Southern Surge
         Date: 24-May-2018

-Aditya Kulkarni

 “ The Congress strategy on Lingayat went wrong. There was no necessity for us to rake it up.”

— RV Deshpande, Congress Party

 

The Modi juggernaut has crossed the Vindhyas and has firmly set its foot in the South defying all divisive propaganda that the Congress unleashed in the run-up to the Assembly elections. As the BJP takes charge of the 21st state in the country (leaving Congress to Punjab, Puducherry and Mizoram) it is yet another feather in the unflinching cap of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah duo. The Congress's last-minute efforts to stick on to power covertly by lending support to the JD (S) has fallen flat as the popular mandate was clearly against the incumbent Government and in favour of the BJP with gain of 64 seats.
 
 

BJP Karyakartas 

 
As the counting for the Karnataka elections began on May 15, it looked like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would cross the majority mark of 112 out of the 222 constituencies where elections were held across the state on May 12, 2018. Elections to Jayanagar and Rajarajeshwari Nagar constituencies have been deferred due to the demise of the incumbent BJP MLA BN Vijaykumar in Jayanagar and the fake voter ID scam that took place in Rajarajeshwari Nagar.
 

 
 
R V Deshpande 

However, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then and as I’m writing this article, the BJP’s final tally is 104 which is 8 short of majority and at the same time, its rivals, the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS) have agreed to form an alliance so that they form the government after having won 78 and 38 seats respectively. However, having said that, I would still say that the BJP has obtained victory in this election. Whether it is able to form the government or not doesn’t matter in my opinion. The governor has however invited the BJP to form the government and asked it to prove its majority of the floor of the house within 15 days from the date of assumption of the office.

High Drama

On May 16, 2018 the Governor invited the BJP to form the government as it was the single largest party and also was the first to stake claim for the same. Yeddyurappa took oath as the CM of Karnataka for the 3rd time on May 17, 2018. However, the Cong-JDS post-poll alliance vitiated the atmosphere as the two claimed to have the numbers. Their attempts to impress upon the Governor was futile as the governor duly consulted the constitutional experts before inviting the BJP. The Governor reportedly went by the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission.


 

The Sarkaria Commission report, Chapter 4, clearly highlights the order of preference in cases where the mandate throws a hung assembly. It states, “If there is a single party having an absolute majority in the Assembly the leader of the party should automatically be asked to become the Chief Minister.”

If there is no such party, the Governor should select a Chief Minister from among the following parties or group of parties by sounding them, in turn, in the order of preference indicated below:

· An alliance of parties that was formed prior to the Elections.

· The largest single party staking a claim to form the government with the support of others, including "independents."

· A post-electoral coalition of parties, with all the partners in the coalition joining the Government.

· A post-electoral alliance of parties. with some of the parties in the alliance forming a Government and the remaining panics, including “independents” supporting the Government from outside.

The Governor in his discretion has given 15 days time to Yeddyurappa to prove the majority on the floor of the house.

Midnight Hearing in SC

The Cong-JDS combine whose machinations to usurp power were thwarted by the Governor later approached the Supreme Court to stay the swearing-in of Yeddyurappa. In yet another rare instance, after the hearing over Yakub Memon’s hanging, the SC entertained a midnight hearing for the lawyers representing the Cong and JDS . A three-judge bench, comprising Justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan, was constituted and the hearing went on till the wee hours of May 17. The SC refused to stay the swearing-in and stated that the SC has approved the Sarkaria Commission report.

However, the SC also stated that though they are not restraining the swearing-in, it will be subject to the outcome of the case. It also wondered whether the case might lead to restraining the governor from performing his duty as that might lead to a constitutional vacuum as far as government in a state is concerned.

Power Hungry Congress


 

The extent to which the Congress could go to retain power has been witnessed in Karnataka, despite the fact that the people’s verdict was against it. However, this is not the first time the Congress has displayed such aggression to stop BJP from coming to power.

