BJP Karnataka chief KS Eshwarappa has won four times from the city of Shimoga, a party stronghold at the base of the Western Ghats that form a hump running across the length of the southern state.
But on Wednesday, Eshwarappa found himself pushed down to third in the constituency as results for the Karnataka assembly elections trickled in. The BJP leader, who has lost from Shimoga only once, in 1999, became a direct casualty of an almost vertical split in his votes with the Karnataka Jantha Paksha (KJP) of Eshwarappa’s former boss, BS Yeddyurappa that handed the Congress a narrow win in the seat.
Eshwarappa’s is one of 37 seats that the BJP lost but would have won with the votes garnered in these constituencies by the KJP and the BSR Congress – parties carved out of the saffron outfit by men who felt dumped by the party over corruption charges.
Most political analysts had predicted that Yeddyurappa, the former BJP chief minister who left the party in a huff after it refused to back him over corruption allegations, would hurt the saffron party in the first and only southern state it governed. But the rebels didn’t just hurt the party. The votes lost to Yeddyurappa and the BSR Congress of former Karnataka health minister B Sriramulu have savaged the BJP far more than the loss of goodwill to allegations of corruption that hounded the outgoing government, a seat-by-seat analysis by HT shows.
The BJP, which ended up with 40 seats in the 224 member assembly, would have instead boasted 87 seats in the new house with the 37 seats it lost due to the split in votes, the 6 won by the KJP and the 4 wrested by the BSR Congress, formed by Sriramulu after his mentor, mining baron G Janardhan Reddy, was arrested over a mining scam. Reddy was one among the “Reddy brothers” who were once key financiers of the BJP, which won 110 seats in the 2008 elections.
The Congress, on the other hand, would have struggled to form a government. Without the vote split between the BJP, the BSR Congress and Yeddyurappa’s party, the Congress would have lost 29 of the 121 seats it eventually won. It would have still been the single largest party, with 92 seats, but would have had to rely on third-placed Janata Dal (Secular) to form a government in the state.
Before Wednesday, Yeddyurappa’s supporters had hoped he would emerge a kingmaker, the fate of the incoming state government contingent on his support. By the end of the day, the extent of his success – in pulling away so many votes that the BJP lost dramatically and the Congress won convincingly – had robbed him of that chance.