Bengaluru is the only outlier in the 2023 Karnataka Legislative Assembly election. While the BJP lost seats in each of the State’s regions, namely, Bombay Karnataka, Hyderabad Karnataka, Central Karnataka, Old Mysore, and even its major stronghold, Coastal Karnataka, the party held on to and even upped its tally in the city.
The garden city, with 28 seats, bucked the overall trend in a State that overwhelmingly voted for the Congress by giving the BJP 16 seats, almost a quarter of the total tally of 66 seats the party won in the election. The Congress won the remaining 12 seats, while the Janata Dal (Secular) could not retain any of the seats it won in 2018. In 2018, the Congress had won 15, the BJP 11, and the JD(S) two seats.
The Assembly results from Bengaluru came with good news and bad news for all stakeholders in some way or the other.
For the BJP the good news was that it retained most of its seats and added to its tally in an election that otherwise saw the electorate move away from it. As for the Congress, the party still managed to win 12 seats despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s massive campaign in Bengaluru city in the week before the election.
For the people of the city, the good news was that politicians like M.T.B. Nagaraj lost. Nagaraj, notorious for opportunistic politics, was one of those who defected from the Congress to the BJP and then threatened to resign if he did not get the ministry of his choice.
Now for the bad news: only one candidate of all the party hands who defected to the BJP in 2019 lost in Bengaluru. Three members of the Congress and two from the JD(S) had defected at the time, helping the BJP form the government. This is a clear indication of the sway some political personalities hold over the electorate, and also points to the fact that voters do not care if an MLA switches sides; the focus seems to be on the influence the individual wields in the constituency rather than the politics they espouse.
In 2022, massive floods hit the city and buildings housing many global IT companies and their employees were inundated. The residents of the upmarket complexes screamed blue murder at the politicians at the time because their fancy cars were destroyed and the tony surroundings defaced.
One important constituency where several such IT companies and upmarket residences are located is Mahadevapura, covering areas such as Whitefield, Marathahalli, and Bellandur. Mahadevapura is the highest tax-paying area in Bengaluru and has been a BJP bastion since the delimitation of constituencies in 2008.
The party MLA who had gone missing at the time of the floods was three-time MLA Aravind Limbavali. In an understanding with the BJP, Limbavali decided not to contest, and the BJP offered the seat to his wife Manjula. The Congress fielded H. Nagesh, a Minister in the Kumaraswamy government and former government official for three decades. Manjula won by over 44,000 votes.
The pattern in Mahadevapura is similar to what happened across Chennai after the 2015 floods. The AIADMK, which had been in power at the time, was held responsible for the late release of water from a major lake, which reportedly led to the loss of 400 lives. But when the 2016 Assembly election was held a few months after the floods, the AIADMK won a majority of the city constituencies, including Saidapet, one of the worst-hit areas.
Former Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao, who joined the AAP in 2022 and even campaigned in the Punjab Assembly election, joined the BJP on March 1, just a few weeks ahead of the Karnataka Assembly election. Contesting from the Chamrajpet constituency in Old Bangalore, a seat that has eluded the BJP since 1994, Rao lost to Congress candidate and three-time MLA B.Z. Zameer Ahmad Khan, who won by nearly 54,000 votes.
Shambulal Kallolikar, a Tamil Nadu cadre IAS officer, left the service last year to enter politics and hoped to get the Congress ticket. When he did not get it, he contested as an independent from Raybag constituency and polled 54,930 votes, narrowly losing to the BJP’s A.D. Mahalingappa, who got 57,500 votes.
The only constituency in Bengaluru that witnessed massive drama was Jayanagar, where the votes were recounted multiple times. Congress workers said their candidate Sowmya Reddy was declared elected by 160 votes in the evening, but BJP leaders Tejasvi Surya and R. Ashok, who barged into the counting centre, objected to 177 postal ballot votes being rejected for technical reasons. After the votes were recounted, the BJP candidate C.K. Ramamurthy was declared elected around 1 a.m. by a margin of 16 votes.
There were protests outside the counting centre late into the night on May 13. It is not immediately known if the Congress has lodged a complaint with the Chief Election Commissioner.
Activists took to social media to say that the counting process was violated. Some asked why a certificate had not been issued immediately after declaring Sowmya Reddy the winner; why Tejaswi Surya was allowed inside the counting centre; and why the rejected ballots were reopened without videography.