The Congress recaptured power in Karnataka after seven years, crushing the BJP in the assembly elections – a victory that might boost the morale of the party facing a relentless opposition onslaught over massive corruption scandals.
Congress stormed back to power in Karnataka in a spectacular fashion after seven years in its old southern bastion decimating the ruling BJP whose fate was sealed by a fractious split and corruption charges. BJP, which was wrecked by a split forced by former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa on top of a series of corruption cases, tied for the second place with JD(S) with both securing 40 seats each. The Yeddyurappa-led Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP), which spoiled BJP’s party, could not do much for itself as it bagged only six seats. The BSR-Congress, led by former BJP Minister Sriramulu, considered close to the Bellary brothers, also chipped away BJP votes and ended up with four seats.
The rout of BJP, whose rule saw ugly infights, three Chief Ministers and several ministers tainted by corruption charges, was complete as it was clobbered by the electorate who pushed it to a pathetic position of sharing the second place with JDS of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda. Both BJP and JDS secured 40 seats each. A three-way split in its voter base put paid to BJP’s hopes of securing a renewed mandate, bringing down its only citadel in the South. Yeddyurappa’s twin agenda of decimating BJP and emerging a kingmaker remained half-complete as he succeeded in one but failed to make an impressive debut through his nascent outfit securing only six seats out of 216 it contested.
Several heavyweights, including Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar (Hubli-Dharwad Central), Yeddyurappa (Shikharipura), Siddaramaiah (Varuna) and H D Kumaraswamy (Ramnagaram) , won from their constituencies but Parameshwara (Koratagere) lost heavily. Kumaraswamy’s wife Anita and Yeddyurappa’s confidant Shobha Karandlaje suffered defeats from Channapatna and Rajaji Nagar respectively. Twelve ministers of the Shettar Cabinet, including Deputy Chief Minister K S Eshwarappa, fell by the wayside, rubbing salt into the wounds of the vanquished BJP. C P Yogeeshwara, who quit the Jagadish Shettar Ministry, towards the end of the tenure of the Government and contested on Samajwadi Party ticket, won from Channapata, defeating Anitha Kumaraswamy (JDS) by nearly 6,500 votes. For the BJP, the worst was in store in its heartland in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, while it failed miserably to keep its base in tact in Bombay Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka regions that gave electoral muscle.
As expected, JDS maintained its hold in the Vokkaliga belt while making some gains beyond its traditional support base that fetched it 12 more seats than 28 it won in the last elections. With a clear cut verdict, JDS’ hopes of playing the role of a kingmaker have also been dashed. Polling was held in 223 segments, with the one in Periyapatna in Mysore district put off to May 28 following death of BJP candidate. BJP’s performance in its own strongholds was pathetic, reflected in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi where its defeat was near complete as also in Yeddyurappa’s home district of Shimoga and Bellary. Eshwarappa’s loss in Shimoga is all the more significant as he was a former state unit President of the party and also held the key portfolios of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj and Revenue.
He was in the “hit-list” of Yeddyurappa, who now had the “sweet revenge”. Another big gun to lose was Industries Minister Murugesh R Nirani, who spearheaded two global investors meet, and was in two minds till the last minute whether to join forces with the KJP but eventually continued to be in the BJP, in Bilgi. Congress candidate and former Union Civil Aviation Minister C M Ibrahim was pushed to third position in Bhadrawati. In the 2008 polls, the BJP had secured 110 seats, Congress 80, JDS 28 and Independents six. Falling short of numbers, the BJP had formed government with the support of independents and wooed Opposition MLAs who were made to resign and recontest on the BJP ticket that gave it stability of numbers.