BANGALORE: Congress on Wednesday made a spectacular come back in Karnataka wresting, power after seven years in its old southern fortress and in the process decimated the ruling BJP whose fate was sealed by a fractious split and corruption charges.
Battered by a series of scams at the national stage, Congress put up an impressive show in the assembly elections crossing the half-way mark of 113 seats in a house of 224 obviating the need for crutches and belying predictions.
The Congress has won 118 seats and was leading in three others, a gain of 41 seats over the elections five years ago, setting off a chief ministerial race into which OBC leader Siddaramaiah and dalit leader and central minister Mallikarjun Kharge threw their hat.
Hit by the exit of former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa and the image of corruption during its tenure in the first government in the south, the BJP has won 37 seats and was leading in three more. It had had won 110 seats five years ago.
Similarly, the JD(S), which had 28 seats in the 2008 elections, has won 37 seats and was ahead in three more. The BJP and JD(S) are locked in a neck-and-neck race for the main opposition status.
The Yeddyurappa-led Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP), which ended as a spoiler for BJP, could not do much for itself as it bagged only seven seats.
The BSR-Congress, led by former BJP minister Sriramulu, considered close to the Bellary brothers, also chipped away BJP votes and ended up with four seats.
CP Yogeeshwara, who quit the Jagadish Shettar ministry, towards the end of the tenure of the government and contested on Samajwadi Party ticket, won from Channapata, defeating Anitha Kumaraswamy (JDS), wife of JDS state unit president HD Kumaraswamy, by nearly 6,500 votes.
12 ministers fall
As the Congress juggernaut rolled on in Karnataka, 12 Ministers of the Jagadish Shettar cabinet, including deputy chief minister KS Eshwarappa, fell by the wayside, rubbing salt into the wounds of the vanquished BJP. Eshwarappa’s loss in Shimoga is all the more significant as he was a former state unit president of the party and also held the key portfolios of rural development and panchayat raj and revenue.
Eshwarappa lost by about 5,000 votes, and was behind his Congress and KJP (Karnataka Janatha Paksha of former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa) opponents. Eshwarappa was in the “hit-list” of Yeddyurappa who now had the “sweet revenge”. Another big gun to lose was industries minister Murugesh R Nirani, who had spearheaded two global investors meet, and was in two minds till the last minute whether to join forces with KJP but eventually continued to be in BJP, in Bilgi.
He lost by 11,000 to Congress’ JT Patil in the constituency, where KJP had not fielded any candidate. Other Ministers who lost included V Somanna (Vijayanagar), BN Bache Gowda (Hoskote), Revunaik Belamagi (Gulbarga Rural), A Narayanaswamy (Anekal), Sogadu Shivanna (Tumkur), SK Bellubbi (Basavana Bagewadi), Kalakappa Bandi (Ron), SA Ravindranatha (Davangere North), SA Ramadass (Krishnaraja) and Anand Asnotikar (Karwar). Congress was not without “significant casualties”.
In a shock defeat, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G Parameshwara, also a chief ministerial candidate, lost in Koratagere in Tumkur district to JD(S) opponent, PR Sudhakara Lal, by more than 18,000. Congress candidate and former Union Civil Aviation Minister C M Ibrahim was pushed to third position in Bhadrawati.
Meanwhile, infrastructure-entrepreneur of Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Project Ashok Kheny, the Karnataka Makkala Paksha candidate, won from Bidar South, defeating sitting JD(S) MLA Bandeppa Kashempur by more than 3,000 votes.