The much-awaited results for 25 seats from the 20 Local Authorities' constituencies to the Karnataka Legislative Council were marked by uncertainty across political parties: overconfidence by the ruling BJP party has led to upsets, a good showing by the Congress party was marred by the wrong choice of candidates in some districts, and the JD(S) was drubbed in Vokkaliga-dominated districts.
Of the total 25 seats, the BJP and Congress won 11 each, while the JD(S) secured two. One went to an independent candidate. However, neither the BJP nor the Congress can take comfort in the victory tally as each has their own setbacks. The BJP lost in constituencies where it had previously been thought to be strong, while the Congress selection of candidates in Bengaluru Urban, Kodagu and Ballari dented its performance. But the biggest blow was to the JD(S), which suffered from changing its political tactics over a span of two months.
The BJP, Congress and JD(S) are now gearing up for elections in 60 urban local bodies on December 27, which have remained without elected representatives since 2018.
So where did the parties slip? For the BJP, which in November faced an embarrassing loss in the Hanagal Assembly by-poll in Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai's home district Haveri, the party's candidate K Pradeep Shettar — brother of former minister K Jagdish Shettar — won from the twin seat constituencies of Dharwad-Gadag-Haveri in the second round of preferential votes counting. Congress candidate and KPCC Working President Saleem Ahmed sailed through in the counting of first preference votes.
In Belagavi, with 13 party MLAs and two MPs, the BJP could not retain outgoing MLC and Council Chief Whip Mahantesh Kavatagimath's seat. In a double constituency seat, the Congress walked away with one seat in the first round of counting. Former minister Ramesh L Jarkiholi, upset with the party for denying a ticket to his brother Lakhan L Jarkiholi, fielded him as an independent candidate. In the counting of second preference votes, Lakhan won. The latter was the only person among the Jarkiholi brothers who had not stepped into politics and with this victory, the four Jarkiholis — Ramesh, Balachandra, Satish and Lakhan — are in electoral politics.
After making forays into the old Mysuru region in earlier Assembly polls, the BJP had pinned hopes on the Mysuru-Chamarajanagar dual seat. Here too, the party’s candidate R Raghu Kautilya could not make it, either in the first or second preference votes. While the Congress candidate D Thimmaiah bagged the first preference, in the second round of counting, the JD(S) nominee C N Manje Gowda emerged victorious.
Speaking to the media in Belagavi, Bommai said the party had expected to win 13-14 seats. “We will discuss the results with our senior leaders. Last time we won six seats and have gained five more this time. Our strength in the gram panchayats has improved,'' he maintained, adding that Ramesh Jarkiholi fielding his brother against the party's official candidate would be discussed.
While the Congress can celebrate its winning tally matching that of the BJP, its biggest loss was the Ballari seat. Outgoing MLC K C Kondaiah failed to retain the seat, for which he had been renominated despite opposition from the district's local party leaders. According to a senior Congress leader, “there was no unanimity on an alternate candidate.'' A confidante of Rajya Sabha opposition leader Mallikarjun M Kharge, he bagged the ticket on the loyalty count. Kondaiah had made way for Congress President Sonia Gandhi to contest from the Ballari Lok Sabha seat in 1999, which he had been representing.
The Congress won the Vijayapura-Bagalkot seat, with former minister MB Patil's brother Sunil Gouda Patil bagging it. The party had been given the ticket in Vijayapura district for the first time in 24 years as it was being represented by council opposition leader S R Patil from Bagalkot for four terms. He was not renominated and will be retiring on January 5.
According to Congress sources, the selection of candidates in these polls was based purely on the recommendations made by the district units. The biggest surprise for the party was winning the Mandya seat by MG Gooli Gowda, former media coordinator in the party, and former special officer to Corporation Minister S T Somashekar. There was opposition to tickets being given to former minister and BJP man A Manju's son, Mantar Gowda in Kodagu, and to money bag Yousuf Shariff in Bengaluru urban. The BJP divested Manju of party’s responsibilities after the ticket was given to his son. The Congress lost both seats. KPCC President DK Shivakumar admitted he was not quite happy with the results and was expecting to win 13 to 14 seats.
Though the JD(S) won two seats — Hassan and Mysuru-Chamarajanagar — the victory of Suraj Revanna from Hassan was expected, while the other was due to differences among the local leaders. Suraj Revanna became the eighth member of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda's family to enter electoral politics. Former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah can claim credit for the dual seats in Mysuru-Chamarajanagar as the Congress won one and the JD(S) nominee winning the other is also his supporter who had walked out of the party.
The JD(S) had contested only six seats in the old Mysuru region dominated by the Vokkaligas. The defeat in Mandya was not the only shock for former CM H D Kumaraswamy but also the one in Tumakuru. Former PM Deve Gowda had aggressively campaigned in Tumakuru and announced he would contest the 2024 Lok Sabha election from there, which he had lost in 2019. The Gowda family's decision to ally with the BJP at the local level seemed to have backfired. Conceding defeat, Kumaraswamy tweeted that he was hurt and the JD(S) lost the race due to money and muscle power of national parties.
According to political observers, the results are an indicator that the Congress, irrespective of its reverse across the country, is in for a long haul in Karnataka, particularly during the 2023 and 2024 elections when the BJP will have to reckon with them.