The Bharatiya Janata Party government strengthened its majority in the Karnataka Assembly after the party won 12 out of the 15 seats that voted in bye-elections held on December 5. The BJP needed to win at least six seats to stay in power.

The Congress accepted defeat even while the counting of votes was on. Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah stepped down as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party, taking responsibility for the defeat. State Congress President Dinesh Gundu Rao also resigned from his position, reported ANI.

The bye-polls were held to fill 15 of the 17 vacancies created by the mass resignations of rebel Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs in July. Twelve of the 15 constituencies were earlier held by the Congress and three by the Janata Dal (Secular). The former allies – Congress and JDS – contested separately this time.

The BJP won in Kagwad, Gokak, Yellapur, Hirekerur, Ranibennur, Vijayanagara, Chikkaballapur, Yeshwanthpur, Mahalakshmi Layout, Athani, KR Puram and Krishnarajpet. The Congress won the Hunsur and Shivajinagar seats, while independent candidate Sharath Kumar Bachegowda won the Hosakote constituency.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the results as a “victory for public opinion and also for democracy”. “During the Karnataka elections, the people there voted for the BJP to form the government,” he said at an election rally in Jharkhand. “Today, people have made sure that Congress or Janata Dal (Secular) will not be able to betray the people there.”

Senior Congress leader DK Shivakumar said the party had to accept the mandate of voters. “People have accepted the defectors. We have accepted defeat, I don’t think we have to be disheartened,” he told ANI.

The strength of the 225-seat Assembly was 208 before the results. The BJP had the support of 106 MLAs, including one independent legislator. The Congress had 66 MLAs and the Janata Dal (Secular) had 34 legislators.

The BJP fielded 13 of the disqualified MLAs from the seats they had won in 2018. These former legislators had joined the BJP on November 14, a day after the Supreme Court allowed them to contest the bye-elections. R Roshan Baig, who was earlier in the Congress, was the only one who did not move to the ruling party.

Elections to two remaining constituencies – Muski in Raichur district, and RR Nagar in Bengaluru – were not held because of ongoing cases in the Karnataka High Court challenging the results in the May 2018 elections.