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Karnataka Election Results: Why a Dozen BJP Ministers Lost Their Seats

Among those who lost their seats was BC Nagesh, the education minister who was at the centre of hijab-controversy.

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In Karnataka, the outgoing BJP government's losses were not just confined to the party's outster in the Assembly polls, but also to 12 senior ministers and the Speaker of the House being defeated.

The trend seemed to bring back memories of the Congress' loss in 2018, when in a similar situation, Congress lost the seats of 20 of its incumbent ministers, the majority of whom had contested from North Karnataka. In 2018, Congress' loss was attributed to Siddaramaiah's Cabinet being divided over giving minority tag to the Lingayat community. Siddaramaiah had lent his support to Lingayat ministers who were in favour of the Lingayats getting an identity separate from the Hindus, much to the chagrin of Veerashaiva Lingayat organisations.

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In former Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai's Cabinet, however, the reasons for rout seem to be varied – from anti-incumbency, to incompetence, corruption and even overt association with right-wing outfits.

The ministers who lost in the polls were B Sriramulu, K Sudhakar, Murugesh Nirani, Govind Karjol, BC Patil, JC Madhuswamy, V Somanna, MTB Nagaraj, KC Narayana Gowda, BC Nagesh, Halappa Achar, and Shankar Patil.

Besides, the BJP lost Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh stalwart Vishveshwar Hegde Kageri and  former Speaker KG Bopaiah. R Ashok lost from Kanakapura but retained  his seat from Padmanabhanagar in Bengaluru Urban.

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Why Some BJP Ministers Lost

Sriramulu, who held the  transport portfolio, is also a leader of the Valmiki (Scheduled Tribe) community. During the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, he was earlier in-charge of health and family welfare department. Congress leader Siddaramaiah had accused Sriramulu of alleged involvement in irregularities regarding purchase of ventilators worth Rs 40 crore for the an exhorbitant price of Rs 120 crore. Besides, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's video conference meetings with state health ministers, held during the early stages of the pandemic, Sriramulu was found lacking, prompting  another minister Sudhakar to step in for him.

In the present elections, Sriramulu contested from Ballari, which has the highest number of reserved constituencies. He lost  to Congress B Nagendra  in the Congress wave which was  evident  in the district this time.

Sudhakar, who caught the attention of Modi during the pandemic video conferences for being articulative, was among the Congress MLAs who defected to the BJP in 2019 and helped former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa form the government.

Although he got elected in the by-poll,  Sudhakar has been facing anti-incumbency in his Chikkaballapur constituency and was defeated by Congress first-timer Pradeep Eshwar Ayyar.

The minister who was at the centre of hijab controversy in Karnataka was BC Nagesh. As education minister, he was vocal in supporting the ban on hijab in educational institutions and was accused of saffronising syllabus. Reportedly, a confidant of BJP's National General Secretary (Organisation) BL Santhosh, Nagesh grew in the BJP as an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activist.

BC Nagesh was defeated in Tiptur seat by Congress candidate K Shadakshari, who won the seat by a margin of 17,652 votes.

V Somanna, a Lingayat leader and once a close aide of Yediyurappa had to contest from two new constituencies after vacating his traditional stronghold Govindrajnagar in Bengaluru city. He was given the ticket to contest from Varuna in Mysuru district  to take on former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Chamarajanagar. Both Varuna and Chamarajanagar have a sizable Lingayat population.

Somanna lost to Siddaramaiah in Varuna and in Chamarajanagar he lost to Congress' Puttaranga Shetty.

Murugesh Nirani, BC Patil, JC Madhuswamy and Govind Karjol in charge of key portfolios had the baggage of alleged corruption and had even faced the ire of Lingayat seers over the BJP government's decision to alter the reservation list to give sub-caste reservation within the Scheduled Castes list.

Govind Karjol, who was once a deputy chief minister for representing the Left-Dalits who had supported the BJP, lost as a large section of  this category voted for the Congress this time.

Another set back for the BJP was Kodagu district which had been saffronised over the years. The Congress won from Virajpet, which was represented by Bopaiah and Madikeri in this election.

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Some Surprise Loses in the Congress, JD(S) Camps

Even as the Congress swept Karnataka Assembly polls, the grand old party was taken aback by loss suffered by its prized catch and former Chief  Minister Jagadish Shettar. The Lingayat leader from Kittur Karnataka region (Mumbai Karnataka), who broke all ties with the BJP and Sangh Parivar to join the Congress after he was denied a ticket, contested from the Hubbali-Dharwad Central seat. He lost to his former confidant Mahesh Tenginkai of the BJP.

Shettar's  loss, according to Congress sources, was the least expected as he had successive wins from the constituency from 1994. Until 2008, Hubbali-Dharwad Central  was known as Hubbali Rural. 

It seems, former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had foreseen Shettar's  defeat as he had confidently stated that he can write in blood that the  Shettar would lose on a Congress ticket. "Shettar went to the Congress, but his supporters and the grassroots workers in the constituency remained with the BJP," a BJP functionary told The Quint.

The JD(S) camp witnessed a mix of  jubilation and disappointment. While  former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy won from Channapatna, his son  Nikhil Gowda lost from the adjacent constituency Ramanagara to  Congress' HA Iqbal Ansari. This was Nikhil's second electoral defeat after losing the Mandya Lok Sabha seat to Independent candidate, actor  Sumalatha Ambareesh in 2019.

(Naheed Ataulla is a senior political journalist based in Bengaluru)

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