Fears come true

Electoral Verdict In Karnataka

The voters delivered a fractured mandate giving BJP 104 seats, the Congress 78 and the JD(S) 37 seats, and others getting only three seats. DH file photo

The much awaited and nationally watched Karnataka Assembly elections have concluded with the announcement of results on May 15. The BJP maintained its lead right from the beginning and steadily emerged as the single largest party.

For a while when the BJP was seen crossing the majority mark in the leads tally, senior leaders talked jubilantly of achieving their twin goals of reopening the gateway to the South and a “Congress-mukt Bharath” — an objective that stands in stark contrast to our parliamentary system — and prematurely celebrated, assuming possible victory.

But slowly, its fortunes started crashing with the party’s leads tally dipping below the majority mark and finally, getting stuck at 104. A hung Assembly, as many of us had predicted, came true. The voters delivered a fractured mandate giving BJP 104 seats, the Congress 78 and the JD(S) 37 seats, and others getting only three seats.

The government formation exercise began swiftly with BJP leaders meeting the Governor and staking their claim for government formation as the single largest party. Meanwhile, the Congress quickly declared support to the JD(S) and together they submitted their claims to the Governor, with the objective of keeping the BJP out.

Thereafter, conflicting versions were being presented by legal and constitutional experts as to whether the Governor was right in inviting the BJP (single largest party) to form government, while some said that since the BJP didn’t have the majority, the JD(S)-Congress’ claim to form government should have been given priority. Needless to say, there are precedents in favour of both cases.

Constitutional expert Subash Kashyap stated that the Governor has full discretion in this matter and that his decision cannot be questioned in the court of law. Lawyer Harish Salve said that the situation allows the Governor to use his discretionary powers and as the guardian of the Constitution, he should satisfy himself whether the JD(S) and Congress would together form the government and whether such a government would provide stability to the state.

The electoral verdict by itself needs some analysis. The verdict has delivered a shock to the Congress, whose tally has come down from 122 in 2013 to 78 in 2018, with Siddaramaiah facing a crushing defeat in his home constituency and managing to win the Badami seat with a thin margin. His defeat in Chamundeswari constituency is due to several factors like his failure to gauge the mood of the voters there, the shift in caste votes against him, a strong JD(S) candidate, and the BJP putting up a weak candidate to facilitate the JD(S) candidate’s victory in Chamundeshwari.

The defeat of senior party leaders like Kagodu Thimmappa, KB Koliwad (Speaker) and some of the leaders who spearheaded the Lingayat minority religion status was also a body blow to the Congress.

Contrary to the Congress’ calculations that it could make serious dent into the JD(S) votes in the old Mysore region and win a sizeable number of seats, the party has won only 17 seats, while the JD(S) has won 28 seats. The BJP, too, managed to capture 11 seats.

In the Hyderabad-Karnataka region, where the Congress was expected to win significantly, the party has won 15 seats and surrendered 12 seats to the BJP and four seats to the JD(S). The BJP has captured 30 seats in the Bombay-Karnataka region with Congress tally there being only 17. The BJP has done well as expected by its leadership in the central region by capturing 20 seats as against the 10 seats of the Congress.

In the Coastal region, the BJP has humbled the Congress by capturing 16 of the 19 seats. In the Bengaluru region, the Congress has managed 13 states, while the BJP and the JD(S) have won 11, and two seats, respectively.

In Bengaluru rural region, out of four, the Congress and the JD(S) have won two seats each. In terms of its electoral performance, the Congress has faired badly in all the regions, and that explains its seat strength getting reduced to 78 in the entire state.

The JD(S) has managed to retain its strength despite desertions from the party. The leadership of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda and that of his son, H D Kumaraswamy, has paid dividends. Kumaraswamy has won in both Channapatna and Ramanagara, despite campaigning in the two constituencies only marginally, proving his acceptance by the voters of both the constituencies. However, if the party has to strengthen itself at the state level, it should come up with a strategy to make inroads into the other regions of the state and widen its social base.

Factors that worked

As for the BJP, on a comparative note, it has done remarkably well in comparison to the Congress. Factors that have helped the BJP include the Lingayat votes staying with it, thanks to the failure of the Congress’ strategy to divide that vote base with its promise of a minority religion tag, which apparently didn’t go well with the community, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa’s mass base and its cadre strength, coupled with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s whirlwind campaign throughout the state.

In contrast, the Congress had to primarily depend on Siddaramaiah and secondarily on party president Rahul Gandhi who seemingly failed to connect with the youth and the larger electorate. The BJP’s social base is gradually expanding among the Dalits, especially the Scheduled Tribes. Its OBC outreach has not significantly expanded, though.

From the perspective of the people and the state, the fractured mandate has come with a host of disadvantages. Fears of political instability, possible anarchy in the functioning of the Assembly and problems in governance loom large now.

(The writer is former professor of Political Science, Bangalore University and a Senior Fellow, ICSSR)

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