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Karnataka Assembly Election Results: Locating Wins and Losses

This defeat of the BJP is yet another setback for the saffron party which has never won a majority on its own in any South Indian state, including Karnataka.
Karnataka Elections

Image credit: The Hindu

With a whopping 135 seats, the Indian National Congress (INC) has recorded a spectacular victory in the 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections. Despite extensive campaigning by PM Modi, the BJP was reduced to 66 seats, while JD(S) was reduced to 19 seats. This defeat of the BJP is yet another setback for the saffron party which has never won a majority on its own in any South Indian state, including Karnataka. While the BJP attempted to communalise the election, real issues like unemployment and price rise seemed to be foremost on the minds of people. The perception of rampant corruption ultimately brought down the BJP.

Where was the election won?

While a look at the electoral map shows INC winning seats all across the state, the losses for the BJP in its bastions of Malenadu, Central Karnataka and Kittur Karnataka (also known as Bombay Karnataka) proved to be the game changer. The regions won by the BJP are Karavali (coastal) Karnataka and Bengaluru city.

Kodagu and Chikmagalur, which are located on the Western Ghats have been safe havens for the BJP for almost 20 years. The communal politics of the Sangh Parivar has taken deep roots in this region. Remarkably, the INC has snatched all seven seats in the two districts, although the margin of victory has been less than 500 votes in some seats.

Kittur Karnataka, with 50 seats, also swung to the INC, with the party winning 33 seats in the region. In Central Karnataka, 15 out of the 20 seats went to the Congress. The BJP’s strategy to penetrate the Old Mysuru region failed miserably. The INC has won 29 out of the 46 seats in this region, while BJP managed only five. The other seats were mopped up by the JD(S). During the election campaign (in the region), PM Modi had claimed that every vote for the JD(S) is a vote for the INC. However, the opposite has proved to be true. Every vote that the JD(S) lost in Old Mysuru, went straight to the INC, and ultimately pushed the party comfortably past the majority mark.

HD Kumaraswamy’s Janata Dal Secular [JD(S)] has been unable to hold onto the Old Mysuru region. Although the Vokkaligas have been voting for the party based on caste lines, they are frustrated by the “dynastic politics practised by the JD(S)”. Mandya (in the old Mysuru region), can serve as a prime example. It is a district with eight seats and was entirely captured by JD(S) in 2018. This time they have lost every seat in the district, while INC has won seven, and the Sarvodaya Karnataka Party (SKP) has won one seat (Melukote). SKP is billed as a farmers’ party and farmers’ unions campaigned extensively for it. The INC did not put up a candidate in Melukote, allowing for vote transfer to Darshan Puttanaiah of the SKP.

HD Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil, who was defeated by an independent candidate in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, was defeated in the Ramanagara Assembly constituency, this time. Ramanagara constituency falls under the Ramanagara district, which neighbours Bengaluru. HD Kumaraswamy and DK Shivakumar also contested from the same district, from the Channapatna and Kanakapura seats, respectively. Both candidates are sitting MLAs and managed to retain their seats. DK Shivakumar, or DKShi as he is locally known, has beaten his closest rival by a margin of 1.2 lakh votes.

Similarly, in the Malenadu districts of Kodagu and Chikmagalur, BJP had won six out of the seven seats in 2018. However, in a dramatic reversal, the INC has swept all seven seats this time. In the process, they have handed a defeat to CT Ravi, a four-time MLA from Chikmagalur and national general secretary of the BJP. Ravi had come to prominence by raising tensions around the Sri Guru Dattatreya Swamy Bababudan dargah in Chikmagalur. The shrine has a syncretic tradition of worship by both Hindus and Muslims. However, Hindu activists claimed that it was a Hindu temple which was taken over by Muslims during the rule of Hyder Ali. CT Ravi emerged from the movement to ‘reclaim’ the temple and is usually at the forefront of communal politics in Karnataka. In the run-up to the election, CT Ravi had pushed for a ban on halal meat.

His defeat is a sobering testament to the limits of communal polarisation. People’s issues need to be addressed first. Unemployment and price rise are issues which have been hurting ordinary people across the state. While some districts like Gadag have to deal with water shortages, other districts like Belagavi have been facing excessive flooding since 2019. Meanwhile, farm incomes have been on a decline.

Money Power

Across districts, political activists who have been campaigning on the ground have complained about the amount of money being distributed to voters by the BJP, INC and the JD(S). As per a press release by the Election Commission, seizures totalling Rs 375 crores were recorded this time. Liquor bottles, sarees, pressure cookers, precious metals, drugs, and cash have been reportedly seized by various agencies. Thangaraj P, a candidate from the KGF seat in Kolar complained to NewsClick that voters have been demanding cash from the candidates. The state also has a high entry barrier due to the participation cost. The money power of the three main parties has created a vicious cycle which encourages corruption and reduces the participation of ordinary citizens in government.

In another ominous sign for Karnataka, Gali Janardhan Reddy, the alleged kingpin of the illegal mining scandal has won the Gangavathi seat in Koppal. His rise to power within the BJP also birthed the infamous ‘resort politics’, which is now dubbed as ‘operation Kamala’. He has been barred from entering the Ballari district by the Supreme Court, for fear of witness tampering. Since the BJP did not offer him a ticket, he floated his own party known as Kalyana Rajya Pragathi Paksha (KRPP). He is the only winning candidate from his party.

The high drama also ensued in the Jayanagar Assembly constituency in Bengaluru where the INC candidate, Sowmya Reddy, lost by 16 votes. As per news reports, she had won by 160 votes, but BJP members demanded a recount because 177 postal ballots had been rejected by the EC. After the recount, the postal ballots were included and the BJP candidate, C K Ramamurthy won by a measly 16 votes.

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