BJP sweeps Karnataka bypolls; BSY strengthens his position as CM
The BJP’s sweep also clarifies that there was no ill-feeling in any of the constituencies against the defectors. As many of 13 of the BJP’s winners this time are candidates who represented either the Congress or the JD(S) in 2018.Updated: Dec 14, 2019 09:51 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept by-elections to 15 assembly constituencies in Karnataka, leading in or winning 12 of them (as of 3pm). This means the BJP government in the state is safe — the party needed to win 6 of the 15 to stay in power. This also means the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) have clearly lost ground in the state. All 15 constituencies were won by the two parties in 2018, with the Congress winning 12 and the JD(S) bagging three seats.
The BJP’s sweep also clarifies that there was no ill-feeling in any of the constituencies against the defectors. As many of 13 of the BJP’s winners this time are candidates who represented either the Congress or the JD(S) in 2018. Only two defectors, MTB Nagaraj from the Congress in Hosakote and A H Vishwanath from the JD(S) in Hunasuru have lost. Clearly, reports that many of the defectors had to campaign under police protection because of an angry voter-base were exaggerated.
The BJP, with 117 seats in the house (it also has the support of an independent legislators), now has a clear majority in the assembly, which, at the moment, has 222 members. In two seats, there is a High Court stay on polls due to alleged code of conduct violations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, at a rally in Jharkhand, that there are three key messages from the by-election outcome. “The first is that people of this country want a stable government. The second is that people not only taught a lesson but wiped out Congress and its allies, which betrayed the people’s mandate and insulted them by seeking power through the backdoor, at the first available opportunity.” The third message was that people only and only had faith in the BJP to provide a stable government, committed to development.
Watch | Karnataka by-polls counting: Congress accepts defeat, BJP govt survives
The Congress conceded defeat, with its former CM, Siddaramiah, resigning as the party’s legislative leader. DK Shivakumar, senior party leader said, “We have to agree with the mandate of the voters of these 15 constituencies. People have accepted the defectors. We have accepted defeat, I don’t think we have to be disheartened,”
For the BJP, the outcome comes as a source of relief because of recent setbacks. It scraped through in Haryana in October, with the help of Dushyant Chautala’s Jannanyak Janata Party, and it lost Maharashtra after the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, and the Shiv Sena came together. A loss in Karnataka would have been embarrassing for the party, and further dented the aura of invincibility it has created with a spate of electoral wins.
Given how the electorate in Maharashtra treated defectors in the recent assembly election, that was a distinct possibility.
That it hasn’t happened in Karnataka is perhaps more a function of the hold individual candidates have over their constituencies than factors such as chief minister BS Yediyurappa’s appeal, achievements of the state’s BJP government, or a push from Prime Minister Narendra Modi (he didn’t even campaign during the by-election; he rarely does). It is also a clear indication that the JD(S) and the Congress (the latter more than the former) have lost ground. Of the 12 seats the BJP won, ten were seats where the Congress won in 2018, and two, where the JD(S) did.
In 2018, the BJP won 104 seats in the assembly emerging the single largest party. However, the government was formed by a coalition of the JD(S) and the Congress in a power-sharing deal where latter, with 78 seats, actually allowed the former, with 37 seats, to take the chief minister’s chair. The BJP, however, didn’t give up, and continued to whittle away at legislators, mostly from the Congress. Analysts say that Congress leader Siddaramaiah’s strained relations with the JD(S) top brass may have also contributed to this. Whatever the reasons, 17 legislators resigned from their parties and the assembly on July 12, and the BJP formed the government on July 26.
With 11 of the defectors having won, the BJP government will now have to expand its cabinet to find space for them, or reward them in other ways. Analysts say that could pose a challenge.