With its drubbing in the Karnataka assembly polls on Wednesday, the BJP, struggling with about 40 seats out of 223, has frittered away a historic win that came its way in 2008.
BS Yeddyurappa’s exit made the party lose the support of the powerful Lingayat community, pegged at about 17 % of the state’s population.
There were 37 seats on which adding the votes of the parties of Yeddyurappa and Reddy brothers’ aide B Sriramulu to the BJP’s vote share would have made the saffron party win.
“Our votes got divided as the party split into three,” senior BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu accepted.
BJP leaders saw it coming. “In India people don’t cast their vote. They vote their caste,” a BJP leader had told reporters before counting began.
This apart, the BJP’s government in Karnataka was marred by infighting and repeated charges of corruption.
The loss of Karnataka is likely to cost the BJP dearly for two reasons. One, the state had provided it the highest number of Lok Sabha MPs (19) in 2009. Without these, the party’s tally would have fallen to two digits. Two, Karnataka was also ideologically crucial for the party as its first southern stronghold, without which it looks less diverse and more as a central, western and north Indian party.
In the last assembly polls, the saffron party had won 110 seats, within striking distance of a simple majority, and then formed a government by roping in some independents. This verdict was a jump from the 78 seats it won in 2004.
A key reason for the 2008 victory was a widespread perception among voters that JD(S)’s KD Kumaraswamy had ‘backstabbed’ Yeddyurappa by reneging on the swap arrangement with then ally BJP for the CM post after 20 months.