The Congress on Saturday made a stunning comeback in Karnataka ousting the BJP from its lone southern citadel with a comfortable majority (135 seats) in a morale booster win that will be key for reviving its electoral fortunes ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
The Congress’ decisive victory in the Assembly elections after an aggressive pro-poor campaign spearheaded by mass leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah and KPCC president D K Shivakumar also saw Karnataka continuing with a 38-year-old anti-incumbency trend. The state has never voted an incumbent party to power since 1985.
Siddaramaiah, 75, and Shivakumar, the party’s trouble shooter who won from Kanakapura by over one lakh votes and who turns 61 on Sunday, are both front runners for the chief minister’s post. The Congress has returned to power on its own in Karnataka after 10 years. Siddaramaiah was the chief minister from 2013 to 2018.
The first meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) will be held at 5.30 p.m. on Sunday, according to AICC in-charge of Karnataka Randeep Surjewala. The meeting is likely to decide the name of the new chief minister.
Helped by a nearly five per cent vote swing in its favour, the Congress with a vote share of 42.88 per cent bagged 136 out of the 224 seats at stake and was leading in one, according to Election Commission data at 9 pm.
The magic mark is 113. It was also the Congress’ best-ever performance in Karnataka since 1999 when the party won 132 seats. The party bagged 80 seats in the 2018 elections with a vote share of 38 per cent.
Of the six regions in the state, the Congress swept the Old Mysuru, Mumbai Karnataka, Hyderabad Karnataka and Central Karnataka regions. The BJP managed to retain its hold only in Coastal Karnataka while it was a mixed bag in Bengaluru.
Though its vote share decreased only marginally from 36.2 per cent to 36 per cent, the BJP’s seat tally slumped to 65 from 104 in 2018. It was the second loss for the BJP after Himachal Pradesh in December last year.
As BJP leaders were contemplative in defeat, chief minister Basavaraj Bommai said the party could not make the mark “in spite of a lot of effort put in by everyone, including the prime minister and workers of the party”.
“We will do a detailed analysis as the results conclude. We will take these results in our stride and try to reorganise the party for next year’s Lok Sabha elections,” said Bommai who won from Shiggaon. As many as 14 ministers tasted defeat at the hustings.
The JD-S, which had hoped to be kingmaker, won 19 seats, down from 37 last time with its vote share decreasing to 13.32 per cent from 18 per cent in the previous elections. The Congress made huge inroads into the JD(S)’ Vokkaliga stronghold in Old Mysuru region.
The Congress also hailed the Bharat Jodo Yatra for the party’s success in the home state of party president Mallikarjun Kharge having won 15 of the 20 assembly constituencies in the state the Rahul Gandhi-led foot march passed through.
Basavaraj Bommai resigns as CM
Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai on Saturday met Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot and submitted his resignation from the post of chief minister.
The Governor has accepted the resignation, an official release said.
A campaign against corruption, guarantees of dole and consolidation of Muslim votes appear to have underpinned the Congress victory that was also aided by anti-incumbency against the BJP government.
The result, said senior state leader Siddaramaiah, will be a stepping stone for a Congress victory in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. He will be entering the Karnataka Assembly for the ninth time.
Shivakumar was effusive in his praise of the Gandhi family. “I can’t forget Sonia Gandhi visiting me after the BJP people jailed me,” an emotional Shivakumar told reporters, adding he had told the Gandhi family and Kharge that he would deliver Karnataka to them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the Congress party for its win in the Karnataka assembly election. He also thanked BJP workers for working hard on the party’s campaign. “Congratulations to the Congress party for their victory in the Karnataka assembly polls. My best wishes to them in fulfilling people’s aspirations,” PM Modi tweeted.
Modi had campaigned extensively across Karnataka for the BJP. The party’s leaders in the state had been confident Modi’s campaigns would give them the much-needed boost to retain power in the state.