The BJP on Wednesday suffered a humiliating defeat in the Karnataka Assembly elections as Congress appeared to be well on its way to wresting power on its own after a gap of seven years.
Hit by the exit of former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa and the image of corruption during its tenure in the first government in the south.
End of the BJP in the south?
The BJP came a cropper in Karnataka as polls results began to trickle in, with the Congress heading for a simple majority and the saffron party down in the dumps with leads in just about 35 of 223 seats.
The biggest game-changer prove to be the Lingayat community of BS Yeddyurappa, which seems to have shifted – as trends suggested --sizeably towards Congress to punish the BJP.
The saffron party also lost to the Congress in urban seats, at a time when it was banking on anti-Congress wave across the country around graft. Many see this as a reaction against a corrupt and infighting-ridden BJP government in the state.
The defeat makes the BJP a central, western and north Indian party yet again, with the only gateway to the shut firmly for now.
It is bound to have a Lok Sabha impact too, as Karnataka gave the highest number ofr BJP MPs (19) in 2009. Also, with Narendra Modi’s three rallies not even giving the party the second position, many will question his national credentials outrs8ide the party and within.
Congress gets a reason to cheer
Karnataka trends give Congress a reason to cheer after long, with the party likely to secure a simple majority with 115-120 seats in the 223-member assembly.
The grand old party was facing brickbats over serial corruption accusations, with two ministers, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and Railway Minister Pawan Bansal, under the scanner.
The Congress can now ward off attacks from those saying people are going to punish it for graft, claiming that the Karnataka victory is a sign of people rejecting the BJP over corruption. “Karnataka people have shown what corruption really means,” said Congress leader Rashid Alvi, taking digs at the BJP.
The lead in urban constituencies will also help Congress fight perceptions that the urban middle class is very angry with it.
Given that Rahul Gandhi made eight appearances in the state for campaigning, the Congress can now claim he won it the state, and more so that people “preferred” him to Narendra Modi of the BJP. It also gives it chance to spring back with a good tally in the Lok Sabha polls from a large state.
JD (S) lives on, but without reason to cheer
The Janata Dal (secular) of the Gowdas seemed to be emerging a distant second to the Congress, getting 40 plus seats in the 223-strong state assembly. But party leader HD Kumaraswamy’s wife seemed to be losing her seat, though he claimed she would eventually win.
The party – with a base among the Vokkaliga community – managed to retain the lead among Vokkaliga votes as per trends, but the Congress was close behind.
While coming second is a face-saver, the party seems to be far from being a lead player in the state, and Kumaraswamy told the media he would look to retain his assembly seat and resign from Parliament to build the party organization.
He complained that rumours that the party would align with the BJP after polls would damage it.
Yeddyurappa falls, but decimates BJP
BS Yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Party may be battling to just get past double digits as trends from Karnataka poll results trickle in, but he has played a perfect spoilsport for the BJP. He may be a very poor fourth, but Yeddyurappa has ensured that his former party BJP, which made his step down as chief minister over graft charges, is a poor third.
The trick was accomplished by denying the saffron party of Lingayat votes, a powerful community of which he is considered the tallest leader. In other words, he mayt have become the BJP’s next Kalyan Singh, losing his clout but decimating the BJP.
Though he was open to post-poll possibilities, a Congress majority will deprive the Lingayat strongman crucial bargaining power. It will be left to him to mull his future options now.
Krishna Byre Gowda: A dark horse
A sitting legislator from Byatr­ayanapura in Bangalore, Gowda, 30, is all set to retain his seat as he is leading by around 25,000 votes over his nearest rival A Ravi of the BJP. A graduate from the American University in Washington and Christ College in Bangalore, Gowda headed the state Youth Congress from 2007 to 2011.
The young English speaking leader from the Vokkaliga community is a favourite of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. If the Congress legislature party fails to arrive at a consensus on its leader, the party high command could opt for Gowda as a neutral choice.