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Sidelined Yediyurappa, Limited Hindutva Appeal: 6 Reasons Why BJP Lost Karnataka

Karnataka Results | What are the factors that likely led to BJP's defeat in the party's southern stronghold?

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Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar

Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya

As results for the 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections come in, the Congress party is all set for a sweeping victory in the state. The incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, does not have much to celebrate about their performance in the party's southern stronghold.

Conceding defeat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, 13 May, congratulated the Congress party for their victory. "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.

The BJP, which went to the elections on the back of a campaign centred around the Hijab ban, Muslim reservations, and high-octane rallies by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, suffered huge losses in all regions including Hyderabad Karnataka and Maharashtra Karnataka.

So, what are the factors that likely led to BJP's defeat in the party's southern stronghold?

Sidelining BS Yediyurappa 

Former Chief Minister and one of the tallest leaders in Karnataka, BS Yediyurappa was visibly sidelined by the party during the entire election campaign.

The four-time CM is a mass leader who enjoys a huge support from the influential Lingayat community as well as a section of OBCs in the state.

Alienating Yediyurappa was hence seen as alienating this entire vote bank.

There's another aspect to this - Yediyurappa is known as a mass leader and had a strong control over the administration. The same can't be said about Basavaraj Bommai, who was often accused of 'not being in control'.

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A 'Reactive' Campaign That Lacked a Central Narrative

While the Congress tailored its campaign around local, civic issues and cornered the incumbent government over poor implementation of welfare schemes, the BJP's campaign was largely reactive.

From Prime Minister Modi targeting Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge over the latter's 'poisonous snake' remark to the BJP going hammer and tongs against the Congress over the party's manifesto promising a ban on Bajrang Dal, the saffron party hardly looked they were setting the agenda this election.

Corruption Allegations

One of the major poll planks of the Congress this election was the party's corruption allegations against the BJP which seem to have hit the right note with the voters.

Posters targeting CM Basavraj Bommai — with his likeness pasted over the image of a QR code and the phrase 'PayCM' written above — were put up across cities and shared on social media.

Similarly, a campaign calling the Bommai government '40 percent Sarkara' was run by the Congress. The jibe is a reference to allegations by Karnataka contractors who claim that 40 percent of the tender amount for state-funded infrastructural projects is taken as a bribe by BJP leaders and officials.

The BJP was unable to successfully counter these allegations.

Poor Implementation of Welfare Schemes

Dealing with strong anti-incumbency, BJP's defeat suggests that voters were disenchanted with the saffron party over its poor implementation of welfare schemes.

Several scams such as the 'cash for beds' scam during the Covid-19 crisis made headlines in the state from time to time.

Even as the party, in its election manifesto, promised several welfare schemes such as three free cooking gas cylinders, financial incentives for those who prepare for the competitive exams like UPSC, ground reports across board suggested that the last mile reach of similar schemes remained poor during the party's tenure.

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Confusion Over Reservations

The BJP's decision to bring in more castes into the ambit of caste-based reservation and raising the quotas for various castes also did not reap much dividend for the saffron party.

The party announced an additional two percent reservation for Lingayats and Vokkaligas in the state while scrapping quotas for Muslims (saying reservations for them would come from the 10 percent quota for economically weaker sections). It increased the reservation for STs from three percent to seven percent and SCs from 15 percent to 17 percent.

It, however, seems that this brought created more confusion than clarity for voters in the state.

Limited Hindutva Appeal

BJP's campaign crafted on the back of issues such as the Hijab ban, ban on Halal meat, and scrapping reservations for Muslims, had limited appeal in the state.

While the party was able to retain its stronghold of coastal Karnataka which is often referred to as the ‘Hindutva laboratory’ of the state, similar trends were not observed in other regions such as Hyderabad Karnataka, Maharashtra Karnataka, and Old Mysuru.

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