The BJP roller coaster ride in Karnataka politics has taken one more nosedive in the current elections. The state has been returning the same BJP MPs since 2009 mostly, indicating that the party has overdone the selection and overdepended on the sitting MPs. Recurring MPs had turned complacent and rested their laurels excessively on Modi and soft-pedalled their role as MPs. This has resulted in a high anti-incumbency.

Out of 27 MPs from the 2014 batch, at least 12 — Dakshina Kannada, Udupi-Chikkamagaluru, Uttara Kannada, Haveri, Belagavi, Kalburgi, Bidar, Raichur, Davanagere, Ballari, Mysuru and Chamarajanagar — were retained. Eight were changed including in BJP bastions like central Karnataka, Coast and Kittur Karnataka regions. All the 12 MPs lost, helping Congress take its tally from one to nine.

The BJP has, however, swept the Bengaluru metropolitan areas. Three constituencies, including South, North, and Central, and the adjoining Bengaluru rural have been won by the BJP. Bengaluru-based researchers point out that despite the overall polling percentage remaining 63%, the BJP has gained these seats. Low voting traditionally meant the majority community voted less and minorities voted tactically. But that argument does not seem to hold anymore. It appears many Muslims have voted for the BJP.

The Lingayat votes were stated to be the deciding factor in Karnataka politics. “But that works only during the elections for the state assembly, where caste equations come to the fore above national interests. History has shown that leaders from Kalyana Karnataka or Kittur Karnataka rarely got to become chief ministers. Exceptions are Veerendra Patil and Dharam Singh. Mallikarjun Kharge despite being the Congress leader for over 40 years was not able to get that post.

BJP has been kind to Kalyana Karnataka, however. Basavaraj Bommai and Jagadish Shettar have occupied the chief minister post. Shivamogga, Dakshina Kannada and old Mysuru region has provided many regions who have scaled the heights in state politics. “Veerappa Moily, Sadananda Gowda, Sarekoppa Bangarappa, BS Yeddyurappa SM Krishna, Siddaramiah, Deve Gowda, Kumaraswamy are some names that comes to the mind” said S. Jayaram a Bengaluru based psephologist and senior journalist.

Just weeks before the elections the BJP tied up with Janata Dal (Secular) in the state and included in its list Dr Manjunath, the well known cardiologist who is the son-in-law of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda. Manjunath contested on the BJP ticket and won from Bengaluru rural defeating DK Suresh of Congress (younger brother of DK Shivakumar) with a convincing margin. HD Kumaraswamy, former chief minister and son of Deve Gowda, won from Mandya, which is a Vokkaliga-dominated constituency. These two seats otherwise would have been won by the Congress. rajwal Revanna factor:

Prajwal Revanna is the son of Deve Gowda’s second son HD Revanna MLA from Holeynarasipura. Prajwal was the MP from Hassan in 2019-24 and due to the demands from the Deve Gowda’s family BJP allowed Prajwal Revanna to re-contest from Hassan. Right from day one, Prajwal’s dubious and amorous ways was a campaign theme of the Congress. This was a reason why the JDS-BJP alliance lost Hassan seat to Congress in 2024.

The BJP continues to hold its ground in its traditional strongholds of Karnataka – the Coast and Malnad regions. The recent elections saw BJP candidates Capt. Brijesh Chowta, Kota Srinivas Poojary, BY Raghavendra, and Vishveshwar Hegade Kageri emerge victorious from Dakshina Kannada, Udupi-Chikkamagaluru, Shivamogga, and Uttara Kannada Lok Sabha Constituencies, respectively, by impressive margins.

Vishveshwar Hegade Kageri of Uttara Kannada secured the largest victory margin among the newly elected Members of Parliament, defeating Congress Party’s Anjali Nimbalkar by a staggering 337448 votes. This victory marks Kageri’s debut in the Lok Sabha after serving three terms as an MLA. Former state BJP Chief Nalin Kumar Kateel attributes this success to the party discipline prevalent in Uttara Kannada and the broader Coast and Malnad regions, which have consistently received support from BJP cadres, the RSS, and other BJP wings.

Both Chowta and Poojary secured victories by substantial margins. Poojary’s victory margin of 2,59,517 votes is the second-highest in the state, followed by Capt. Chowta’s margin of 1,40,208 votes. These victories have defied the caste equations that the Congress party had attempted to leverage in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi-Chikkamagaluru.

Regional psephologists note that major communities like Billava, Bunts, Mogaveeras, OBCs, and Micro OBCs have moved beyond traditional voting patterns, supporting BJP and Congress candidates without any preconditions. A senior BJP leader who strategised the BJP campaign in the coastal region echoes this sentiment, stating that the state-wide voting pattern reflects this narrative.

Senior RSS leader Pratapsimha Nayak, who had gauged the mood of the voters in the coastal and Malnad areas, concluded even before the elections that voters in these regions are discerning and vote with the country’s interests in mind.

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