Bangalore: The Congress returned to power in Karnataka after seven years, defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by a huge margin. Securing a clear majority on its own in a triangular fight, the party is now set to form the government on its own in Karnataka. The BJP suffered a major blow and stood neck and neck with Janata Dal Secular as the second spot. The final tally of votes stood at Congress winning 121 seats, BJP and JDS winning 40 seats each and KJP winning 6 seats. Other parties and Independents won 16 seats.
Former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa's Karnataka Janata Paksha could not make a mark and managed to win just a handful of seats. However, his absence from the BJP did hit the party hard leading to its massive defeat even though he won from Shikaripura by over 15,000 votes. The Bharatiya Janata Party has accepted the defeat and Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar is set to resign on Wednesday evening. "We accept people's mandate; will resign this evening," says Shettar.
Political observers noted that the Congress managed to sweep the urban votes including major seats in Bangalore, where corruption was a major issue. The party did very well north and central Karnataka while the BJP lost badly both in rural and urban areas. Coastal Karnataka, Mumbai-Karnataka, Hyderabad-Karnataka and Central Karnataka districts voted against the BJP in a big way.
Lingayats, the largest caste in the state, seem to have returned to Congress. At least 40 per cent of the Lingayat votes went to the Congress. In Vokkaliga dominated Old Mysore, votes were split between the Congress and the JDS.
The BJP was wiped out in its strongholds including Udupi, Mangalore, Karwar, Shimoga, Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum, Haveri, Davanagere, Tumkur, Mysore and parts of Bangalore. In the elections five years ago when BJP stormed to power for the first time in a southern state on its own, the party had won 110 seats against Congress's 80 and JD(S) 28.
Karnataka had recorded the second highest voter turnout in 35 years with a polling percentage of 71.29 in the May 5 voting. Although Karnataka Assembly has 224 seats, election in Periyapatna in Mysore district had been put off to May 28 following the death of a BJP candidate.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the result in Karnataka was a failure of the BJP ideology. Reacting to the poll results, Manmohan Singh said, "I congratulates the Congress for working hard. Certainly corruption by the BJP is a message of electorate. Corruption is a big issue for the country."
While the Congress celebrated, it now remains to be seen as to who will be the chief minister with party leaders Siddaramaiah and Mallikarjuna Kharge being the frontrunners. While party leaders said the party high command will decide on this, party president Sonia Gandhi said, "I am happy with the victory, it's a joint effort and legislators will decide the leader."
List of the Congress's many CMs-in-waiting:
The top three are the serious contenders, in that order. They have openly staked claim saying they are in the race for the CM's post.
Positives: Prominent Kuruba leader; strong in old Mysore region; consolidated all sub-castes of all OBC communities - considered the tallest OBC leader in Karnataka; was Deputy CM twice, made Opposition leader in 2009 despite being a newcomer; was known for some of the best budgets as Finance Minister - has presented 7 budgets in Karnataka.
Negatives: Still being considered an outsider - joined Congress just in 2006.
M Mallikarjuna Kharge
Positives: Seniormost Congress leader after SM Krishna; won ten elections (9 Assembly, 1 Lok Sabha) - never lost; one of the tallest Dalit leaders from backward Hyderabad Karnataka region - he is credited with special status for the region where Congress is likely to do very well; has held important portfolios like Home, Revenue, Water Resources, so vast administrative experience; was KPCC president and leader of Opposition twice; acceptable to the majority Lingayat community; family loyalist of the Gandhis.
Negatives: Doesn't have mass appeal in rest of Karnataka; being a Central minister can go against him.
Dr G Parameshwar
Positives: Younger than the others in the race, well educated, PhD in agriculture from Australia; appeals to the urban vote-bank with his eruditeness; family loyalist of the Gandhis; has the full backing of SM Krishna.
Negatives: Rank junior, seniors in the party may not accept him as they want their chance now, considering he could still have many more years in politics. OBCs are against him.
