Karnataka polls: Congress records massive victory; BJP faces rout

Siddaramaiah, Mallikarjun Kharge, DK Shivakumar
Karnataka Congress leaders DK Shivakumar and Siddaramaiah felicitate party national president Mallikarjun Kharge as Congress sweeps Karnataka Assembly polls. Also seen are party leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala and KC Venugopal. Photo: AICC

The Congress emerged as the single largest party in the Karnataka Assembly election 2023 as counting progressed on Saturday (May 13). The Congress and allies (2) won 138 seats, while the BJP won 65. HD Deve Gowda’s JD(S) won 19 seats.

“The Congress has 137 legislators, as our ally Darshan Puttannaiah won the Melukote seat. I’ve been told that Puttaswamy Gowda, an independent candidate, has also extended his support to the Congress. So now we have 138,” AICC in-charge of Karnataka Randeep Singh Surjewala said in the evening.

Congress is already considering anti-poaching measures, with sources claiming that winning candidates will be taken to Rajasthan, where the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government is in power. They will reportedly be put up at a resort in Udaipur. There have been reports of the winners being taken to Tamil Nadu as well.

The poll results came as a big shock to the saffron party, with several ministers — including B Sriramulu, K Sudhakar, Murugesh Nirani, Govind Karjol, KC Narayana Gowda, MTB Nagaraju, and JC Madhuswamy — losing in their respective constituencies. V Somanna, who contested from two seats, lost to Congress’s Puttaranga Shetty in Chamarajanagar and former CM Siddaramaiah in Varuna.

Another Congress giant DK Shivakumar won Kanakapura by a massive margin of 1 lakh-plus votes. However, now the key question is who among the duo — DKS and Siddaramaiah — will become the chief minister.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge’s son Priyank Kharge won Chittapur as well. Kharge senior told the media: “I thank the people of Karnataka for giving a huge mandate to Congress. We will uphold their belief in us. We will implement all the welfare schemes we have announced in our manifesto.” He added that the party won the election “under collective leadership”.

Reacting to the party’s thumping win in Karnataka, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, “Poor people defeated crony capitalists in Karnataka. We didn’t fight this battle using hatred.” He added that the “shop of hatred” had shut down in Karnataka and the “store of love” had opened. Both Kharge and Gandhi promised to implement the “guarantees” promised by the party in the state ahead of the polls.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said winning Karnataka was a huge responsibility for the party. “We went to the people with a few guarantees and we must fulfil them. We have to work for the people. The public will tell us what will happen next,” she added.

In the sea of Congress wins, Lingayat leader and former CM Jagadish Shettar, who left the BJP after being denied a poll ticket and joined the Congress ahead of the polls, stood out like a sore thumb as he faced an upset in Hubli-Dharwad Central.

As a face-saver for the BJP, outgoing CM Basavaraj Bommai won the Shiggaon seat. However, a dejected-looking Bommai told the media around 12 noon: “We have not been able to make the mark. Once the results come, we will do a detailed analysis. As a national party, we will not only analyse but also see what deficiencies and gaps were left at various levels. We take this result in our stride.”

Former CM BS Yediyurappa’s son BY Vijayendra won Shikaripura on his election debut. However, CT Ravi, BJP National General Secretary and four-time legislator from Chikmagalur, lost the seat to the Congress’s HD Thammaiah.

Polls to the 224-seat Assembly were held on Wednesday (May 10), when the state registered a 73.19% voter turnout — its highest ever. The counting of votes began at 8 am and is expected to wrap up by evening when it will be clear which party will lead the 16th Karnataka Assembly.

Most exit polls predicted a tight contest between the Congress and the BJP, with the former having a clear edge. The scam-riddled outgoing BJP government faced strong anti-incumbency waves while the Congress worked hard to wrest the saffron party’s only citadel in the south.

Some had predicted a hung assembly, but as counting started, even early trends showed more than 130 seats for the Congress. Deve Gowda has said his JD(S) is ready to join hands with either the BJP or the Congress, though Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar has ruled out the chance of a post-poll alliance with the party.

A total of 5,31,33,054 electors were eligible to cast their votes in the state, where 2,615 candidates were in the fray. Among the candidates, 2,430 were male, 184 female, and one from the third gender.

Read The Federal’s Election Special Stories:

Why Varuna appears to be rooting for ‘atheist’ Siddaramaiah

Karnataka polls: Why BJP will find it hard to topple ‘Kanakapura Rock’ DK Shivakumar

Karnataka: Why Rahul Gandhi remains a hero in Raichur-Bellary belt

Karnataka polls: Why North Karnataka will decide who forms the govt