In a big boost for the BS Yediyurappa government in Karnataka, BJP has won 12 of the 15 seats that went for assembly bypolls last week. This means that BJP now has a solid majority in the state with 117 out of 223 assembly seats. It will be recalled that the 2018 Karnataka assembly polls had seen BJP emerge as the single largest party. But it was Congress and JD(S) that came together in a surprise post-poll alliance to steal BJP’s thunder and JD(S)’s HD Kumaraswamy became chief minister. However, given that Congress and JD(S) are essentially competing for the same vote bank in the Old Mysore region of the state, the tie-up was a shaky one.
This was exemplified in subsequent months when the Kumaraswamy government saw quite a bit of internal sniping over portfolios and policy. The turmoil allowed BJP to wean away 17 MLAs, leading to the collapse of the Kumaraswamy government in July. But since the rebels were disqualified, BJP still needed to win at least six out of the 15 bypoll seats. It cleared that threshold with quite a margin.
What’s even more significant is that in 2018 Congress had won 12 and JD(S) three out of the 15 seats that went for bypolls. BJP, therefore, has made remarkable gains by flipping a dozen seats this time. This clearly shows that the people voted for a stable government as BJP was most likely to provide this with their existing numbers. The results also mean that JD(S) now has to ponder its future as its regional outfit image has diminishing mileage. And Congress has to seriously think about reorganising its Karnataka unit. BJP will be happy that it has been able to make up for the loss of face in Maharashtra. But with its Karnataka majority, it must now focus on governance and delivery.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.