BJP-JD(S) alliance, Modi, internal feuds… Karnataka Congress counts reasons for below-par performance

Several senior leaders ministers opined that the Congress guarantees did not translate into votes in the Lok Sabha polls.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jun 07, 2024 | 11:56 AMUpdatedJun 07, 2024 | 12:22 PM

The Congress expected to repeat its Assembly poll performance in the Lok Sabha election. (Supplied)

The BJP-JD(S) alliance, the Modi factor, the saffron party’s religion-based campaign, internal feuds, and the failure to convert guarantees into votes led to a below-par performance in Karnataka, the Congress assessed after the Lok Sabha election results were announced.

Several Cabinet ministers felt the guarantees failed to secure the expected support.

Despite being in power, the Congress’s performance was forgetful compared to its stellar victory in the 2023 Assembly polls, in which it won 135 out of 224 Assembly seats that were at stake.

A year later, the party failed to repeat the performance as it won barely nine of the 25 parliament seats. The BJP-JD(S) combine secured 19 seats.

The Congress had expected to win 13 to 15 seats, but its loss in a few “sure” seats has shocked the party.

Region-wise, the Congress had a clean sweep of Kalyana Karnataka, winning all five seats. In Mysuru it settled for two while the party won one each in Central and Kittur Karnataka.

Also Read: JD(S) claims credit for BJP win, to demand its pound of flesh

Census blues

Political commentators opined that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s keenness on accepting the socio-economic and education survey, deemed as caste census, did not go well with the Lingayats and Vokkaligas.

It split the votes of the two major communities, affecting the Congress’s prospects.

Karnataka Congress leaders, including Cabinet ministers, felt the BJP’s alliance with the JD(S) delivered the biggest blow in a few seats.

The Congress was defeated in 13 parliament seats, having five or more party MLAs. Another three seats had at least four MLAs.

Chitradurga, Bangalore Rural, Vijayapura, Kolar, Tumkuru, and Bangalore Central were some of the parliament seats that the Congress was confident of winning but ended up losing.

“The party was confident of winning several more seats but the results were not as expected. Various factors contributed to the loss,” Minister for Transport Ramalinga Reddy told South First.

Also Read: How BJP-led NDA fared in the home constituencies of chief ministers

BJP whipped up religious sentiments

“The major reason was the BJP’s alliance with the JD(S). The alliance affected the party’s prospects in several seats that we were confident of winning,” he said, adding that the tie-up helped NDA win 17 seats.

On the party’s poor performance, he said, “The people are not concerned about the development and benefits. The BJP misled the people in the name of religion and polarised the votes.”

“The Congress never used religion for electoral gains. People are not thinking about the country’s future. They will face issues with the BJP at the helm. Their minds have been corrupted in the name of religion,” Reddy hit out at the BJP.

Minister for Higher Education Dr MC Sudhakar told South First that the BJP-JD(S) alliance worked well in the southern parts of the state.

“Though we had put up a stellar performance in the Assembly polls, the overall vote share of JD(S) was high in the old Mysore region last year,” he said.

“Capturing the JD(S) votes was the toughest challenge. It is very complex to guess voters’ behaviour in the elections. It keeps changing. We will analyse the results soon,” he added.

Also Read: Who won with highest and lowest victory margins

Failed guarantees

Excluding Kalyana Karnataka, the Congress failed to perform well in the other regions. It could not breach the BJP stronghold in coastal Karnataka.

In Kittur Karnataka, the party managed to win only one seat, Chikkodi, whereas it was defeated in other seats such as Haveri-Gadag, Bijapur (SC), Dharwad, Belagavi and Bagalkot.

In Central Karnataka, the party won only in Davanagere and lost Shimoga and Chitradurga (SC) seats. The party lost all three seats in the coastal belt.

“Initially, there was a Modi factor but it vanished to some extent after he started to spew hatred in poll rallies, especially after the second phase of the Lok Sabha polls. But a section of youngsters are still leaning towards Modi,” Minister Sudhakar said.

“I felt that we failed to convert guarantees’ beneficiaries into votes in the parliamentary elections. As per my observation, despite benefiting from these guarantees, some continued to support their favourite political parties instead of the ruling party,” he opined.

Also Read: Despite alliance with JD(S), BJP settles for 17 seats

Internal squabbles

A Congress MLA blamed internal squabbles for the poor performance. “In a few seats, senior leaders, including ministers, did not actively campaign since they were upset over the party high command rejecting their nominees,” he said requesting anonymity.

“This cost us at least two seats. Though the internal dissent was addressed it continued to pop up during the polls. The party should introspect to avoid it repeating in the upcoming local body elections,” he added.

Political commentators opined that a split in Lingayat votes led to the Congress’s loss in Bagalkot, Belagavi, Dharwad and Vijayapura.

“The Lingayat votes divided and the BJP gained from it. The main factor is that the chief minister’s interest in the caste census survey did not go down well with Lingayats and Vokkaligas,” political commentator Ashok Chandaragi told South First.

“This affected the Congress’s fortunes in Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Dharwad, and Belagavi,” he added.

Chandaragi said Minister Laxmi Hebbalkar did not take local MLAs into confidence during the campaign. “There was no coordination between the minister and MLAs. The MLAs were either sidelined or ignored. It allowed an outsider to win,” he said.

“In contrast, Minister Satish Jarkiholi meticulously planned and took local MLAs into confidence and ensured his daughter Priyanka Jarkiholi’s victory in Chikkodi. The internal feud also cost the Congress dear,” Chandaragi opined.

(Edited by Majnu Babu)