The Karnataka Lok Sabha results have come as a setback to the Congress as it failed to realise its targeted figure of winning 20 out of the 28 parliamentary seats in the state. Much to its disappointment, the party had to contend itself with nine seats. However, this is a vast improvement over its 2019 performance when it won in just one constituency.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-Janata Dal-Secular alliance, under the umbrella of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), won 19 seats. The JD-S won two of the three seats it contested in the Vokkaliga belt.

While it won Mandya and Kolar with ease, sex scandal accused Prajwal Revanna, its candidate from Hassan, had to bite the dust. The defeat did not come as a surprise as Prajwal, grandson of former Prime Minister Deve Gowda has been in the news for his alleged involvement in sex crimes.

The BJP on its part, would be happy with the combined results. The saffron party had, on its own, won 25 seats in the last Parliamentary polls, with the JD-S and Congress accounting for one each, and the remaining one going to Independent candidate Sumalatha.

The NDA was banking on the ‘Modi brand’ coupled with the clout that the Gowda family wields in the Vokkaliga heartland to defeat the Congress. What worried the alliance though, were the five guarantees that the Congress government under Siddaramaiah had implemented, after its win in last year’s Assembly polls.

Judging by the response that the guarantees had evoked, as they were largely targeted at women, the Congress was confident of bagging 20 Lok Sabha seats. The ruling party was also encouraged by the huge response that its freebies, including free bus rides for women, had received. The popularity of this scheme can be gauged from the fact that over 200 crore rides were enjoyed by the women since its inception.

In addition, the payment of a monthly allowance to each woman head of a family, had enthused the beneficiaries no end. The freebies benefited over four crore families. Accordingly, the party’s failure to ride on the success of its guarantees in this election, has come as a rude shock to it.

Not surprisingly, its senior leaders like Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister D. K. Shivakumar, are still too dazed with what they feel is a comparatively poor performance. For Shivakumar, whose clout had grown substantially in the party, the results also come as a killjoy, considering his growing ambition to wear the Chief Minister’s crown.

The results have further crushed his ambitions of being the ‘uncrowned king of the Vokkaliga community’ to which he belongs. The Vokkaligas, along with the Lingayats, dominate the state’s politics.

To start with, it is the result of the Bengaluru Rural seat from where his brother, D. Suresh was contesting, which unsettled Shivakumar. Suresh, who was looking to win the seat for the fourth time, was defeated by debutant politician Dr C. Manjunath. The doctor who was contesting on a BJP ticket, is Deve Gowda’s son-in-law.

Suresh and Shivakumar together wielded a huge influence in the constituency and sought to wrest the Gowda family’s control over the Vokkaligas. Dr Manjunath’s victory, along with that of former CM H. D. Kumaraswamy, from Mandya, and of Mallesh Babu in Kolar, in the Vokkaliga heartland have given the brothers a harsh reality check.

More so, as Kolar was a Congress stronghold till the BJP wrested it from the ruling party in 2019. The NDA has retained the seat this time as well. Suresh and Shivakumar got a further jolt following the huge support that Kumaraswamy, Dr Manjunath and Babu received in their constituencies.

Kumaraswamy beat his Congress rival V. Gowda, polling 8.5 lakh votes, Mallesh Babu received 51 per cent of the ballots. Dr Manjunath, won by a staggering 2.69 lakh votes. Shivakumar is still finding it difficult to come to terms with this loss, considering the scale of the Congress defeat in the segment, which was seen as the brothers’ fiefdom.

What is rankling the party further is the defeat of its candidate in the Mysuru–Kodagu Lok Sabha seat. It is Siddaramaiah’s home turf and he had campaigned here extensively. Not surprisingly, both Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar have lost their sheen after these Lok Sabha results. The Congress had stormed to power in the Assembly polls of 2023 and was, predictably, bullish about exceeding all expectations.

While their shock and dismay at the results is understandable, the fact remains that since 2004, the party has never touched the double digit mark. While it bagged a solitary seat in 2019, in 2014 it had to be satisfied with nine seats, after getting six in 2009. In 2004, it managed to get just eight seats.

The BJP, however, is celebrating now, as it was a tall order to bounce back after its defeat in the Assembly polls of 2023. A party leader claimed “we would have been happier if the BJP had improved on its 2019 show where it bagged 25 seats. Still, with the help of the JD-S, the party has now been able to mobilise support in the Vokkaliga belt,in addition to sustaining the boost that it received from the Lingayat community,on which it has been banking.”

In 2023, the BJP had alienated the Lingayats leading to a major loss in the state polls. The strong support that it received this time from this community in the Lok Sabha polls, after it placated party strongman and former chief minister, B. S. Yediyurappa, along with Jagdish Shettar, proved productive.

Siddaramaiah, on his part, has said that the party could not realise its expectations of bagging between 15-20 seats. Having said that, the fact remains that its vote share this time improved from 32 percent to 45 percent. That could come as some solace for it, if at all.