The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), alliance won two of the three Lok Sabha and both the Assembly seats in Karnataka that went to polls on Saturday, and whose results were announced on Tuesday.
The results were a confidence booster for the Congress-JD(S) alliance as it prepares for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in the state, and brought focus on the successive defeats of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Lok Sabha and Assembly bypolls held in 2018.
Leaders of the Congress and the JD(S) said the two parties successfully transferred their respective votes to the candidates of their alliance partner, and the win has provided a template that Opposition parties should replicate in the rest of the country to defeat BJP in 2019.
BJP state unit chief B S Yeddyurappa accused the Congress-JD(S) government of using money and muscle power, but conceded that his party needed to introspect its losses in Bellary Lok Sabha and Jamakhandi Assembly seats.
Karnataka Chief Minister (CM) H D Kumaraswamy termed the results a “moral victory” for the coalition government he leads and an answer to BJP’s claim that the Congress-JD(S) alliance would be shortlived. Kumaraswamy thanked Congress leader D K Shivakumar, who has emerged the chief strategist of the alliance. Kumaraswamy said the alliance could have won Shivamogga (previously known as Shimoga) Lok Sabha seat as well, but the Congress delayed the decision to field JD(S) candidate Madhu Bangarappa.
If Yeddyurappa said the BJP would still win 22 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, Kumaraswamy said the Congress and his party would soon sit down for seat-sharing talks for the Lok Sabha polls.
In 2014, the BJP had won 17 of Karnataka’s 28 Lok Sabha seats, with the Congress winning nine and the JD(S) two in a three-cornered contest. In the May 2018 Assembly elections, the BJP had emerged the single-largest party, but the Congress and the JD(S) formed a post-poll coalition government.
The jolt to the BJP was losing Bellary, considered a stronghold of the controversial mining barons - the Reddy brothers. The BJP hasn’t lost the seat since 2004. V S Ugrappa of the Congress won the Bellary seat by a margin of more than 243,000 votes defeating BJP’s J Shantha, the sister of B Sriramulu, a key aide of the Reddys and former Member of Parliament from there. In 2014, Sriramulu had won against his nearest Congress rival by nearly 85,000 votes.
Sriramulu is considered a close confidant of Janardhana Reddy, but the BJP had distanced itself from the mining baron in the May Assembly polls. Congress leader Sivakumar thanked Sriramulu that election campaigning could be held peacefully in the constituency.
In Shivamogga, a stronghold of Yeddyurappa, his son B Y Raghavendra trounced his JD(S) rival Madhu Bangarappa by 52,148 votes. Madhu is the son of former Congress CM, the late S Bangarappa.
In 2014, Yeddyurappa had polled a little over 600,000 votes, while the Congress and the JD(S) candidates had both polled 240,000 votes each. The alliance leaders said the JD(S) candidates’ vote share this time proved the two parties were successfully transferring their votes to the other.
Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha bagged the Ramanagara Assembly seat by a big margin of 109,137, against BJP’s L Chandrashekar. He had joined the BJP ahead of the polls to be fielded as a candidate against Anitha. He pulled out of the contest days before the polling, but remained the party candidate since the date for withdrawal of candidature had passed. Ramanagara seat fell vacant after Kumaraswamy preferred to retain Chennapatna, the other constituency from where he had won in the Assembly polls.
In Jamakhandi Assembly segment, Congress candidate Anand Nyamgouda benefitted from a sympathy wave following his father and sitting MLA Siddu Nyamagouda’s death in a road accident.
JD(S) candidate L R Shivarame Gowda won by a massive 324,943 votes in Mandya Lok Sabha seat. Mandya is a stronghold of the Vokkaliga community. The JD(S) leadership is Vokkaliga.
The by-elections for three Lok Sabha seats were necessitated after Yeddyurappa and Sriramulu of the BJP and C S Puttaraju of the JD(S) vacated Shivamogga, Bellary, and Mandya, following their election to the Assembly in May.
Of the seats it had won in 2014, the BJP has now lost Lok Sabha bypolls held this year in Ajmer and Alwar in Rajasthan; Kairana, Gorakhpur, and Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh; Bhandara-Gondiya in Maharashtra and now Bellary in Karnataka.
“There is anger among people against the Modi government. Karnataka results are evidence that the Opposition parties need to come together in each state to provide an alternative, and the people will defeat the BJP in 2019,” JD(S) National General-Secretary Danish Ali said.