Skip to main content
xYOU DESERVE INDEPENDENT, CRITICAL MEDIA. We want readers like you. Support independent critical media.

Karnataka: Some Myths, Some Hoaxes... and a Riddle for 2024

Modi’s hectic campaign, the double engine hoax and the 2024 calculus – all need a relook.
Karnataka Elections

Image for representational purpose. Courtesy: India Today

The Karnataka Assembly election has burst several bubbles and exploded some pernicious myths. These include the Modi magic theory, the “double engine” hoax and the caste-determines-everything myth, popular with mainstream media and even experts. But it has also led to some euphoric, over-the-top myths being spawned. An example of this is that the BJP and all that it stands for has been totally vanquished in Karnataka. Let us look at some of these bubbles and myths.

“Modi Magic”

This is the most obvious myth that has been busted in Karnataka. To remind our readers: Prime Minister Modi reportedly held 19 public rallies and seven roadshows covering practically every corner and region of the state. So much so that he held a roadshow and visited a temple in Rajasthan on 9 May when public campaigning had stopped in Karnataka, probably hoping that its television coverage would be beamed into the election bund state. Much hope was pinned on these energetic efforts of the Prime Minister. Clearly, it has not worked. The issues that were roiling the state’s populace were not addressed or resolved b his rallies and roadshows, except perhaps in Bengaluru city and its suburbs where the BJP managed to hold on to its 15 seats.

One must mention here that apart from PM Modi, a galaxy of star campaigners from the BJP were also unleashed in Karnataka. These included - BJP President JP Nadda (10 public rallies and 16 roadshows), and various top ministers including Home Minister Amit Shah (16 public meetings and 15 roadshows), Women & Child Minister Smriti Irani (17 meetings and two roadshows), Defence Minister Rajnath Singh (four public meetings), Nitin Gadkari (three public meetings), Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (eight public meetings). Then, there were the chief ministers who campaigned: from Assam, Himanta Biswa Sharma (15 public meetings and one road show), from UP, Yogi Adityanath (nine public meetings and three road shows), and from MP,  Shivraj Singh Chouhan (six public meetings). Clearly, these have not had much effect on the voters.

Most of the speeches of these high-profile campaigners were highlighting the achievements of the Modi government at the centre, though of course they also praised the Bommai government’s work. But perhaps sensing that the mood was not in their favour, many of the leaders also talked about Hindutva. PM Modi raked up issues like the ban on Bajrang Dal (promised by Congress) and bizarrely equated it with Bajrang Bali or Lord Hanuman, in what appeared to be an attempt to woo Hindu voters. Shah reportedly said in a meeting that if Congress is elected there might be riots in the state.

But the bottom line is that the Modi magic failed to turn the tide. Perhaps it energised or motivated some sections of the BJP cadres, and it must have given the weary BJP activists something to talk about, but the high-voltage campaign failed.

“Double Engine”

One of the most misleading yet abiding slogans created by the BJP wordsmiths is “double engine” government which means better governance by the state government because it is led by the BJP, the same as at the Centre. The implication is rather curious – Modi government favours state BJP governments? Or what? Be that as it may, repeatedly over the past several years, many BJP-led state governments have been defeated despite the “double engine” campaign. In 2018, MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan all saw defeats of BJP state governments. This Karnataka Assembly election also witnessed the usual drumming for the double engine advantage. But, as happened, the real test is whether the two governments/engines are really delivering good governance or not.

In Karnataka, the Bommai-led BJP government was formed after BJP poached MLAs from Congress and JD-S and formed its ministry under B.S.Yediyurappa in 2019. However, he was replaced by B Bommai due to various internal dissensions and corruption charges. This new government became known as the 40% cut government because of widespread and pervasive corruption, as detailed previously by NewsClick. Not only that, it failed to address the economic distress caused by the myopic policies of the other engine, the Modi government. Low wages, disguised unemployment, loss of jobs in the services sector, farmers’ crisis due to debt and low returns, water scarcity and several such issues became endemic in the state. Both engines failed to address them. In fact, the Bommai government – probably with the blessings of the Modi government – indulged in fanning divisive flames by raising issues like hijab, halal, love jihad, Uniform Civil Code, scrapping of reservations for Muslims and economic ostracism of Muslim traders. Perhaps they thought that this would divert the attention of people from economic woes. But all this created social strife and divisions in the social fabric which was the last thing the hapless citizens wanted.

The result is there for all to see – the voters have roundly rejected the whole “double engine” mythology.


This is one of the most popular ways of analysing elections in India, assiduously propagated by the media and by a section of intellectuals too. Lingayats are with BJP, Vokkaligas are discontented with JDS and they will turn to BJP, Several communities of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) will be drawn to BJP because of Modi and such other formulas were freely deployed to carry out a campaign in favour of BJP.

As NewsClick had written earlier, economic discontent and revulsion at the corrupt state government in Karnataka was actually overriding these considerations, which do exist but are not as monolithic as made out. As a result, across the board, in all regions and among most caste communities the common thread of disillusionment with the BJP was emerging. It was not that everybody had turned against BJP. But a significant proportion had, and that was sufficient to defeat the BJP. 

For instance, in the seats reserved for Scheduled Castes, the BJP vote share dipped from 34.8% in 2018 to 32.7% while the Congress vote share increased from 39.1% to 42.1%. Similarly, in the seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes, BJP vote share went down from 39.9% to 34.8% while the Congress share increased from 37.9% to 44.7%. As a result, BJP’s tally in SC seats went down from 16 to 12 and in ST reserved seats, from 6 to zero. The Congress, on the other hand, increased its tally in SC seats from 12 to 21 and in ST seats from 8 to 14 seats.

Data analysis done by various media shows that while the BJP mostly retained Lingayat votes, a portion of it did shift to Congress due to various reasons. Similarly, Vokkaligas too shifted and distributed among the three contenders, Congress, BJP and JDS (which was the original claimant to votes from this community).

Why did various caste communities split and vote for different parties? Those who espouse the caste-is-everything theory have no explanation. The reason however is clear – caste considerations were overridden to varying degrees by the other material realities of people’s lives – inflation, unemployment, the sad situation of education and healthcare, farmers’ plight, etc.

Is the BJP Finished?

The BJP has ended up with about the same vote share as it got in 2018 – 36%. That appears to be remarkable considering that it lost about 36 seats. How has this happened? It has happened because the BJP has managed to slightly increase its vote share in some regions while losing votes in others. The increased share is in Bangalore (from 41.4% to 46.4%) and Old Mysore (from 18% to 22.1%). Between them, these regions have about 85 seats. The increased votes did not put them into winning position because Congress gained more than them in the Old Mysore region. In Bangalore, BJP managed to retain its number of seats at 15. In both these regions, JDS suffered a loss of votes.

In all other regions, BJP suffered varying degrees of decline with Congress increasing its vote share. The net result of this churning is that while Congress got a significant edge over BJP and JDS suffered a huge decline, the BJP ended up with the same vote share. This vote share is now more evenly distributed across the state than before. So, although it has lost the election badly, its support base still exists and is spread more evenly. For those thinking about the looming 2024 Lok Sabha elections, there is a need to take this into account and renew their efforts to counter the BJP across the state.

Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.

Subscribe Newsclick On Telegram