· In 1996, the BJP was the single largest party with 161 MPs. But Congress teamed up with Janata Dal and made Deve Gowda a PM. The Janata Dal had only 79 MPs but accepted the PMs post only to stop the BJP from forming the government. 

· In 2015, the BJP won 100 out of 198 wards in the BBMP (local body) elections. The Congress used resort politics to steal the Mayor post along with the same JD(S) in an unholy alliance.

· In 2004, in Karnataka, the BJP had secured 81 seats. The Cong had 63 and JDS had 48. The Congress tied up with the JD(S) in a post-poll alliance and also got the CM’s post for itself though the mandate was against it.

What Happens Next?

Despite Yeddyurappa swearing-in and forming the government, the political situation remains precarious in Karnataka. Given the fact that the Cong-JDS combine too has staked itsr claim, one of the following is a possibility:

· Yeddyurappa gains the required support of independents and legislators of other parties and proves his majority on the floor of the house within 15 days. The legislators of other parties could resign beforehand or abstain during the vote. The government survives.

· In the event, Yeddyurappa fails to prove his majority, the government will fall. Governor will next invite Cong-JDS combine to form the government.

· The SC further hears the plea of Congress and in a unprecedented move order the display of names of those who support his government. If Yeddyurappa obliges, the names of all those who support him would be public. Cong-JDS could take care of the those in their ranks and restrain them. Government will fall.

· If Yeddyurappa declines to give proof of support to SC, the SC might declare the swearing-in as null and void. Though highly unlikely that the SC would supersede the functions of a sitting governor, it is a possibility.

· In the event of Yeddyurappa’s government falling for one or the other reason, Cong-JDS combine will form the government. Given their previous experience, its unlikely that the combine will survive for long. If they part ways, Karnataka will be forced to go to polls again.

Quantum Jump for BJP

2018 Karnataka Election has been the most fiercely fought election in recent times. It has been unpredictable and even now, there is no clarity as to which party will form the government. For the BJP to have won more than a 100 seats in such a situation is indeed a great achievement. Also, considering that the party’s tally has jumped from 40 in 2013 to 104 in 2018, it is again an incredible achievement. It has vindicated the party’s tallest leader in Karnataka, BS Yeddyurappa who has often been mocked by friends and foes alike. The credit for this belongs to him as much as it belongs to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP President Amit Shah. I would say that 85–90 seats are because of Yeddyurappa and the last stage of campaigning which involved PM Modi pushed the eventual tally above 100.


 

This election result has dismissed the myth that Siddaramaiah was a “popular CM” as the media projected him to be. It has also indicated that there was indeed a feeling of anti-incumbency in the state. The incumbent CM Siddaramaiah has failed to win in his home district. Not only has he lost, he has been humiliated. The margin of victory for GT Devegowda of the JDS over Siddaramaiah is more than 36,000 votes. Even in the “safe” Badami constituency, Siddaramaiah just managed to win against B Sriramulu of the BJP. The margin of victory was just about 1,696 votes. This puts it beyond any doubt that Siddaramaiah was not a popular CM. To be honest, I never came across a positive opinion about the CM apart from the various media platforms. Siddaramaiah’s Twitter team was outstanding and perhaps that is the only reason why sections of social media and mainstream media found him to be a “popular CM”.

As many as 17 ministers have lost their seat in the elections. Prominent among them are H Anjaneya, HC Mahadevappa, Umashree, Geetha Mahadev Prasad, TB Jayachandra, A Manju, Basavaraj Rayareddi, Santosh Lad, and Sharan Prakash Patil. Controversial ministers Ramanath Rai and Vinay Kulkarni have also lost the elections from Bantwal and Dharwad respectively. Ramanath Rai was behind the move which saw the Karnataka state government withdraw the aid to two schools in Kalladka run by senior RSS functionary Dr K Prabhakar Bhat’s institution. Vinay Kulkarni was one of the chief architects behind the separate Lingayat religion movement which had gained steam last year. He was accused of murdering a Zilla panchayat member in Dharwad. His comments against legislator CT Ravi in the Vidhana Soudha were distasteful. He was perhaps the most controversial minister in the Siddaramaiah led government and he has been defeated by 20,340 votes.

