Taking the steam out of the Bharatiya Janata Party in its bastion — Coastal Karnataka — on Wednesday, the Congress jolted the saffron party off its militant Hindutva agenda in the region.
BJP veterans N. Yogish Bhat, Deputy Speaker in the Legislative Assembly, and J. Krishna Palemar, former Minister, bit the dust while the BJP candidate was humbled in Puttur, the home ground of the former Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who was recently elevated to the post of party national vice-president. In Uttara Kannada, BJP Minister Anand Asnotikar was defeated by a huge margin.
Though the Congress did not make Hindutva a poll issue, anger over moral policing and the Hindutva agenda was clearly in the minds of voters, mostly the minorities, making matters worse for the lotus party. In 1989, Congress had won 19 of the 21 seats in the three districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, and Uttara Kannada. Its base steadily eroded thereafter. In the 2008 elections, it could win only six of the 19 seats.
The Hindutva agenda was more pronounced in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi than in Uttara Kannada, and it is in these two districts that the BJP legislators were exposed for their utter disregard for the Hindu culture the party professes to protect. The former Minister J. Krishna Palemar had to resign over the porn-watching incidents in the Assembly, while Udupi legislator Raghupathi Bhat came under fire for a rave party.
The BJP lost almost 2 percentage points of its share of polled votes in these elections compared to 2008 in Dakshina Kannada. But the real shocker was the depletion of vote share by over 16 percentage points in Udupi district.
The Congress vote share went up by 5.5 percentage points in Dakshina Kannada and over 3 percentage points in Udupi in this period.
In the three districts put together, the BJP’s loss accounts for seven seats and erosion of vote share by about 6.5 percentage points.