In setback to Modi-led BJP, Congress sweeps Karnataka election

India’s opposition Congress party was heading for victory in Karnataka state’s legislative assembly elections — AFP

In a major blow to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition Congress party secured victory in the Karnataka state election.

The BJP has been ousted from office in Karnataka, the only southern state controlled by the Hindu nationalist grouping, a year ahead of national polls.

The results of the Karnataka Assembly polls, which took place on May 10, show Congress leading in 122 of the 224 seats and BJP leading in 71 others, The Indian Express reported Saturday.

Congress leaders like DK Shivakumar, Siddaramaiah, Priyank Kharge, Laxman Savadi and Satish Jarkiholi are among the early winners in the state.

In its first official reaction to the Karnataka Assembly results, Congress said PM Modi had “lost” as the BJP had declared its election campaign “a referendum” on the PM.

Karnataka has a population of well over 60 million people — about the same as Britain — and its capital Bengaluru is India’s tech hub.

BJP state leader BS Yediyurappa — a former chief minister — conceded defeat.

“Victory and defeat aren’t new to BJP,” he told reporters. “We will introspect about the party’s setback. I respectfully accept this verdict.”

The party had mounted a major campaign in the state with PM Modi himself visiting to promote its muscular brand of Hindu politics.

At one of his rallies, Modi praised an incendiary new film that wildly exaggerates the number of Hindu women converting to Islam and joining the Daesh militant group.

Modi — who is widely expected to stand again in the 2024 general election — also attempted to woo Hindu voters by chanting an ode to the monkey god Hanuman.

Congress campaigned hard on secularism, giveaways of electricity and rice for the poor, and accusations of BJP corruption.

“The marketplace of hatred has been shut down,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi told reporters at party headquarters in Delhi.

‘Man behind Hijab ban loses’

Meanwhile, Karnataka Education Minister and BJP leader BC Nagesh, who imposed the Hijab ban in the state’s educational institutes and urged an economic boycott of Muslims in the state, has lost the elections from the Tiptur constituency, according to Maktoob media report.

Nagesh was among the several senior leaders of the Hindutva party who lost the polls.

BJP candidate Nagesh won in 2008 and 2018 from this constituency while Congress’ Shadakshari won and became a lawmaker from this constituency in 2013.

— Additional input from AFP

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