Karnataka Legislative Council election: Congress gains on BJP faults, JDS fault lines

Textbook revision, hijab and other controversies went against the overconfident ruling party, JDS felled by its own rebels.

Published: 17th June 2022 05:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th June 2022 05:14 AM   |  A+A-

Congress candidate Madhu G Made Gowda celebrates his victory in the MLC polls for South Graduates constituency in Mysuru on Thursday | Udayashankar S

Express News Service

MYSURU:  The Congress’ emphatic victory in the Legislative Council election from South Graduates constituency, after three decades, comes as a huge confidence boost to the party, which is looking to take control of Old Mysuru. The win has come at a great cost to the other parties, exposing the faulty politics of the BJP and fault lines in the JDS.

The ruling BJP seems to have paid a price for its insensitive approach to textbook revision, overconfidence, and failure to execute its strategy on the ground. The JDS, the main rival of the Congress in the Vokkaliga belt, is now a divided house. A slew of controversial issues over the past few months have not gone in favour of the BJP, especially the textbook revision, about which many graduates and teachers were unhappy. Lingayat seers came out against the committee for factual errors on social reformer Lord Basaveshwara, and deleting the words “architect of the Constitution” in a chapter on Dr B R Ambedkar. A comment in bad taste on ‘Rashtrakavi’ Kuvempu sparked public outrage, with serious implications for the Council election, that had more 35 per cent Vokkaliga voters.

The traditional Lingayat-Veerashaiva voters appear to have deserted the BJP to some extent, as they felt that the party had affronted Lingayat strongman B S Yediyurappa on two counts -- his son B Y Vijayendra was not nominated to the Upper House, and the controversy over his missing portrait on public material. The former chief minister kept his distance from the campaign, sending the message that all was not well in the party.

Although the BJP central leadership is focussing on Old Mysuru region, which comprises 90 assembly seats, local leaders in Mysuru and neighbouring Mandya, Hassan and Chamarajanagar districts did not put their heads together to counter a recharged Congress. Former MLC G Madhusudhan, who was denied a party ticket, did not put his soul into the campaign, while MP Prathap Simha’s comment on advocates attracted criticism in the run-up to the polls.

The party also focussed on seeking first preferential votes, but did not give importance to second preference votes, and fell short of votes during the elimination rounds.The drubbing ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit has worried both leaders and cadre. The defeat in South Graduates, and North West Teachers’ constituency -- considered a BJP stronghold -- is a wake-up call for the party, and also throws a shadow on Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who is yet to ascertain his leadership.

For the JDS, which has a strong presence in the region, differences over fielding new face H K Ramu, confidence that it would retain the seat, a lacklustre campaign without H D Kumaraswamy, and rebellion by its leaders ensured that it lost out. Sitting MLC Marithibe Gowda and Kirale Jairam openly supported Congress candidate Madhu G Made Gowda, and non-cooperation at the grassroots cost the party dear. With 15 legislators and a Parliament member, it has been pushed to third place, and is a worry for Kumaraswamy and his team, that is working on Mission 123.

For the Congress, the victory is a morale booster as it gears up for the 2023 elections. What worked for the party was Opposition leader Siddaramaiah’s four rounds of meetings with leaders of all four districts to finalise candidates one year in advance, and coordinate party functionaries to reach out to more than 1.3 lakh voters. Holding meetings of teachers, graduates, guest faculty, issues like unemployment and textbook row helped them mobilise the Ahinda votes.

As political commentator Muzaffar Assadi puts it, the verdict shows growing anti-incumbency against the government and is a sign of the popularity of the Congress among the educated classes and commoners, with a big win in a non-traditional bastion.

India Matters


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