Tejasvi Surya, the BJP candidate who is winning the Bangalore South seat, told reporters on Thursday evening that every vote cast for the BJP was an acknowledgment of Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s hard work.
But the BJP’s near clean sweep of Karnataka has been could be more due to the dysfunction and bickering in the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) combine that is ruling the state.
The desperate coalition between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) has been in survival mode since it was cobbled together last May. This has spelt disaster for both parties in the Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP has won 25 of 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state, with one seat each going to the Congress, the Janata Dal (Secular) and an independent.
The Congress’ DK Suresh has won by more than 2 lakh votes in Bangalore Rural. Prajwal Revanna of the Janata Dal (Secular) has won in Hassan, a safe seat handed to him by party president and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, who also happens to be his grandfather.
Deve Gowda himself has suffered one of the biggest upsets of the 2019 general elections losing to the BJP’s GS Basavaraj in Tumkur by 13,000-odd votes.
Shocks to the Congress include the defeats of senior party leaders – while Veerappa Moily lost in Chikkaballapur, Mallikarjun Kharge has been handed his first electoral defeat in Gulbarga.
Thursday’s results have revived apprehensions that the state government might fall because of the likelihood that disgruntled MLAs will switch to the BJP.
The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance went into the elections with a seat-sharing agreement that gave the Congress 21 seats and the Janata Dal (Secular) seven. The expectation was that the two parties would manage to get their votes transferred to the other in seats they were not contesting from.
Congress leaders were reportedly unhappy that the Janata Dal (Secular) had got to contest from Udupi Chikmagalur, Uttara Kannada, Bijapur and Shimoga seats. The party has always polled about 40% of the vote in these seats, and party workers feared that it would lose ground if Janata Dal (Secular) candidates contested from here.
Tumkur, where the Congress denied a ticket to its incumbent MP in favour of HD Deve Gowda, is a prime example of the vote transfer plan not working. This has led to his third ever loss in his long political career, having won legislative assembly and parliamentary seats six times each.
The seat-sharing arrangement caused great disaffection among party workers, with Congress workers openly supporting candidates standing against the Janata Dal (Secular) candidates in the Deve Gowda family bastions of Hassan and Mandya.
In Hassan, Prajwal Revanna prevailed over A Manju, a Congress leader who defected to the BJP months before the election.
In Mandya, however, independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh, who had the backing of the BJP, dealt the Janata Dal (Secular) a huge blow by defeating its candidate Nikhil Kumaraswamy – another grandson of Deve Gowda and son of Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy.
While the BJP has been strong in North and coastal Karnataka, and has made gains in recent years in central Karnataka, it has always had its work cut out for it in the eight districts of Old Mysore.
In 2014, the party improved its vote share in the region substantially and came second to either the Congress or the Janata Dal (Secular) in Old Mysore.
Ahead of the 2019 polls, political analysts speculated that the tie-up between the Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress might have given the BJP space to make inroads in this region.
Thursday’s results showed that the BJP has not only made inroads but has won in five of the eight seats here. The BJP even won Kolar where the Congress’ KH Muniyappa had remained undefeated for seven consecutive terms.
Given the constant trouble between the coalition partners, it has been somewhat of a surprise that the government has survived a whole year.
Problems between the partners started early, with former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah disagreeing with Chief Minister Kumaraswamy about the need to present a full budget in June. Kumaraswamy then indicated that the delay in implementing his promised farm loan waiver scheme was because his hands were tied by the Congress.
Given that the Assembly elections were held just a year before parliamentary elections, the coalition government agreed on welfare schemes catering to the base of both parties. The hugely popular Anna Bhagya rice scheme that Siddaramiah launched was continued. Kumaraswamy also launched an interest-free loan scheme and financial assistance for pregnant women.
But all this receded into the background with the constant bickering between the coalition partners being in the spotlight.
On the ground, the government has also been perceived as largely absent when it comes to drought relief measures.
Disgruntled leaders in both the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) have been vocal about their unhappiness with the state government and the decision of both parties to contest the Lok Sabha elections together.
The latest criticism came in the form of a tirade by Congress leader Roshan Baig on Tuesday. He blamed the state Congress leadership including Siddaramiah for the imminent electoral setback in the state. Baig said that the Congress should not consider Muslims a guaranteed vote bank and that Muslims should be willing to make compromises to support a BJP government.
All this has led to speculation that the BJP might try to destabilise the state government by poaching MLAs from the ruling coalition. There is talk of an Operation Kamala 2.0, a reference to the BJP’s strategy from 2008 when it got Opposition MLAs to defect after which it formed the government.
The BJP has already claimed that there are 10 Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs willing to switch sides. The BJP is already the single largest party in Karnataka with 104 members in the 224-member Assembly. The alliance has 115 MLAs.
More tellingly, senior BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state BJP president BS Yeddyurappa, have made comments about Karnataka seeing a major political change after May 23.
The election results have not only given rise to the questions of the Congress’s relevance in India, it has also cast a great shadow on the longevity of the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka.