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Karnataka Elections: Congress Dethrones BJP to Score Highest Tally in 34 Years

Karnataka saw a high-octane battle between the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (Secular).

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Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan

Following a landslide defeat in the 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) conceded defeat and incumbent Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai will step down in the evening on Saturday, 13 May.

The election had witnessed a high-octane battle between the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)), and the Congress has won in more seats in Bangalore, Kalyan Karnataka, Kittur Karnataka and South regions, while the BJP is bagged coastal Karnataka regions.

Over the course of this story, we answer the following questions:

  • How did some of the key leaders fare over the course of the polls? What are some important wins and losses?

  • Who becomes Karnataka's Next Chief Minister?

  • What are the reasons behind the Congress' big win in Karnataka?

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Here Are Some Important Wins & Losses

  • Former CM & Congress leader Siddaramaiah defeated BJP's V Somanna by a margin of 46,163 votes

  • Former Karnataka Chief Minister and JD (S) leader HD Kumaraswamy wins constituency Channapatna by a margin of 12113 votes. He defeated BJP's CP Yogeshwara.

  • BJP's BC Nagesh, who was at the forefront of the Hijab ban in the state, has lost to Congress by a margin of 17652 votes

  • Outgoing CM Basavaraj Bommai secured victory in the Shiggaon constituency.

  • Senior Congress leader DK Shivakumar won from the Kanakpura seat by a margin of over 1.2 lakh votes, the highest margin during the 2023 polls.

  • Former Karnataka deputy chief minister Laxman Savadi, who had crossed over to the Congress after the BJP denied him a ticket from Athani, has now won from the seat.

  • BJP National General Secretary and four-time MLA CT Ravi loses to Congress’ HD Thammaiah by a margin of 5926 votes.

  • Congress leader and son of party president Mallikarjun Kharge, Priyank Kharge has won Chittapur constituency in Kalaburagi district

  • Nikhil Kumaraswamy from JD(S) loses from Ramanagaram to Congress' HA Iqbal Hussain by a margin of 10,715 votes.

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Who Becomes Karnataka's Next Chief Minister?

With the Congress set to get a majority in the Karnataka Assembly elections, The focus now shifts to the next question:

Who will be the next chief minister of Karnataka?

The main contenders are former chief minister Siddaramaiah and Karnataka Pradesh Congress chief DK Shivakumar, and here's how the situation might play out:

The Congress Legislature Party is set to meet in Bengaluru on 13 May.

There are three possibilities as far as the CM choice is concerned:

  1. Siddaramaiah becomes CM – MLAs authorise the party high command to decide on the CM. The high command, on its part, chooses Siddaramaiah as the CM, given his mass appeal and seniority.

  2. DK Shivakumar becomes CM – Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala and party observers reach out to the MLAs who pick Shivakumar.

  3. Congress arrives at a power-sharing arrangement with Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar, and they become CM for two-and-half years each.

Why DK Shivakumar?: DK Shivakumar has worked extremely hard as the Karnataka Congress chief. He had taken over in 2020, a year after Congress' debacle in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress had won just one seat out of 28, and that, too, was Shivakumar's brother DK Suresh.

He has also won a great deal of respect in the party for having stayed loyal despite facing arrest and raids.

Why Siddaramaiah?: There are arguably two mass leaders in Karnataka – BS Yediyurappa and Siddaramaiah. With Yediyurappa out of active politics, Siddaramaiah is the tallest leader in the state. If he is made CM, it would be a natural reflection of the people's choice.

He is also the best choice as far as Congress' social coalition is concerned. Siddaramaiah revived Congress' AHINDA base comprising minorities, backward castes, and Dalits.

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‘Congratulations,’ Says PM Modi; Rahul Celebrates ‘Mohabbat Ki Dukaan’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Congress for their big win.

"Congratulations to the Congress Party for their victory in the Karnataka Assembly polls. My best wishes to them in fulfilling people’s aspirations," he said on Twitter.

Conceding defeat, senior BJP leader and former chief minister BS Yediyurappa told news agency ANI and said:

"Victory and defeat aren't new to BJP. Party workers need not be panicked by these results. We will introspect about the party's setback. I respectfully accept this verdict,"

Outgoing-CM Basavaraj Bommai also conceded defeat and said, "We've not been able to make the mark. Once the results come, we will do a detailed analysis."

"As a national party, we will not only analyse but also see what deficiencies and gaps were left at various levels. We take this result in our stride," Bommai added.

Meanwhile, addressing a press conference at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi, Rahul Gandhi said, “Nafrat ki baazar band ho gayi hai, mohabbat ki dukaan khul gayi hai.”(Market of hatred has shut down, shop of love has opened).

He asserted that the five objectives in the Congress manifesto will be enforced after the first legislative meeting takes place.

Former Karnataka CM, senior Congress leader and CM hopeful Siddaramaiah told news agency ANI, "The result of this election is a stepping stone to the Lok Sabha election. I hope all non-BJP parties come together and see the BJP is defeated and I also hope Rahul Gandhi becomes the PM of the country."

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Why Are the Reasons Behind Congress’ Win in Karnataka?

Here are five reasons that contributed to the Congress' successful Karnataka campaign.

  • The Congress party led a highly localised campaign in the run up to the elections in the state— focusing on issues of corruption and price rise.

  • In a state with several castes and sub-castes, as well as a significant Muslim population, the Congress was able to successfully manage the support across various groups.

  • Arguably, the Congress’ biggest strength in Karnataka is a strong local leadership, with each leader leveraging their unique skills. 

  • The strong local leadership, however, could very well have been a sticking point given the fact that Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar are both in the running for the coveted post of Karnataka Chief Minister. 

  • Besides everything that Congress got right, it is, of course, BJP’s own lapses that served to benefit the opposition too. For one, BJP lacked a strong local leadership after B. S. Yediyurappa’s exit from the CM post.

(With inputs from Aditya Menon, Fatima Khan and Nikhila Henry)

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