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Mainstream, VOL LX No 1, New Delhi, December 18/December 25, 2021 (double issue)

Decoding the 2021 Karnataka Legislative Council election results | P S Jayaramu

Friday 17 December 2021


by P. S. Jayaramu

Results of the elections to 25 seats of the Karnataka Legislative Council from 20 Local Authorities’ Constituencies were announced on 14th December 2021. The BJP and Congress Party had contested from 20 constituencies each and the Janata Dal (S) in 6. Both the BJP and Congress have won 11 seats each. The JD(S) has managed victory in only two constituencies and one seat has been grabbed by the independent candidate, Lakhan Jarkiholi. An analysis of the results from the perspective of the contending parties and it’s possible fall out on them in the Assembly elections due in 2023 is in order.

First, let me take up the case of the ruling BJP. The chief minister had claimed that the party would win in 14-15 seats and thereby secure a comfortable majority in the Council consisting of 75 members. However, the results have shown that the Party has fallen short by one seat to reach the majority mark. Though the chief minister has publicly defended the Party’s performance in the polls, pointing to the six additional seats won by it, he is a worried man, going by the defeat in the prestigious Belagavi constituency. The debacle has exposed the Party’s weakness in the constituency despite its member Ramesh Jarkiholi having a strong base there. It is an open secret that Ramesh Jarkiholi indirectly supported his younger brother Lakhil Jarkiholi, dissatisfied with the treatment meted out to him following his alleged involvement in a sex scandal a few months ago and the way his resignation sought by the party high command. The BJP candidate and chief whip of the party Mahantesh Kavatagimath lost despite minister Umesh Katti and former deputy chief minister Lakshman Savadi campaigning for him. The electoral verdict has led to some members demanding action against Ramesh Jarkiholi, holding the Jarkiholi brothers, (Balachandra and Ramesh) responsible for the defeat of the party candidate. But, it is unlikely that the chief minister and the party leadership will initiate any action against him, hoping that Ramesh Jarkoholi would persuade his younger brother Lakhil Jarkiholi to support the government in the Council to get bills passed.

Belagavi’s defeat notwithstanding, the party candidates have won with smaller margins in many other constituencies. Senior leader and former chief minister Jagadish Shettar, whose brother Pradeep Shettar won in Dharwad with a small margin, has already talked of bringing the issue of factionalism within the party to the notice of the party high command. The margin of victory in Kalburgi was 149, in Uttara Kannada 183, in Chitradurga 358 and Shivamogga 344. In Bengaluru, the margin of victory for the BJP was 397 votes against the millionaire Congress candidate Yusuf Sheriff. In Kodagu, where the Party has a strong base, the victory margin was a meagre 102. The lowest was in Chikkamagaluru, where the party candidate managed to win with the lowest margin of just 6 votes. All in all, poll results have come as a warning bell to the ruling BJP. It is likely that some senior leaders of the party may point to the failure of Basavaraj Bommai to establish himself as a strong pan-Karnataka leader, (unlike his predecessor B S Yediyurappa) recalling his failure to win the by-election in his home constituency a few months ago.

As regards the Congress Party, it’s candidates too won in 11 constituencies, though the party’s tally came down by three seats, from 29 to 26. Former CM Siddaramaiah has declared that the voters are yearning for a change of government in 2023. The Congress Party’s performance was the result of a united campaign headed by Party President D. Shiva Kumar and leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Siddaramaiah. The issue of who would be the chief minister if the party wins in 2023 was carefully avoided this time round. Selection of candidates too was done without any internal bickerings. Eight of its eleven successful candidates are fresh faces. The party candidates won in Mandya, Kolar and Tumakuru, besides retaining Mysuru and Bengaluru rural. The KPCC working President Saleem Ahmed won by a big margin from the Dharwad dual constituency, giving the party a shot in the arm against the BJP. Also, by ensuring the success of the party candidate in the first round in the dual member constituency in Belavagi, the sitting MLA Lakshmi Hebbalkar once again proved that she has an upper hand via-a-vis her betanoir Ramesh Jarkiholi.

As for the JD(S), the Party’s tally came down from 13 to 11, as it’s candidates won only in two constituencies out of the six seats it contested. The Party patriarch Deve Gowda’s grand son Suraj Revanna registered a comfortable victory in Hassan. With the entry of Suraj Revanna, the family has four members in the state legislature, lending credence to the perception that the JD(S) is family party. In Mysuru, it’s candidate Manje Gowda scraped through with a small margin. With the loss of its seats in Mandya, Kolar and Tumakuru, the Party’s dominance in the vokkaliga belt has declined. The much speculated electoral alliance with the ruling BJP did not materialise, with Kumaraswamy declaring before the polls that local leaders would take the decision! The Party’s allegation that there was a secret understanding between the BJP and the Congress lacks credibility. With many senior leaders deserting the party and with no influence in the northern Karnatak and coastal regions of the State, the Party’s existential crisis seems to have deepened. The 2023 assembly elections will witness a bipolar contest between the BJP and the Congress Party, with the JD(S) becoming a marginal player. It will however come to the fore, if the verdict then turns out to be in favour of a hung assembly.

(Author: Dr. P. S . Jayaramu is a former Professor of Political Science, Bangalore University, and former Senior Fellow, ICSSR, New Delhi)

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