The decimation of the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) in the Karnataka bypolls has dealt another heavy blow on the already faction-hit Opposition that could only get worse in the days to come, analysts said.
The Opposition has suffered three back-to-back defeats since 2018 and the bypoll results are only likely to add to its problems and push leaders to pursue individual interests over those of the party.
On Monday, Siddaramaiah and Dinesh Gundu Rao of the Congress tendered their resignations from their posts of leader of Opposition and state party president respectively. However, it does little to mitigate the sense of loss in the bypolls in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 12 out of the total 15 seats.
“We were expecting that people will not entertain defectors but they have ratified Operation Kamala," Rao said. The party is looking forward to contesting the several elections, including gram panchayat and BBMP polls, coming up in the three-and-a-half years that remain till the next assembly elections, he said.
The JD(S), which did not win even one seat in the bypolls, did not even attempt to make its position clear on the verdict, which threatens its very survival under the waning influence of H.D. Deve Gowda and his son, H.D. Kumaraswamy. This is only likely to help chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa have a smoother term in office after the bypoll results than before, as the elections clearly gave a mandate in favour of stabilizing the four-month-old BJP government over the 14 months under the Kumaraswamy-led coalition, which was fraught with infighting and collapsed.
“The parochial thinking and family attachment have ruined them," said Harish Ramaswamy, political analyst and faculty at Karnatak University, Dharwad.
The Congress was also out of touch with the sentiments of the people and their attraction to Hindutva, he said.
The JD(S) could now lose the dominant Vokkaliga vote to the BJP, which registered its first ever victory in Krishnarajapete (K.R. Pete) of Mandya district. Voters in Mandya had backed independent Sumalatha Amarnath (Sumalatha Ambareesh) in the Lok Sabha elections over Kumaraswamy’s son, Nikhil. In K.R. Pete, the JD(S) unsuccessfully tried to bring down Narayan Gowda who defected to the BJP and attributed his exit to being tormented by Deve Gowda’s daughters.
The victory in Mahalakshmi Layout in Bengaluru also went against the JD(S) first family as Deve Gowda had tried to mobilize the Vokkaliga vote against K. Gopalaiah, though it had fielded a Lingayat.
Ramaswamy said the BJP’s positioning of deputy chief minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan as the new Vokkaliga leader is working against the JD(S). “The Vokkaliga may find it more beneficial to align with the ruling party now," Ramaswamy said, indicating that the JD(S) may be inclined to support the BJP as it considers the Congress a bigger threat to its survival.
“The Congress has to rethink and develop a fresh narrative and that is not happening," said Narendar Pani, political analyst and faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies.
Both Pani and Ramaswamy said that the Congress has to depend on Siddaramaiah as there are few others who can replace him, especially when it stares at more uncertainty after the bypoll defeat. After losing Mysuru to the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, Siddaramaiah regained some ground in his home district by defeating his friend-turned-rival A.H. Vishwanath of the BJP in Hunasuru. However, personal interest over that of the party has been the problem this time.