The outcome of the byelections in Karnataka has brought cheer to the BJP camp at a time when the party was losing the national narrative following a setback in Maharashtra. The stunning performance — winning 12 of the 15 seats where the bypolls were held — will now provide a clear majority to the BS Yediyurappa government in a State that had witnessed prolonged political instability leading to the collapse of the Congress-JD (S) coalition. It is clearly a personal victory for the Lingayat strongman since none of the national BJP leaders had campaigned for the bypolls. The unambiguous mandate reflected people’s hope for a stable government for the remaining three-and-a-half-year term. However, the results also raise the question whether defection is not an issue with the voters. All the BJP’s winning candidates had crossed over to the saffron party from the Congress and the JD(S) at the height of the political drama. Since the bypolls held key to the stability of the government, the people have voted in favour of the ruling party. By wresting the opposition stronghold seats, the BJP has dealt a deadly blow to the Congress and the JD(S). Since he took over the reins of the State in July following defections from the rival camps, Yediyurappa has been running the government on a wafer-thin majority. The BJP needed to win six of the 15 seats. After the disqualification of the MLAs by the Supreme Court for joining the BJP, the strength of the house was reduced to 208. The halfway mark too was revised to 105, the number which the BJP had.
However, with this bypoll victory, the party’s tally in the 224-member Assembly has gone up from 106 to 118, making it comfortable for Yediyurappa to lead a stable government for the remaining term. The outcome also gives leeway to him to deal confidently with his own party high command. The JD(S) finished third in all the 12 constituencies it contested in a clear embarrassment for a party that ruled the State for 13 months after the 2018 Assembly elections, until 17 MLAs defected and brought down the government. The Congress remained a divided house and its candidates were left on their own. The party lost 10 seats to the BJP which shows that it has a lot to reflect on. The drubbing has prompted a string of resignations with both Siddaramaiah and Dinesh Gundu Rao quitting the CLP leader and KPCC chief posts respectively. The highlight of this election was the BJP’s victory in Krishnarajapete, a rural seat in the JD(S) stronghold old Mysuru region. It was one of the few seats — a Vokkaliga bastion — that the saffron party had never won in Karnataka.