BSY Eats Into BJP Votes
The verdict is seen as a setback to Yeddyurappa, who floated the KJP on December 9, 2012. A much better performance was expected from him, and the results have shown that he has failed to make significant inroads
The exit of political heavyweight and former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa from the BJP late last year was considered to be a severe blow to the ruling party in Karnataka. After all, he had been the face of BJP in the state for long, and many believed it would take a long time for the party to recover.
Well, it now appears that the blow is not as hard as one would have thought at the time. The recent election to the urban local bodies is a fair indication of this. The poll outcome showed that the BJP has clearly stood its ground. Forget being wiped out, the ruling party is alive and kicking and showed signs that a tone-up could enhance its prospects in the Assembly elections, due by May, from the none-too-happy position it finds itself now.
No doubt, the opposition Congress in the state has made smart gains, boosting the number of wards it won last time around in 2007 by some 350. But that does not tell the full story. The Congress has benefited immensely from multi-cornered contests.
In the March 7 ULB polls, the Congress bagged 1960 wards, with the JD(S) and BJP scoring an identical 906 each. Last time around, the Congress had bagged 1610, JD(S) 1510 and the BJP 1180. It’s clear that the JD(S) of former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda has yielded considerable ground this time, and is the biggest loser.
While Yeddyurappa, who floated Karnataka Janatha Paksha (KJP), no doubt dented the prospects of the BJP, winning 274 seats, the BSR Congress of B Sriramulu, who quit the BJP much earlier than Yeddyurappa, also played a spoilsport for the ruling party, bagging 86 seats. The message was clear: a united BJP, which had won the 2008 Assembly polls, would have made a world of difference and trumped the Congress and the JD(S) in no small way.
The three-way split in its votes following the entry of Yeddyurappa’s and Sriramulu’s outfits has proved costly for the BJP despite having the advantage of being in power.
A cursory glance shows that the BJP could have increased its tally by more than 360 wards, if the split had not taken place, as KJP bagged 274 seats and BSR Congress 86. BJP’s political split impacted its performance in ULB polls in no small measure.
The BJP suffered heavily in more than 20 districts as the KJP and BSR Congress fielded a good number of candidates there. Losing the polls in its strongholds of Shimoga, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts is a shocker to the BJP leadership.
The verdict is seen as a setback to Yeddyurappa, who floated the KJP, at a massive convention at the district headquarters town of Haveri on December 9. A much better performance was expected from him, and the results have shown that he has failed to make significant inroads.
Had Yeddyurappa put up a good show in the ULB polls, another set of BJP legislators and ministers could have joined the KJP but now it does not look like a possibility. So, it’s advantage BJP now. That, many BJP legislators are also said to knock Congress doors now, is a different story, and a re-alignment is certainly on the cards as the state heads for assembly polls in April-May.
It’s certainly not going to be easy for the Congress in the assembly polls, despite its sterling performance in the ULB elections. Overconfidence is something that would be its undoing and factionalism and groupism are rampant in the Congress. It would be an uphill task for the Congress central leadership to put the house in order in Karnataka. The Congress’ superb performance in the ULB polls was by default. The anti-incumbency factor clearly did the BJP in alongside KJP and BSR Congress eating into its votes in a big way.
The BJP is set to get a new party chief in Karnataka very soon. The incumbent KS Eshwarappa resigned recently, paving the way for selection of new president. Senior party leader Arun Jaitley and in-charge of the party’s Karnataka affairs, Dharmendra Pradhan, were in Bengaluru recently to hold consultations with key local leaders to select a successor to Eshwarappa.
There is an intense speculation over what’s going on in the mind of Yeddyurappa. There are clear indications from people close to Yeddyurappa that if Congress fails to get a majority on its own in the coming assembly elections, he could provide support to put it in the saddle. But in case the Congress has enough number of its own to form the government, what Yeddyurappa would do in such a scenario is something that’s interesting to watch about.
Some analysts predict that Yeddyurappa returning to the BJP fold, close to next Lok Sabha elections, cannot be totally ruled out. However, Yeddyurappa said he has set his eyes on the coming Assembly elections.
“My first target was to finish the BJP in ULB elections because they had ditched me. People have taught them a lesson”, he said, adding that the central BJP leaders should realise the importance of his contribution to the growth of their party in the state.
“Without me, the BJP has cut a sorry figure as it lost in almost all districts, particularly strongholds like Udupi and Puttur in ULB elections,” Yeddyurappa said. “We are a nascent party and were concentrating on assembly elections, but never expected early ULB polls. So we had inadequate time to prepare. But winning 274 wards in three months is not a mean achievement,” he added.
Despite its modest show, KJP has managed to prove a point. KJP has outsmarted the BJP in Shimoga, the home district of Yeddyurappa, where KJP secured 43 seats of the total 176 compared to 24 of the BJP. Yeddyurappa said: “KJP, a three-month-old baby, could win 274 wards what the BJP and Jan Sangh could not achieve in 20 years. Poll results prove what BSY means to BJP.”
Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar said the results show that the BJP has not lost its workers despite the exit of Yeddyurappa and Sriramulu from the party. “The BJP has retained its base. No party can assume that it will come to power after the assembly elections. The poll outcome shows that the BJP is intact much against what was predicted in some political quarters.”
Shettar argued that ULB election results are not precursor to the assembly polls or a referendum on the performance of the ruling BJP because only 22 per cent of the population exercised their franchise. “This does not exactly reflect the electoral prospects of any party for the assembly elections,” he said.
Shettar said the party has secured the second place in ULB elections as many independents were supporting his party. JD(S) slumped to 905 seats, down by nearly 600 compared to the 2007 polls, losing badly in its strongholds of Ramanagar, Mandya and Hassan districts of the Old Mysore region.
“The results do not reflect the mood of the people as only about 20 per cent of the electorate voted in this election”, JD(S) state unit president HD Kumaraswamy said. “The JD(S) will rectify its mistakes in the ULB polls and prepare for the coming elections. Differences among the aspirants of assembly tickets, shortage of time to prepare for the polls and lack of funds have hindered us. But the JD(S) has made gains beyond its stronghold of Old Mysore region.”
The results seem to have given the Congress a head start for the assembly elections. President of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, G Parameshwara said: “Money, caste politics and misuse of officialdom have not worked for the BJP. The party will bounce back to power in the next Assembly elections.”
Independents made it big in the ULB polls, victorious in whopping 778 wards. Of the total seven city corporations which went to the polls, three were bagged by the Congress while it was hung verdict in the four others. Of the 43 city municipal councils, the Congress won in ten, JD(S) in five and BJP 2, while 26 had fractured mandate.
Congress bagged 37 town municipal councils of the total 92, while JD(S) and BJP got nine and ten, respectively. Congress was victorious in 18 of the total 65 town panchayats, followed by the BJP with eight. JD(S) and KJP got two each.
By Rajesh Kamath from Bengaluru