Congress scripts massive victory in Karnataka, pushes BJP out of power in sole Southern state

13 May, 2023 | Anupam Shrivastav

BJP National

Congress on Saturday swept the Karnataka election bringing it back into the fold of party. Leaders from both parties reacted to people's verdict.

Congress has regained its power in Karnataka with a clear mandate, closing the gates of South India for the BJP while emboldening its chances for further wins in future elections.

In the 224-member Karnataka assembly, Congress has won 131 seats and leads by five more, comfortably beyond the halfway point. With 61 seats already won and four more seats in the bag, the Bharatiya Janata Party is on track to capture 65 seats.

Independents won two seats, while Kalyana Rajya Pragathi Paksha and Sarvodaya Karnataka Paksha each took home one seat. JD(S) won 19 seats. Since 1985, no incumbent government in Karnataka has won reelection after serving a full five-year term.

The BJP won 104 seats in the 2018 assembly elections, followed by the Congress with 80 seats and the JD(S) with 37. The Congress win has come at a time when it is seeking momentum ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year as well as the assembly elections later this year in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Telangana.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Congress for winning the assembly elections. He lauded the BJP’s hard work and promised that in the future, the party will continue to fight tirelessly for Karnataka.

“Congratulations to the Congress Party for their victory in the Karnataka Assembly polls. My best wishes to them in fulfilling people’s aspirations,” PM Modi said in a tweet. “I thank all those who have supported us in the Karnataka elections. I appreciate the hardwork of BJP Karyakartas. We shall serve Karnataka with even more vigour in the times to come,” Prime Minister said.

The Congress’s next challenge is to select a candidate for the position of chief minister from two potential Congress leaders, DK Shivakumar and former chief minister Siddaramaiah respectively.

Euphoric Congress leaders celebrated win

Rahul Gandhi, Congress politician and former MP, praised the party’s success in the Karnataka assembly elections and claimed that the “politics of hate” had been vanquished by the state’s residents.

Rahul Gandhi stated that the Congress supported the underprivileged while speaking to reporters at the party’s headquarters in the capital city. “The poor defeated crony capitalists in Karnataka…We fought the elections with love…,” Rahul said.

“I want to thank all the party leaders and workers in Karnataka. ‘Karnataka mein Nafrat ki bazaar band hui hai, Mohabbat ki dukaane khuli hai’. We fought on the issues of the poor. We did not fight this battle using hatred and wrong words. This will happen in every state,” he added.

During the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi invented the slogan “Nafrat ki bazaar band hui hai, Mohabbat ki dukaane khuli hai.” Rahul went on to say, “Poor people defeated crony capitalists in Karnataka. We didn’t fight this battle using hatred…”

Mallikarjun Kharge, the president of the Congress, said that the party’s success in Karnataka was the result of the “collective work” of party officials and supporters and that the party will strive for agreement while selecting a candidate for chief minister.

Speaking to reporters as the trends indicated a resounding victory for the Congress, Kharge claimed that voters from all communities had supported it. He declared that the party was determined to keep its election promises. The assembly election was critical for Karnataka native Kharge. From Chittapur, his son Priyank Kharge won.

“I thank the people of Karnataka for giving a huge mandate to Congress. We will respect the mandate and uphold people’s belief in us. We will implement all the welfare schemes we have announced in our manifesto. I thank Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, and also Sonia Gandhi who campaigned even when she wasn’t well,” Kharge said.

“People of all communities voted for us. Now, we have to go miles and fulfill the promises and guarantees we made to the public. This is a result of the collective work of our workers, from booth to state level. They worked under collective leadership,” the Congress president added.

Siddaramaiah claimed that although PM Modi had conducted considerable campaigning in the state, the BJP had not benefited from it. He also discussed his own triumph over Varuna. “The people of the Varuna constituency have given a befitting reply. This is a stepping stone for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections,” he said.

Shivakumar discussed his own challenges and said that the party had put a lot of effort into winning.”I can’t forget Sonia Gandhi visiting me in jail…when BJP people put me in jail,” a teary-eyed Shivakumar stated. “I credit my cadre and all my party leaders, they worked hard. People have posed faith in us, they supported us. It is collective leadership and we jointly worked…thinking together is progress, and working together is success”.

Shivakumar described the time he spent in jail in 2019 over a purported money laundering case. “I had promised Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi and party president Mallikarjun Kharge that I will deliver the state. When these BJP people put me in jail, I remember Sonia Gandhi came to meet me there. Such is the faith the party, the Gandhi family and the whole country bestowed on me,” Shivakumar said.

How BJP leaders reacted to the loss

Senior BJP leader BS Yediyurappa said failure and success are nothing new for the organization and promised reflection. “Victory and defeat aren’t new to BJP. Party workers need not be panicked by these results. We will introspect about the party’s setback. I respectfully accept this verdict,” he said.

Basavraj Bommai, the chief minister, conceded defeat as trends indicated a significant Congress upsurge.

He predicted that the BJP would win the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. However, Bommai defeated his rivals for the Shiggaon constituency by a margin of 35,978 votes, although many of his party colleagues lost. “…I take responsibility for this debacle. There are multiple reasons for this. We will find out all the reasons and strengthen the party once again for Parliament elections..,” Bommai stated.

The party will make the rectifications that are needed, according to Bommai. “We accept the verdict of the people of Karnataka with due respect. We will take this verdict in our stride. We will analyze and correct our fault lines and rebuild the party and come back during parliamentary elections,” he added.

At 8 am, the vote-counting process started under heavy security. The 224 assembly seats were up for election on May 10, and the state reported a voting rate of 72.68.

The performance of Congress exceeded most pollsters’ expectations. While numerous exit polls predicted that Congress would win, nearly none of them were able to forecast with any degree of accuracy the size of the party’s triumph.