Congress wins 3 Rajya Sabha seats in Karnataka as BJP MLAs cross-vote, abstain

The BJP's Yesvanthpura MLA ST Somashekar reportedly cross-voted and Yellapur MLA Shivaram Hebbar did not participate in the polling process.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Feb 27, 2024 | 11:16 PMUpdatedFeb 27, 2024 | 11:18 PM

Karnataka Congress leaders after the party emerged victorious in the Rajya Sabha elections in the state on Tuesday, 27 February, 2024.

In the midst of high political drama on Tuesday, 27 February, the Congress retained three of its Rajya Sabha seats in Karnataka. The NDA coalition — the BJP and the JD(S), in this case — faced its second consecutive electoral defeat within a month in the state ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Putting the BJP-JDS combine in an embarrassing spot, one BJP MLA cross-voted in the elections while another abstained from voting. The NDA was hopeful of Congress MLAs cross-voting for its second candidate, the JD(S)’s Kupendra Reddy, but in an irony of sorts, it was a BJP MLA who cross-voted in favour of the Congress.

Congress nominees AICC national spokesperson Syed Naseer Hussain, GC Chandrashekar, and AICC treasurer and five-time MP Ajay Maken emerged victorious with the required number of votes — 45.

Of the NDA’s candidates, BJP’s former MLC Narayansa K Bhandage won comfortably but JD(S) candidate and former Rajya Sabha member Kupendra Reddy lost the polls by a huge margin of nine votes.

Earlier in the day, the Vidhana Soudha witnessed high political drama as the BJP’s former minister and Yesvanthpura MLA ST Somashekar cross-voted and Yellapur MLA Shivaram Hebbar did not participate in the polling process.

Enraged by this, NDA leaders — including Leader of the Opposition (LoP) R Ashoka and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy — came down heavily on the Yesvanthpura legislator, cautioning of disciplinary action against him.

Meanwhile, BJP leaders staged a protest against Somashekhar in his constituency.

The polling was held at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Tuesday. There were 223 eligible voters. Among them 222 MLAs exercised their franchise, amounting to more than 99.5 percent voter turnout.

According to the secretariat of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly: “A candidate has to gross at least 45 votes to emerge victorious in the biennial elections.”

Jolt to BJP-JD(S) combine: Cross-voting in Rajya Sabha polls in Karnataka

Congress retains Rajya Sabha seats

The elections to four Rajya Sabha seats from Karnataka were necessitated as the tenure of as many members concludes on 2 April.

Rajya Sabha members Syed Naseer Hussain and GC Chandrashekar retained their seats, whereas Ajay Maken, who contested for the first time from Karnataka, also tasted victory in the biennial elections.

According to the secretariat of the Karnataka Assembly: “Congress candidates Syed Naseer Hussain, GC Chandrashekar, and Ajay Maken have garnered 47, 47, and 45 votes, respectively.”

Considering the votes grossed by the Congress nominees, it is clear that the ruling party in Karnataka managed to garner the votes of five non-Congress MLAs.

They are the BJP’s ST Somashekhar, Sarvodaya Karnataka Paksha MLA Darshan Puttannaiah, Kalyana Rajya Pragathi Paksha MLA Janardhan Reddy, and independent MLAs Latha Mallikarjun and K Puttaswamy Gowda.

After the results, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chief and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar told reporters: “The party’s nominees won the elections as the Congress MLAs displayed unity.”

He added: “All three candidates won in the very first round. This is the result of the Congress’ unity. The party’s central leadership — including AICC chief Mallikarjun Kharge and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi — not only discussed but also provided vital directives. On this occasion, I won’t talk about other parties.”

Also Read: BJP caught between MP Sumalatha and ally JD(S) in Mandya Lok Sabha seat

BJP retains seat amid high drama

The BJP’s Karnataka unit succeeded in retaining one Rajya Sabha seat with the victory of former MLC Narayan K Bhandage amid high drama as two BJP MLAs went against the wishes of the party.

This seat was previously held by Union Minister Rajeev Chandrashekhar, whose tenure is to end soon.

Narayansa Bhandage managed to gross 47 votes, where only 45 votes were required for the victory. The BJP has 66 MLAs in the house.
However, the polling day witnessed huge political drama as Yesvanthapura MLA ST Somashekar cross-voted and Yellapur MLA Shivaram Hebbar did not turn up for the polling.

The latter was the only MLA who did not exercise his franchise in the Rajya Sabha polls.

After the polling, Somashekar told reporters: “I have cast my conscience vote in the elections. I have voted for those who assured me of providing grants for the development works of my constituency.”

Karnataka BJP chief BY Vijayendra told reporters: “BJP candidate Narayansa K Bhandage bagged 47 votes and emerged victorious. I congratulate him on behalf of the party. In the coming days, we have full confidence that Bhandage will engage himself in fighting for the interests of Karnataka.”

He added: “I am delighted with this victory. On the other hand, NDA candidate Kupendra Reddy was also in the fray and we were hopeful because the new government at the helm is facing a lot of dissent from the ruling-party MLAs, no development, and there is no race for the MLAs to tour even their own constituencies due to lack of development funds.”

Vijayendra continued: “Instead of considering it as defeat, I will take it as a challenge to give a befitting reply to the government by winning all the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka.”

On BJP legislators cross-voting and failing to turn up for polling, he said: “All the leaders held discussions and even sought the advice of legal experts. We will discuss this with the party high command as well to decide on the further course of action.”

He added: “We will know everything in the parliamentary elections. The people will reply in the coming days to those who try to play games.”

Also Read: Kupendra Reddy booked for ‘threatening’ Congress MLAs

NDA’s second consecutive loss in Karnataka

On Tuesday, the NDA faced its second consecutive setback in electoral politics against the Congress within one month in Karnataka.

Despite the coalition not having enough numbers, the NDA fielded a fifth candidate — businessman and former Rajya Sabha member Kupendra Reddy — in the Rajya Sabha polls on the directives of the BJP high command.

Kupendra Reddy lost the election by nine votes, as he got only 36 votes. The JD(S) has only 19 votes. The remaining are from BJP MLAs.

However, JD(S) state chief HD Kumaraswamy claimed that he fielded a fifth candidate only to prove unity among the JD(S) legislators.

Kumaraswamy told reporters: “I stated on the nomination filing day itself that the JD(S)’s 19 votes and our alliance partner BJP’s additional votes — after voting for the BJP candidate… The remaining votes must be given to our candidate, which was decided by both parties. The polling happened accordingly.”

He added: “I also spoke about how Congress leaders were luring and threatening our MLAs. They also registered an FIR against Kupendra Reddy and his associates. Who filed the FIR?”

He continued: “The MLA who has given the complaint has not alleged that he was lured, but he mentioned in the complaint that some of his party MLAs were lured. Did any of the MLAs mentioned give statements that they were lured? No.”

He also said: “I am keenly observing the statements of the Congress leaders. What they are alleging — that (we) lured and threatened — is the culture of the grand old party. Those who are making such statements have come from the same background.”

He added: “Since the day this government came to power, it has frequently claimed that around 12-13 JD(S) MLAs are ready to pledge allegiance to the Congress. There were attempts to lure away our party’s MLAs, promising grants for the development works.”

He alleged: “They were frequently approaching our MLAs to ascertain their decision to join the Congress. We fielded Kupendra Reddy to prove how much they succeeded in their attempts and display unity among the 19 JD(S) MLAs.”

On the Congress’ remarks that this would be the second defeat for the NDA in Karnataka, Kumaraswamy said: “This is not a question of winning or losing. The main battleground for the alliance is the Lok Sabha elections.”