Karnataka bypoll results: What it means for the BJP
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Karnataka bypoll results: What it means for the BJP

Leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) insisted that not much should be read into the results of the Lok Sabha and assembly bypolls in Karnataka.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2018 17:29 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Karnataka bypolls,BJP,Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj during the party's Central Election Committee meeting in New Delhi. (AP)

Leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) insisted on Tuesday that not much should be read into the results of the Lok Sabha and assembly bypolls in Karnataka because it was an “academic election”, there was a “lack of enthusiasm among voters” since the general elections are just months away, and that “money and influence” of the ruling Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress government played a role.

But several senior functionaries in the BJP’s central leadership admitted the results -- winning one out of three Lok Sabha and neither out of two assembly seats -- were a cause of worry for the party.

“We expected this Congress-JD(S) alliance to fail on the ground, because it was an alliance of compulsion and not choice. This did not happen in the by-election,” said a BJP office-bearer in New Delhi on condition of anonymity, adding that it could cement a shaky partnership forged after the assembly elections with the sole purpose of keeping the BJP out of power.

“We had two Lok Sabha seats. We lost one [Ballari], and retained one [Shivamogga],” BJP general secretary in-charge for Karnataka P Muralidhar Rao said, indicating that it was not a serious concern. “In Mandya, our vote share increased threefold.”

A third BJP leader who asked not to be named said the party’s loss in Ballari simply reflected the pattern of the assembly elections held in May this year. “Out of eight assembly segments in Ballari Lok Sabha seat, the Congress won six in the May assembly election and the BJP could win just two,” he said.

“But we were behind the combined strength of the Congress and the JD(S) in Shivamogga during the assembly elections. We not only bridged that gap, but even gained a lead,” the third leader added.

Rao said a bypoll was different from regular elections, and money power and influence of the state government also played a role in the outcome.

Another Karnataka leader, who is close to former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, blamed the controversial Reddy brothers of Ballari for the debacle. “You agree or not, there is a certain dislike for Reddy brothers in Ballari,” he said. Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers have a had a long-running battle.

But some senior BJP leaders are worried that a repeat of the 2014 Lok Sabha election, when it won 17 out of 28 seats in the state, would be difficult going by Tuesday’s verdict.

“If our victory margin in Shivamogga, a bastion of BS Yeddyurappa, has come down by 363,000 votes in 2014 to 52,000 now, it is a big warning bell for the party. Remember, Yeddyurappa’s son was the BJP’s candidate,” said a Lok Sabha MP from Karnataka who asked not to be named..

Experts concur with this line of thinking.

“If the Congress-JD(S) alliance stays together, they will win more seats than the BJP,” said Harish Ramaswamy, professor of political science with Dharwad-based Karnataka University.

“There are four clear factors emerging out of the result. First, the Congress-JDS coalition is functional. Second, they have consolidated their own votes instead of eating into others. Third, the BJP is yet to set its house in order. And fourth, the BJP’s effort to segregate people has not worked,” he added.

First Published: Nov 07, 2018 09:31 IST