Despite a poor show, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah chose not to resign stating that the verdict was a not a referendum on his government. Mahesh Kulkarni reports from Bangalore
Though the ruling Congress has improved its tally to 9 seats in the just concluded General Elections to the Lok Sabha in Karnataka, the image of chief minister Siddaramaiah is dented as he has failed to ensure victory for a majority of Congress candidates in the state including in his home turf, Mysore.
While the party, which was hoping to win close to 20 seats, is utterly disappointed at the results, the only consolation for Siddaramaiah is that he has managed to increase the tally to 9 seats from 6 seats in 2009. While accepting that his party could not perform better, even after being in power and doling out a series of populist schemes worth Rs 8,000 crore to the poor, he said the results were not a referendum on his government.
The most worrying factor for the party, according to insiders, is that it could not win many more seats despite being in power. In 2009, it was not in power, while in 2004, it had just completed a five-year term with S M Krishna as chief minister.
The previous occasion the Congress party fared well in the Lok Sabha elections was in 1999, when it had won 18 seats. Since then, it has failed to put up a double-digit performance. It won 8 in 2004, 6 in 2009 and 9 in 2014.
When he took charge as chief minister, it was told to him to ensure at least 20 candidates win in the Lok Sabha elections. Ever since, Siddaramaiah took charge as the chief minister on May 13, 2013, he and his party had started the preparations for Lok Sabha elections by announcing a slew of populist measures.
This included a rice scheme at Rs 1 per kg with a monthly quota of 30 kg for below poverty line families. The chief minister had also announced Ksheera Bhagya and loan waiver to the weaker sections, all amounting to Rs 8,000 crore.
Despite offering these schemes, the party could not win double-digit number in the Lok Sabha elections in Karnataka.
What is more worrying factor for Siddaramaiah is that he could not ensure victory for his own candidates like C Narayana Swamy in Bangalore North, who lost to D V Sadananda Gowda of the BJP; A H Vishwanath in Mysore, who lost to a political novice Pratap Simha of BJP and Vinay Kulkarni in Dharwad, who lost to state BJP President Pralhad Joshi. Even in Koppal, his candidate Basavaraj Hitnal lost to Karadi Sanganna of BJP.
Siddaramaiah perhaps can draw some consolation in the victory of R Dhruvanarayan, sitting Congress MP from Chamarajanagar. Dhruvanarayan retained his seat with a commanding margin of 141,182 votes. Chamarajanagar is adjoining Mysore district, where Siddaramaiah comes from. Also, all the three outgoing ministers – M Mallikarjun Kharge (Gulbarga), M Veerappa Moily (Chikballapur) and K H Muniyappa (Kolar) have retained their seats.
The biggest embarrassment for Congress and Siddaramaiah is the defeat of Nandan Nilekani, former chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India. The party, which lost its hold over Bangalore South in 1991 elections, has not been able to wrest back the control of this seat. The most keenly watched and fiercely fought battle in Bangalore South was lost once again to the BJP, where the sitting member H N Ananth Kumar won with a massive margin of 228,575 votes.
The chief minister had conducted over 100 public rallies across the state in the run up to the elections. He even attracted the ire of the Election Commission for his personal remarks against Narendra Modi. The Commission had pulled him for his remarks.
However, despite a poor show, Siddaramaiah chose not to resign from his post unlike other Congress chief ministers. Stating that it was a not a referendum on his government, he said there was no need for him to resign.
G Parameshwara, president of state unit of Congress said, “We will accept the verdict. The results have not been up to our expectations though the state government has done well. The party’s poor performance was the responsibility of all leaders in the state.”