Many ministers were actually trailing at some stage during the counting process and some of them have just about managed to win. The combined tally of the BJP and the JDS is 141, quite clearly a decisive mandate against the Congress Party. So, the myth of no anti-incumbency was shattered. The BJP has managed to hold on to its Lingayat vote base. The move to grant separate religion status to the community has backfired badly on the Congress Party. In Bombay Karnataka and Central Karnataka which are dominated by the Lingayats, the BJP has won big. In Bombay Karnataka, the BJP has won 30 out of the 50 seats and in Central Karnataka, the party has improved its count from 3 in 2013 to 15 and even in Hyderabad Karnataka, the BJP has improved its tally from 10 to 15. This is a victory for the BJP as it has managed to hold on to its core vote base and ward off the Congress.

Result of Appeasing PFI?

The BJP has swept the coastal region. This region had been communally polarised thanks to Siddaramaiah Government’s blatant minority appeasement policy that had been too soft on radical Islamic organisations such as the Popular Front of India (PFI). Most of the murders of RSS and BJP karyakartas in Siddaramaiah’s tenure was in this region. More than 12 Hindu activists lost their lives to the Jihadi elements here. The response of the government was lackadaisical at the least and arrogant at the worst. Prashanth Poojary was murdered in 2015 by PFI activists in Moodabidri. He was a gou sevak. His murder was termed as personal enmity by the Congress. Consequently, BJP won Moodabidri by 18,000 votes, defeating the sitting Congress minister, Abhayachandra Jain. Similarly, Bantwal showed the doors to senior Congressman Ramanatha Rai for his rude behavior in the aftermath of the gruesome murder of RSS Swayamsevak Sharata Madiwala. He was a known supporter of PFI and its activities. He was defeated by Rajesh Naik of BJP by nearly 16,000 votes.

The NaMo factor

The most important point to be considered is that the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is intact in Karnataka. His rallies throughout the campaigning phase saw huge crowds turning up. Using his excellent oratory skills and appealing to the pride of the Kannadigas, PM Modi played the role of a finisher in this innings. He came and his rallies ensured that the BJP crossed 100.

The immense popularity that the PM enjoys in Karnataka will aid the BJP in a big way in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The popularity he enjoyed in his rallies belied the artificial language divide which the Congress wished to rake up often. People demanded that he speak in Hindi when a translator was used. The NaMo factor will be crucial in the 2019 general polls if BJP wants Karnataka to give it handsome number of seats.

The fact that Karnataka will back the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will be music to the ears of the party. In 2014, the BJP won 17/28 seats and from 1999 to 2014, the BJP has emerged as the first choice for the people of Karnataka in every Lok Sabha election.

Women and Youth with BJP

Post poll analysis of elections in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and North-East showed that more women and youth gravitated towards the BJP. Charismatic leadership of Modi was the key factor which many quoted as the reason for them to choose BJP. Karnataka has been no different. The C-Voter poll indicated that while 41.8 per cent of female voters opted for the BJP, only 37.8 per cent choose the Congress. More housewives too chose the BJP over the Congress according to the same poll.

(The writer is engineer and an avid traveller)

Box

Did Bengaluru Voter’s apathy

cost BJP dearly?

While BJP has made huge inroads into all regions of the State, the Bengaluru region remains a concern for the party. Low voter turn out in the region has always been a concern. But this time around, it seems as though voters apathy in Bengaluru has cost the BJP dearly. We now know that the BJP is short by 8 seats for a simple majority. A cursory look at the results suggests that BJP lost as many as 7 seats in Bengaluru region by relatively small margins.

