Riding on the popularity wave of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spread its saffron colour across Karnataka, winning a record 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections, held in two phases on April 18 and April 23 for 14 constituencies each.
“Though we were confident of winning at least 20 seats, 25 is a windfall, as we have won from all the regions across the state for the first time,” BJP spokesman G. Madhusudhan told IANS after the Election Commission (EC) officially declared all the results on Friday.
As the gateway to South India, Karnataka has been the BJP’s stronghold since 2004, winning more parliamentary seats in every general election than its rivals — the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in triangular or straight contests.
The BJP won 17 seats in 2014, 19 in 2009 and 18 in 2004 Lok Sabha elections in the state, limiting the victory of the Congress and the JD-S to a single digit.
The Congress bagged 9 seats in 2014, 6 in 2009 and 8 in 2004, while the JD-S won 2 in 2014, 3 in 2009 and 2 in 2004 respectively.
In this (2019) election, the Congress and the JD-S won only one seat each despite fielding joint candidates in all the 28 seats, with the former in 21 and the latter in 7 across all the regions as per their pre-poll seat-sharing tie-up, being allies in the year-old fledgling coalition government in the southern state.
“The allies thought in straight contests, their combined vote share will be more than BJP’s to win as many seats, though they could not improve their tally in the previous elections even in triangular contests. The historic verdict has proved their votes did not transfer to the joint contestants to defeat the BJP,” a poll analyst told IANS.
By not fielding its candidate, the BJP supported Independent Sumalatha Ambareesh in the prestigious Mandya seat and campaigned hard for her stunning victory over JD-S debutant Nikhil, son of state Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and grandson of JD-S supremo H.D. Deve Gowda.
“As Sumalatha had won with our support, morally we got 26 of the 28 seats, wresting 8 from the Congress and one from the JD-S in the outgoing 16th Lok Sabha. This is our best ever performance where only the Congress had won 27 seats in November 1984 general elections, riding on the massive sympathy wave triggered by the assassination of its then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984,” recalled Madhusudhan.
Admitting that the party had immensely benefitted by the Prime Minister’s strong and decisive leadership, the spokesman said the dozen rallies Modi addressed across the state between February and April had a domino effect on the electorate, as they were impressed by his extemporary speech and ability to connect with them.
“We have seen the huge impact Modi made on the people, especially women and youth with his excellent oratory and appeal to vote for the party’s symbol (Lotus). Braving the heat and dust of summer, thousands of people had flocked to Modi’s pubic meetings. As they were also beneficiaries of the welfare schemes of our government, they voted for our candidates, knowing well that every vote for them would be a vote for only Modi to be their Prime Minister,” said the spokesman.
The party had seen the impact of Modi’s rallies on voters in the May 2018 state elections when it won 104 of the 224 Assembly segments across the state, as against 80 for the Congress and 37 for the JD-S.
“Another factor that helped us to win so many seats is the public anger against the warring allies who struck an unholy and opportunistic post-poll alliance to keep the BJP out of power at any cost though neither had the mandate to form the coalition government after a fractured verdict threw up a hung house, asserted Madhusudhan.
Though party’s state unit President B.S. Yeddyurappa formed the BJP’s second government in the state on May 17, 2018, he resigned on May 19 even before the floor test, as the party was 9 seats short of the halfway mark (113) for a simple majority to win the confidence motion in the lower house.
“The lacklustre performance of the coalition government, the constant bickering between the allies and the lack of harmony among their ministers have dejected the people as they were affecting governance and administration of the drought-relief works,” lamented Madhusudhan.
Absence of chemistry and coordination between the leaders and cadres of both the ruling allies at the polling booths also worked in the favour of the BJP amid allegations of them not campaigning for the joint candidates and even voting for the BJP contestants.
As else where in the country, especially above the Vindhyas, the under current for Modi was not sensed or felt by the rival parties or their candidates who badly lost in every constituency barring Bangalore Rural and Hassan where the Congress and the JD-S retained their seats, resisting the Modi wave that swept them off across the state.
The intensity of the Modi wave did not spare even Deve Gowda, Congress leader in the outgoing Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, former Congress ministers in the UPA government M. Veerappa Moily and K.H. Muniyappa from the drubbing, as they had won in every general election over the last two decades.
The Modi Juggernaut also enabled BJP’s first time and youngest (28 years) candidate Tejasvi Surya defeat Congress veteran Rajya Sabha member B.K. Hariprasad in the high-profile Bangalore South seat.
“The Modi wave also ensured our party to retain all the three seats in Bangalore and break the Congress bastions in Chikkaballapur, Kolar (SC), Chamarajanagar (SC), Gulbarga, Raichur (ST) and Tumkur,” added Madhusdhan.
The BJP had also won in all the 7 reserved seats, including 5 for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and two for the Scheduled Tribes (STs) for the first time, setting a record of sorts.