The BJP’s dreams of getting a complete majority for the very first time in the Karnataka Assembly were shattered when election results were declared on 13 May. The party was reduced to a mere 66 seats in 224-seat Assembly.
And the loss seems to have stunned the party into inaction. The BJP high command is yet to call for a Legislature Party meeting even two days after the results were declared.
The Congress registered a thumping victory by winning 135 seats, thus getting a clear majority for the second time in the last three Assembly elections.
As many as 12 incumbent ministers — including Dr K Sudhakar from Chikkaballapura, V Somanna from Chamrajnagar and Varuna, Govind Karjol from Mudhol, Murugesh Nirani from Bilagi, and BC Patil from Hirekerur — lost the polls.
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Poor performance across regions
Other than coastal Karnataka, the BJP failed to perform well in any region, including Kittur and Kalyana Karnataka.
Of the 50 seats in Kittur Karnataka, the BJP won only 16, while the Congress won 33 seats, and the JD(S) won a single seat.
In Kalyana Karnataka, the Congress won 26 seats, the BJP 10 seats, the JD(S) two seats, and independents two seats.
In Coastal Karnataka, the BJP won 13 seats and the Congress settled for six seats. This is the only region where the saffron cadre performed well.
According to the Election Commission of India (ECI): “The Congress has got the highest vote share with 42.9 percent, the BJP has managed to get 36 percent, the JD(S) received 13.29 percent, and other parties got 5.85 percent.”
When compared to the 2018 Assembly polls, the BJP’s vote share was down by 0.35 percentage points, the Congress’ increased by 4.76 percentage points, and the JD(S) vote share saw a drop of 5.1 percentage points.
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Bommai meets RSS leaders
After failing in the Assembly polls, acting Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai met Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders and held discussions regarding the poll outcome and organising the party for the future in Bengaluru on Monday, 15 May.
This was Bommai’s first visit to the BJP’s ideological parent organisation’s state headquarters “Keshava Krupa” after the poll results were declared on 13 May.
After meeting the RSS leaders, Bommai told reporters: “We have discussed the overall poll results. We have also discussed how to organise the party in the days to come with the guidance (of the RSS).”
“The BJP state president (Nalin Kumar Kateel) and the leadership will also hold discussions, and we will discuss how to organise the party in the days to come after that,” added Bommai.
As for the BJP’s Legislature Party meeting, Bommai said: “The Karnataka BJP unit has decided to do a detailed analysis of the overall poll results and also constituency-wise statistics, to find out the reasons for the party’s poll debacle.”
Stating that multiple factors have contributed to the party’s poor performance, he added: “They will all be analysed. The meeting of all newly-elected members and candidates will be held soon in this regard.”
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Bommai meets defeated candidates
Bommai on Tuesday was busy meeting the senior BJP leaders who lost the 2023 Assembly polls.
He met former ministers V Somanna and Dr K Sudhakar, who lost from Varuna and Chamarajanagar, and Chikkaballapura, respectively.
“As per the wishes of central leadership, our senior leader Somanna contested from two segments but he faced a setback in both seats. He has the capability to bounce back,” Bommai told reporters after meeting Somanna at the latter’s residence.
“Even after the defeat, he is active. He will get good opportunities and responsibilities in the coming days. The central leaders have also spoken to him. Win or lose is a part of the election. We will come back stronger,” he added.
Earlier, he met Sudhakar, who lost to the Congress’ young face Pradeep Eshwar by a margin of 10,642 votes in the Chikkaballapur Assembly seat in Bengaluru.
“I have tried to instil confidence in him. He has lost by a wafer-thin margin. We also discussed the reasons for the defeat in Chikkaballapur,” added Bommai.
He further said: “I have also directed the party’s state president to call for the Legislature Party meeting. The meeting will be held in a day or two.”
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Defeated BJP leaders blame reservation policies
Many BJP candidates who lost the elections pointed to the reservation policies for the party’s poor performance in the polls.
Incumbent minister BC Patil, who lost from Hirekerur, told reporters: “A few bad decisions taken by the government resulted in the poor performance of the party in the elections.”
He added: “The BJP government’s efforts to provide internal reservation to SCs and STs did not go well with few communities, mainly Banjaras, as they opposed it vehemently. This loss has been shocking to the party and its leaders.”
BJP minister Govind Karjol, who lost against the Congress’ RB Thimmapur from the Mudhol seat, told South First: “The date for the Legislature Party meeting is yet to be fixed. There are no talks within the party on holding newly-elected legislators’ meeting or assessment meetings on the poll results.”
He added: “The people have failed to recognise the development works, welfare programmes, and other projects implemented during the BJP’s regime. I would not like to comment anything more on the party’s debacle in the polls.”
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Karjol refrained from answering when asked whether the reservation policies of the Bommai government backfired on the party in the elections.
Political commentator Ashok Chandaragi pointed out: “The main factor for the BJP’s defeat the the poor reservation policies of the Bommai government. The quota hike that was given to Lingayats and Vokkaligas backfired on the BJP as the court ordered a stay on it.”
“This enraged the leaders and pontiffs of both the communities and they voted against the saffron cadre. Lingayats were the biggest supporters of the BJP but this time the community saw a division in votes across Karnataka,” he told South First.
He also said: “It is not just these two communities but also SCs and STs were also unhappy with the internal reservation. In most of the seats, Banjaras voted against the BJP.”
Chandaragi blamed the BJP for not initiating any action against the 40-percent commission allegations made by contractors.