The Karnataka Assembly election results of 2023 witnessed a remarkable comeback for the Indian National Congress (INC) in the state. The party secured a significant victory by winning 136 seats and garnering a 43% vote share. This outcome has sparked anticipation regarding the appointment of the Chief Minister, with the spotlight on former CM Siddaramaiah and state Congress chief D K Shivakumar.
In a meeting of the party’s newly elected legislators, two resolutions were passed. The first resolution expressed gratitude to all party leaders and workers for their commendable efforts in safeguarding Karnataka and democracy. The second resolution authorized the All India Congress Committee (AICC) president to appoint the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader. D K Shivakumar proposed the first resolution, while Siddaramaiah proposed the second.
The CLP meeting is expected to determine the leader of the legislature party, who will subsequently assume the role of the Chief Minister. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge hinted that the new government in Karnataka could have a shared tenure, accommodating both Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar. Kharge emphasized that the people of Karnataka have expressed their desire for a shift from relying on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, placing their trust in the leaders of Karnataka. He further stated that the responsibility to govern lies with both Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar.
The Karnataka Assembly elections held on 10th May 2023 witnessed a historic voter turnout of 73.19%, the highest ever recorded in the state’s electoral history. The results, declared on 13th May 2023, showcased a landslide victory for the Indian National Congress (INC), securing 135 seats. This victory marked the Congress’ biggest win in terms of seats and vote share in Karnataka since the 1989 elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (Secular) conceded defeat, finishing second and third, respectively.
The Congress’ impressive performance can be attributed to its strongholds in rural and semi-rural constituencies, where it secured 89 out of 143 seats. The party’s overall vote share in these areas surpassed that of the BJP. Rahul Gandhi, a prominent leader of the Congress, announced that the party’s five poll guarantees, promised in its manifesto, would be fulfilled soon.
While the BJP maintained its hold over coastal Karnataka, the Congress made significant gains in the North, Central, and South regions, even breaching the Lingayat stronghold traditionally associated with the BJP. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, however, emerged victorious in his home turf of Shiggaon. Several other sitting MLAs and Ministers from the BJP Cabinet, including Housing Minister V. Somanna, Transport Minister B. Sriramulu, and Education Minister B.C. Nagesh, faced defeat against Congress candidates.
The election also witnessed the success of veteran Congress leaders such as former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, KPCC president D. K. Shivakumar, and former KPCC president G. Parameshwara. High-profile turncoats Jagadish Shettar and Laxman Savadi, who switched from the BJP to the Congress after being denied tickets, experienced different outcomes, with Shettar suffering a defeat and Savadi re-establishing control over his bastion.
Notable victories include Bhagirathi Murulya from the BJP, becoming the first Dalit woman from coastal Karnataka to enter the Legislative Assembly, and mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy, who won from Gangavati in Koppal district after forming his own party. Additionally, a unique occurrence was the father-son duo winning from different constituencies, with A. Manju of the JD(S) winning from Arakalgud and his and his son Dr. Mantar Gowda winning from Madikeri.
Overall, the Karnataka elections of 2023 have reshaped the political landscape of the state, with the Congress emerging as the dominant force. The results carry significant implications for the governance and policy direction of Karnataka, impacting the lives of its citizens in the years to come.
In a decisive verdict such as the one in Karnataka, there is a risk of over-reading both the defeat and the victory. There is a danger, too, amid the headline changes, of missing the important fine print.
There will be chatter in the coming days about why the Congress won, and many are already pointing to a large-scale shift of the “Lingayat vote” from the BJP. In the run-up to the election, this was seen to be spurred by the sidelining of BS Yediyurappa and the crossover in North Karnataka of heavyweight Lingayat leaders to the Congress from the BJP, like Jagadish Shettar, a six-term MLA, and former Chief Minister.
However, it is important to note that the election results have complicated this narrative. Jagadish Shettar himself has punctured, or at least complicated, this narrative by losing by a considerable margin in Hubli-Dharwad to the BJP candidate, party state general secretary Mahesh Tenginkai. Both Shettar and Tenginkai share the same caste and sub-caste, as they are Banajiga Lingayats, and Tenginkai is known in these parts as Shettar’s disciple or “shishya.”
It is crucial to analyze the factors that contributed to the Congress’ victory holistically rather than relying solely on a single caste-based narrative. The Congress’ success in securing strongholds in rural and semi-rural areas and its ability to deliver on its promises outlined in the manifesto played a significant role in its triumph. The party’s strategy to broaden its support base beyond traditional strongholds and appeal to a diverse range of voters seems to have paid off.
As the Congress prepares to assume power in Karnataka, it faces the challenge of fulfilling the expectations of the electorate. The party must focus on effective governance, inclusive policies, and sustainable development to consolidate its position and ensure the welfare of the state and its citizens. The Karnataka elections have demonstrated the need for the Congress to build on its hard-won victory and continue working towards the betterment of the state.
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