BJP leads in Karnataka Elections, but elusive of clear majority

By Divya Dwivedi

The outcome of the Karnataka elections, held on 12 May, have been pretty dramatic. The results as they gradually emerge are, as anticipated, a battle ground for three parties; the BJP, Congress, and JD(S). It is not just the BJP and Congress who are deciding the final outcome.

The key question which therefore looms large since this morning is, ‘Would the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), somewhat unexpectedly, win a comfortable majority or fall short by four to eight seats, as it did in 2008 by two seats?’. Unlike in the latter instance, today there are no independents that the BJP chief ministerial candidate B. S. Yeddyurappa could rely on. So, there is a distinct possibility that Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)) could join hands and form the next government if the current projections hold up – BJP 104, Congress 75, and JD(S) 39.

The point worth noting about the 2018 Karnataka Assembly election is that even though both Congress and the BJP have got the same percentage of vote share (approximately 37%), the BJP will surely emerge as the single largest party. Its vote share has gone up by around 17% and it will likely win an extra 70 seats compared to its 2013 performance.

On the other hand, Congress has retained its vote share but has lost nearly 50 constituencies. Outgoing Chief Minister Siddaramaiah lost his old constituency although he won narrowly from Badami. Nearly half of his cabinet colleagues have lost.

It is important to notice that the BJP has comfortably emerged as the single largest party, and quite comfortably in its stronghold of north, central, and coastal Karnataka. It has also picked up seats in the JD(S) and Congress strongholds in the Old Mysore region.

The other impressive performer is the JD(S) which, despite its limited base, won nearly 40 seats, matching its performance of the 2013 elections. It is important to note that JD(S) and Congress fought against each other in Siddaramaiah’s Chamundeshwari constituency, but are keen to partner to form a governing coalition.

With Congress losing its stronghold in Karnataka and the BJP looming large as the single largest party, Deve Gowda of JD(S) and his son Kumaraswamy will want a hung assembly for a simple reason: resurgence! JD(S) have lost their political base in the state for a decade – if the party is seeking revival, it has to be part of the next government. With the BJP seemingly unable to gain a clear majority, JD(S) will be the decider and will be eager to form a coalition government with Congress!

From the beginning, the competition among these three political parties was quite close and the elections were closely fought. Under these circumstances, out of the three competitors, clearly Congress has under-performed.

It is now clear that Siddaramaiah’s governance or political strategies have not borne any political dividends. His various populist schemes targeting his core base (Minority, OBC and Dalit) did not lead to their electoral consolidation as he had hoped. These measures seem to have led to greater resentment among upper castes, who voted in large numbers against Congress.

Further, Siddaramaiah’s efforts to split the Lingayat vote has failed. The BJP recorded impressive victories in north and central Karnataka where Veerashaiva and Lingayats are present in large numbers.

It also appears that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s extensive campaigning over the last three months has helped the BJP to consolidate its vote.

As final numbers arrive later this evening, a more precise description of the election results is expected.

The political scene in Bangalore is heating up with central leadership from BJP and Congress travelling to Bangalore as each party struggles to form the government. It is expected that JD(S) and Congress may have enough MLAs to form the next government.

Two pertinent questions therefore: First, will the BJP seek the support of JD(S) or will it try to break the JD(S)? It is important to note here that Deve Gowda has gone on record rejecting any alliance with the BJP. Second, in such a scenario, are Deve Gowda and his son Kumaraswamy on the same page on an alliance partner? We will wait and watch.

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