One of the incidents that keeps haunting the electoral politics of Karnataka is the unceremonious dismissal of the Veerendra Patil government in 1990 by then Congress president Rajiv Gandhi. The fallout of this development in the Congress-governed State was enormous.
Patil was credited with mobilising the Lingayats back to the Congress and was instrumental in its biggest ever victory in 1989 (179 of the 224 seats). It was after full 18 years that a Lingayat had become the Chief Minister of the State.
Thus, the dismissal of the Patil government through a letter sent by the party chief from an airport, observers say, alienated the Lingayat community from the Congress.
Most humbling debacle
This resulted in its most humiliating defeat for the party in the 1994 elections. Its seat tally collapsed from 179 to just 36 and it faced a 17% loss of vote share, which was shared predominantly by the BJP and the Janata Dal. BJP’s vote share increased from 4% to 16.995% and Janata Dal’s 27.08% to 33.54%.
Even though the Janata Dal, which eventually formed the government with the new found support of Lingayats in 1994, was the immediate beneficiary of this development, the BJP in the subsequent years penetrated deep into social base of the community.