Congress crushes BJP in Karnataka in morale boosting win

Bangalore, May 8 (IANS) The Congress Wednesday recaptured power in Karnataka after seven years, crushing the BJP in the assembly elections – a victory that might boost the morale of the party facing a relentless opposition onslaught over massive corruption scandals.

The Congress had won 120 seats and was all set to bag one more, taking its tally to 121 in the 225-member assembly for which elections were held Sunday and votes counted Wednesday.

Voting took place for 223 seats as polling has been put off to later this month in one following the death of the BJP candidate. Of the 225 members, one is nominated to represent the Anglo-Indian community.

The over 71 percent of the state’s 40.3 million eligible voters who cast their ballots inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Bharatiya Janata Party, which lost 70 of the 110 seats it had won in 2008 to come to power for the first time in south India.

Among the losers were 20 ministers, including deputy chief minister and former state BJP chief K.S. Eshwarappa from his home district Shimoga, about 280 km north of Karnataka.

As the BJP counted its losses, Congress circles in the state speculated on who the next chief minister could be – Siddaramaiah, leader of the opposition in the outgoing assembly or union Labour and Employment Minister Mallikharjun Kharge.

The drubbing left the BJP’s state and central leaders shell-shocked as the party could not even come second and was battling for that position with the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) which has won 40 seats.

The BJP had bagged 39 seats and was ahead in one seat from which official result was yet to come.

The only consolation for the BJP was that its poster-boy-turned-albatross in the state, former chief minister B. S. Yeddyurappa met a worse fate. His Karnataka Janata Party won just six seats, including his own from Shikaripura in Shimoga.

However Yeddyurappa achieved what he set out to – to defeat BJP as the KJP chipped away 10 percent of the 14 percent vote share that the BJP lost.

The Congress took two percent and the JD-S and smaller parties and independents one percent each.

Chief minister Jagadish Shettar late Wednesday submitted the resignation of his ministry to Governor H. R. Bhardwaj who asked him to continue till the new government takes over.

Former BJP chief minister Sadananda Gowda said: “We failed to rise to the occasion. We could not reach out to the voter with the development work we did in Karnataka.”

BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy was forthright: “We have lost badly… There are many reasons for it. We will have to introspect.”

The BJP fared poorly both in urban and rural areas across the state.

The Congress victory was tempered with the biggest loss the party suffered in the defeat of its state chief G. Parameshwara in Koratagere (reserved for Scheduled Castes) in Tumkur district.

Parameshwara was a chief ministerial aspirant.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi voiced their satisfaction over the Karnataka result that ended five years of tumultuous BJP rule in the southern state.

Congress activists celebrated wildly across Karnataka.

The Congress victory “is a clear result against the ideology of the BJP”, Manmohan Singh said in Delhi.

“The people of the country know what’s what and they will reject the BJP ideology as the result in Karnataka shows.”

The BJP had stormed to power in Karnataka in 2008 with the hope of expanding rapidly in south India. It had termed Karnataka as its “gateway to south India”.

The Congress had ruled Karnataka on its own until April 2004. It later governed the state with JD-S backing till February 2006. The state slipped into JD-S and BJP hands after that.

JD-S leader H.D. Kumaraswamy, who had hoped perhaps to be kingmaker, said: “We will be happy to be the main opposition. We will play our role well.”

The Samajwadi Party opened its account for the first time in Karnataka, winning from Channapatna, some 60 km from Bangalore.

The Karnataka result came at a time for the Congress when the BJP has refused to let parliament run, demanding the resignation of central ministers Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal for impropriety.

Said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi: “People have seen through and rejected the BJP.”

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