Karnataka: Congress betters 2019 score by far; but why not better still?

While the INC ate into the saffron share, low voter turnout seems to have let it down. As for the BJP, it has more—but less than before

INC's Shreyas M. Patel gets his certificate to displace JD(S) MP Prajwal Revanna (photo: @udayakumarbr/X)
INC's Shreyas M. Patel gets his certificate to displace JD(S) MP Prajwal Revanna (photo: @udayakumarbr/X)

Naheed Ataulla

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (Secular) alliance in Karnataka have together won 19 of the total 28 Lok Sabha seats, while the ruling Congress has bagged 9.

Though the results brought cheer to the BJP–JD(S) partners, winning the highest number of seats, they could not reach the target they set themselves either: repeating their 2019 performance of securing 25.

Former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, who won the Mandya Lok Sabha seat with a huge margin of 2.84 lakh votes, told the media on 4 June, Tuesday, that if not for the over-confidence of some leaders in the alliance, it would have won 20 to 22 seats.

The Hassan Lok Sabha seat, whose outcome was eagerly awaited, went in favour of the Congress. Party candidate Shreyas Patel Gowda wrested it away from the JD(S) and its now suspended MP Prajwal Revanna, who faces charges of sexual abuse of women and additional charges for videographing the acts on his mobile phone.

Hassan was an impregnable fortress for former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda for five decades. In 2019, he fielded Revanna, his grandson, who he was planning to groom into his political heir.

The sole consolation for the Congress party, which had also set itself a target of winning 20 seats, was improving its performance from the 2019 general elections. At the time, it won just one Lok Sabha seat, Bengaluru Rural.

That lone Congress seat was won by deputy chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar's brother D.K. Suresh, who won it in both the 2014 and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress lost the seat this time to noted cardiologist Dr C.N. Manjunath, son-in-law of Deve Gowda, who made his debut into electoral politics on a BJP ticket and has thus become a giant killer. 

The 17:9:2 tally of the political parties is a repeat of the performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Since 2004, the Congress party in Karnataka, which used to send the highest number of MPs to New Delhi earlier, has been unsuccessful in improving its performance and struggled to attain double digits. In 2004, the Congress won eight seats, in 2009 it got six, in 2014 it made it to 9 and in 2019 dwindled to just that 1, with the BJP bagging the majority and the JD(S) figure hovering between 3 and 2 each time.

The nine  seats won by the Congress this time are:

Kalaburagi, contested by AICC president Mallikarjun M. Kharge's son-in-law Radhakrishna Doddamani

Chikkodi, won by Priyanka Jarkiholi, daughter of minister Satish L Jarkiholi

Chamarajanagar, won by Sunil Bose, son of minister H.C. Mahadevappa

Raichur, which elected G. Kumar Naik, a retired bureaucrat

Koppal, which goes to K. Rajashekar Basavaraj Hitnal

Bidar, which will send Sagar Khandre, son of minister Eshwar Khandre, to Parliament

Ballari, won by E. Tukaram, the sitting MLA who will need to be replaced

Davanagere, going to Prabha Mallikarjun, wife of minister S. Mallikarjun

and Hassan, which chose Shreyas Patel Gowda over Revanna and his shenanigans despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's entreaties on his behalf.

Speaking to the media after the results, chief minister Siddaramaiah admitted that the Congress in Karnataka could not meet its estimation of 15–20 seats. 

But, as he underscored, the Congress had improved its vote share from 31.88 per cent in 2019 to 45.34 per cent this time, as against the BJP, which is seeing its share dropped from  51.38 per cent to 46.04 per cent now.

Siddaramaiah also attributed the overall low polling as one of the reasons that the Congress did not get the numbers it hoped for.

The chief minister also noted that while it is not the resounding victory the INDIA bloc may have hoped for: 'Rahul Gandhi’s two yatras across the country have borne fruit. The Indian public has overwhelmingly endorsed both Congress and Rahul Gandhi.'

Indeed, at the end of the day, like D.K. Shivakumar, many a Congress leader, cadre and supporter is drawing faith and solace from the party having crossed 100 in the national arena after a decade.

'In the country, instead of power politics, trust politics has won; emotional politics has lost, people's lives have won,' said Shivakumar in another post.

It's an about-turn that is creditable, certainly—that cannot be denied.

The battle wasn't won, but the war is far from over—and despite the setback in the state, morale is higher than many would have believed a few weeks ago.

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