Bangalore: Congress on Wednesday stormed back to power in Karnataka in a spectacular fashion after seven years in its old southern bastion decimating the ruling BJP whose fate was sealed by a fractious split and corruption charges.
In good tidings for a party battered by a series of scams at the national stage, Congress put up an impressive show in the elections bagging 121 seats, eight more than the half-way mark in a House of 224, obviating the need for crutches and belying predictions. Polls were held for 223 seats with one countermanded after a BJP candidate died.
BJP, which was wrecked by a split forced by former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa on top of a series of corruption cases, tied for the second place with JD(S) with both securing 40 seats each.
The Congress victory immediately triggered a Chief Ministerial race into which OBC leader Siddaramaiah and Dalit leader and Central Minister Mallikarjun Kharge threw their hat. Other leaders like M Veerappa Moily, a former Chief Minister, cannot also be ruled out, analysts say.
The shock defeat of KPCC chief G Parameshwara virtually eliminated him from the race for Chief Ministership.
The Yeddyurappa-led Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP), which spoiled BJP's party, could not do much for itself as it bagged only six seats.
The BSR-Congress, led by former BJP Minister Sriramulu, considered close to the Bellary brothers, also chipped away BJP votes and ended up with four seats.
The rout of BJP, whose rule saw ugly infights, three Chief Ministers and several ministers tainted by corruption charges, was complete as it was clobbered by the electorate who pushed it to a pathetic position of sharing the second place with JDS of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda. Both BJP and JDS secured 40 seats each.
A three-way split in its voter base put paid to BJP's hopes of securing a renewed mandate, bringing down its only citadel in the South.
Yeddyurappa's twin agenda of decimating BJP and emerging a kingmaker remained half-complete as he succeeded in one but failed to make an impressive debut through his nascent outfit securing only six seats out of 216 it contested.
Several heavyweights, including Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar (Hubli-Dharwad Central), Yeddyurappa (Shikharipura), Siddaramaiah (Varuna) and H D Kumaraswamy (Ramnagaram) , won from their constituencies but Parameshwara (Koratagere) lost heavily.
Kumaraswamy's wife Anita and Yeddyurappa's confidant Shobha Karandlaje suffered defeats from Channapatna and Rajaji Nagar respectively.
Twelve ministers of the Shettar Cabinet, including Deputy Chief Minister K S Eshwarappa, fell by the wayside, rubbing salt into the wounds of the vanquished BJP.
Polling was held in 223 segments, with the one in Periyapatna in Mysore district put off to May 28 following death of BJP candidate.
BJP's performance in its own strongholds was pathetic, reflected in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi where its defeat was near complete as also in Yeddyurappa's home district of Shimoga and Bellary.
Eshwarappa's loss in Shimoga is all the more significant as he was a former state unit President of the party and also held the key portfolios of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj and Revenue. He was in the "hit-list" of Yeddyurappa, who now had the "sweet revenge".
In the 2008 polls, the BJP had secured 110 seats, Congress 80, JDS 28 and Independents six. Falling short of numbers, the BJP had formed government with the support of independents and wooed Opposition MLAs who were made to resign and recontest on the BJP ticket that gave it stability of numbers.
Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, who won a fifth term from Hubli-Dharwad central, said he accepted the people's verdict and submitted resignation to Governor H R Bhardwaj who asked him to continue till alternate arrangements are made.
Making no bones about his ambition, Siddaramaiah declared himself as a "strong contender" for the Chief Minister's post.


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