by big margins, which are normally seen in Lok Sabha polls. The margins are in the range of 30-40,000 in most seats,” said Yediyurappa, who had visited each of the 15 constituencies twice in the campaign.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi told an election rally in Jharkhand that it was a lesson for the Congress and its allies for “stealing and subverting” the people’s mandate last year by striking a last-minute alliance to come to power.
Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted: “I thank people of Karnataka for their unwavering faith in BJP. Our government will continue to transform Karnataka under the guidance of PM @narendramodi ji.”
I thank people of Karnataka for their unwavering faith in BJP. Our government will continue to transform Karnataka under the guidance of PM @narendramodi ji.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) December 9, 2019
The emphatic win is expected to give Yediyurappa more freedom in running the government since the Chief Minister was believed to have been shackled by the BJP leadership, which was not fully in favour of running a government with defectors.
The victory is also being seen as consolidation of votes in the dominant Lingayat community, whom Yediyurappa represents and who were in sizable numbers in seven of the 12 seats won by the BJP.
The biggest surprise pulled off by the BJP was a win in the K R Pet seat in the old Mysore region, which is considered a stronghold of the JD(S) that is usually backed by the dominant Vokkaliga community in south Karnataka.
Sharath Bachegowda, the BJP rebel who won the Hoskote seat, is expected to return to the party fold at some point of time since his father is a BJP MP.
The Congress registered victories in the Muslim-dominated Shivajinagar seat in Bengaluru, where the BJP did not field ponzi scheme scam tainted Congress rebel Roshan Baig, and Hunsur.
Yediyurappa is now expected to induct one of the winning rebels Ramesh Jarkiholi, an ST leader, as a Deputy CM alongside three other Deputy CMs while providing plum posts for the 10 other winning rebels.
“Since many communities that we believed were not with us have supported us, we must take everyone along. People have huge expectations from the government. In the coming Budget, we will give impetus to agriculture and irrigation and show concern for farmers while also improving industrial development,” Yediyurappa said.
In an apparent jibe at the BJP leadership for sidelining him in the party set-up, Yediyurappa said: “The government and party must work together to provide development. We need community based leadership and not leadership around individuals,’’ he said.
Congress leaders Siddaramaiah and Dinesh Gundu Rao said their “best efforts” had not been enough to turn the tide in the bypolls. “Despite our best efforts, hard work and running an excellent campaign we were not able to gain the confidence of the people in these constituencies,’’ Rao said in a letter to the Congress president.
“I express my sincere regrets for not being able to give satisfactory results…despite my sincere efforts,’’ Siddaramaiah wrote. H D Kumaraswamy, the previous chief minister and JD(S) leader, posted a cryptic social media message: “It seems that the learned voters of the 15 constituencies where bypolls were held have voted for this ‘pure’ and ‘secure’ government and I want to congratulate them wholeheartedly.’’
BJP general secretary in charge of Karnataka P Muralidhar Rao described the result as a “complete endorsement” for the remaining three-and-a-half years of the government. He promised an “undisturbed stable government” and said the win will help the BJP’s “south Indian plans”.