Even after conceding to Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah’s argument that the recent Lok Sabha elections were not a referendum on the government headed by him in the state, it is to be noted that the Congress’ performance was far below the chief minister’s own assessment and expectation.
Siddaramaiah was pitching for 18 to 20 seats in Karnataka, but the Congress managed to win just nine, three of which with less than 10,000 margin. Compared to 2009, the Congress’ tally went up by three seats with a decent poll percentage of 40.8 across the state. But the real winner was the BJP, which, having lost the Assembly elections miserably just a year ago, managed to turn its fortunes around and walk away with 17 seats and an impressive vote share of 43 per cent. The JD(S), as expected, was only a poor third with a mere two seats and 11 per cent votes.
Considering that the ‘Modi wave’ swept across the nation, including Karnataka, the Congress’ performance was creditable and it has contributed one-fifth of the party MPs in the Lok Sabha! Over the last one year, the Siddaramaiah government had initiated several welfare schemes worth around Rs 8,000 crore keeping parliament elections in mind, but it failed to encash them. Instead of talking about his government’s achievements, Siddaramaiah went on the offensive against Narendra Modi, even calling him a ‘Narahanthaka’ (mass killer), which boomeranged.
The BJP, on the other hand, quickly learnt its lessons from the Assembly debacle and brought back to the party former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa and backward class leader Sriramulu, which paid rich dividends. Modi himself made two dozen campaign trips to Karnataka focusing on constituencies which had stood by the BJP earlier. The result was that out of its 17 winners, nine won by a margin of more than one lakh with Yeddyurappa winning by a record margin of 3.63 lakh votes.
The JD(S), whose stock has been going down in the past few elections, has to do a lot of introspection. The ageing patriarch H D Deve Gowda won by a reduced margin from Hassan, but the state president H D Kumaraswamy staked his political career by contesting from Chikkaballapur and came third. By flip flopping between state and national politics, Kumaraswamy has confused his party cadres and supporters and it’s time he concentrated on rebuilding the party in the state.