M Veerappa Moily
Positives: One of the seniormost leaders; vast administrative experience; Was CM earlier, was Opposition leader and held important portfolios like Finance, Home, Education, Parliamentary Affairs in state government; clean image; party loyalist; the dark hose who's trying to make a comeback in state politics.
Negatives: Hails from a minuscule community of Devadigas (temple musicians) so no mass/caste appeal; being a Central minister could go against him if party goes with its policy of not having MPs in a state role; may not have backing of many MLAs.
Positives: Seniormost leader of the party; won first election in 1962; former CM, former KPCC president, former Speaker, held important portfolios in Devaraj Urs government and was MoS finance in Indira Gandhi government; also was MEA, was Governor of Maharashtra; Congress' biggest Vokkaliga face; urban appeal going with the Congress' IT image; compromise candidate in case of a serious tie.
Negatives: Age - he is 83, though he has tried to play tennis in front of mediapersons to prove he is fit and fine. Faces opposition in the Old Mysore region with the Ambarish brigade, launching an open war against him even during the last week of campaigning; his city-centric image may not help the Congress win its next election.
Positives: Six time MP, never lost. Very close to the regional parties - JDS and KJP; he would be their choice in case of a hung assembly and they choose the CM - as they both wouldn't like any of the five above who are considered stronger leaders; A slightly younger Dalit face; a union minister for 9 years; could be the second Dharam Singh - Dharam was made CM in 2004 by Deve Gowda and pulled down in 2006 by Deve Gowda.
Negatives: Confined to Kolar; does not have a pan-Karnataka appeal; lightweight in the party; proximity to the Opposition may go against him.
BSY plays the spoiler, ensures BJP's defeat
Karnataka Janata Paksha chief BS Yeddyurappa, who in May 2008 was the toast of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after leading the party to power in Karnataka, is now seen as the man who single-handedly responsible for the massive rout the party suffered in the 2013 Assembly elections.
Even though Yeddyurappa won from Shikaripura by over 15,000 votes, his party was doing well in only a few seats. But his party has hit the BJP hard in several constituencies with caste playing a major role as the Lingayat community to which Yeddyurappa belongs deserting the saffron party.
In the 2008 Assembly elections the BJP won 110 seats, Congress 80, JDS 28 and independent and smaller parties bagged six. But five years later the Congress is well on its way to secure majority on its own with the JDS and the BJP fighting for the second spot.
Karnataka became the first South Indian state to have a BJP government with Yeddyurappa becoming the chief minister of the state. But soon he was facing allegations of corruption and nepotism following which the BJP leadership disregarding the majority view of its cadre in the state forced him to step down as the chief minister.
Yeddyurappa was finally forced to quit the BJP after he tried to browbeat the party in making him the chief minister again a few months after he was removed from the post. He then went on to form the KJP and vowed to ensure that the BJP was defeated in the state Assembly elections.
We will sit in Opposition, says JDS
Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda led JDS, which had hoped to play the role of a kingmaker in Karnataka, on Wednesday said it would sit in the Opposition. "..if people have blessed us to sit in the opposition, we will sit in the opposition," JDS state President and Gowda's son HD Kumaraswamy told reporters, as the results of the May five Assembly polls came in.
Kumaraswamy, whose party has not only retained its base intact but also eaten into the ruling BJP votes, said, " .. we will surely sit in the opposition and will safeguard the interests of people."
"We will accept the defeat. The people have directed us to sit in the opposition," he said. Kumaraswamy angrily rejected suggestions that the JDS had an "internal understanding" with the BJP. "..where have we supported the BJP?...where we have entered into understanding with BJP?.
"That's why I am telling it's the victory for media. Not Congress. Media only influenced the people", he said, showing annoyance with a section of media, for repeatedly projecting that the Congress would emerge victorious in the elections.
(With additional information from PTI)