While the state as a whole broke all previous records to post a high 72.36 polling percentage, Bengaluru voting percentage fell to 54.72 per cent from 57.38 per cent in 2013. The election commission data suggests that there are 87.9 lakh eligible voters in Bengaluru. This means that about 48 Lakh voters did not vote in these elections. Below are the list of constituencies in Bengaluru were BJP lost by a few thousands.

· Anekal by 8627

· Bytarayanapura by 5671

· Dasarahalli by 10675

· Gandhinagar by 10070

· Hebbal by 21140

· Hosakote by 7597

· Shivajinagar by 15040

· Vijayanagar by 2775

Most constituencies where Congress won witnessed very low voting percentages.

· Gandhinagar - 36.00%

· CV Ramannagar - 32.00%

· Sarvagnanagar - 32.19%

· Hebbal - 28.00%

· Govindarajnagar - 38.00%

· Padmanabha Nagar - 38.00%

Box 2nd

Wholesale Rejection

of Siddaramiah’s Cabinet!

The Congress Government released ads throughout its tenure and increased the frequency during the last year to showcase the achievement of its cabinet ministers and their ministries. While none of the facts and statistics backed their claims in the advertisements, the people have given their verdict against their campaign of lies in the elections. As many as 17 sitting ministers including the CM, in one of his seats, have failed to retain their seats. Most of them were considered to be close to the CM and were part of his coterie. If this is not the rejection of Siddaramaiah’s policies, what else is?

Siddaramaiah vacated his traditional Varuna seat for his son and contested from Chamundeshwari constituency. GT Devegowda of JD(S), his one time confidante while he was in JD(S) was his opponent. Siddaramaiah lost by a huge margin of 36,000 votes. It seems that the Vokkaligas in the constituency rallied behind GT Devegowda to vent their anger against Siddaramaiah’s anti-Hindu, minority appeasing and divide n rule policies.

17 Sitting Minister including the CM Defeated

· Siddaramaiah (CM)

· H C Mahadevappa (PWD)

· Ramanath Rai (Forest)

· H Anjaneya (Social Welfare)

· Dr S P Patil (Medical Education)

· SS Mallikarjun (Horticulture)

· Kagodu Thimmappa (Revenue)

· Basavaraj Rayareddy (Higher Education)

· Pramodh Madhvaraj (Fisheries & Sports)

· H M Revanna (Transport)

· T B Jayacharandra (Law)

· A Manju (Animal Husbandry)

· Rudrappa Lamani (Textiles)

· Shivaraj Tangadagi (Irrigation)

· Santosh Lad (Labour)

· Umashree (Kannada Culture)

· Mohan Kumari (Sugar)

· K B Koliwad (Speaker)

Box 3rd

Did Rahul factor help Congress

or the BJP?

AICC President and star campaigner of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi held rallies in 32 places in the Karnataka elections. Congress had to bite the dust in 17 of these constituencies. A strike rate of about 53 per cent. Places where Rahul campaigned included Karwar, Ankola, Kumta in Uttara Kannada district and Bhatkal. Congress lost all these seats. Aurad in Bidar, Tumkur City, several constituencies in Mandya, Bantwal in Dakshina Kannada, Gonikoppa in Coorg were the other places where Rahul’s rallies were held but Congress lost in all of them. In Bengaluru, he campaigned for the Congress candidate in CV Raman Nagar but lost to BJP by a margin of 12,000 votes.


 

In contrast, CM of UP Yogi Adityanath campaigned at 35 different places in the state through public meetings and rallies. BJP candidates have won in 23 of those constituencies. Sirsi, Bhatkal, Kumta, Sagara, were among the places where Yogi Adityanath campaigned and the BJP won from all those seats. It is to be noted that Siddaramaiah had lampooned the UP CM as an North Indian import and his social media team used to address him using his original name (as Ajay Bisht) to spite him. Seems this has not gone down well with the state’s electorate. A lesson in decorum and decency for the Congress!