Majority retained, BJP gets a free hand in Karnataka council

The BJP-led government in Karnataka has managed to hang on to a clear majority it established in the state legislative council last month by winning two of four council seats for which polling was held on June 13 and votes were counted on June 15.

The victory will allow the BJP to pass legislation on its own in the Karnataka legislature without having to rely on the support of the opposition Janata Dal (Secular). Last month, the ruling party was forced to introduce a controversial law banning religious conversions through the ordinance route on account of the lack of a clear majority in the council.

With the victory this week, the BJP will have 38 legislators in the 75-member council as opposed to the 26 of the Congress, eight of the JD(S) and one Independent, giving it a clear majority in the House that has two vacancies at present.

The majority was first established on May 27 when four BJP candidates were elected unopposed in the biennial elections to the Upper House by MLAs. Both the BJP and the combined Opposition had 37 seats since elections in December while there was an Independent member.

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In the latest polls, the BJP retained its 38 seats in the council despite losing the Karnataka northwest teachers constituency as it gained the Karnataka west teachers constituency, where seven-time JD(S) legislator Basavaraj Horatti won his eighth election. The veteran recently quit the JD(S) to contest the council polls on a BJP ticket. He polled 9,266 votes while his nearest rival Basavaraj Gurikar of the Congress got 4.597 votes. The win is expected to again catapult Horatti into the position of the chairman of the council, a position he quit last month while moving to the BJP.

The polls for graduates and teachers constituencies involve the election of candidates to the state council by graduates and teachers who are registered to vote in the polls in the respective constituencies.

The Congress made gains in the latest election by grabbing the Karnataka northwest teachers constituency from the BJP and the south graduates seat from the JD(S). The Congress win in the south graduates seat was a first for the party in 30 years in a constituency ruled by the JD(S).

The BJP candidate in the northwest graduates constituency, Hanamant Nirani, is the brother of businessman and BJP minister Murugesh Nirani. He registered a win by over 30,000 votes to retain the seat. Nirani polled 44,815 votes against the Congress’s Sunil Sank, who got 10,122 votes.

The Congress bagged the northwest teachers through veteran Prakash Hukkeri, a satrap of the party from the Belagavi region who was rumoured to be moving out of the party ahead of the polls. Hukkeri polled 11,460 votes against 6,405 for Arun Shahpur, the BJP candidate who held the seat in the previous term.

The biggest moral and political win from the council polls for the Congress was in the south graduates constituency where its candidate Madhu Made Gowda, the son of a highly regarded social activist from the region, polled 32,592 votes while the BJP’s M V Ravishankar got 26,687 votes and the JD(S) candidate H K Ramu who polled 17,072 votes.

The south graduates seat has been a traditional stronghold of the JD(S) and the loss of the seat is seen as a sign of the party losing political ground in a region considered to be its political fortress. The loss for the JD(S) comes at a time when the Congress and the BJP are trying to woo the Vokkaliga community in the region who are considered to be crucial in deciding the outcome of the 2023 Assembly polls.

“The results for the elections to the graduates and teachers constituencies in the legislative council indicate that people are in the mood for a change. We are confident of winning the 2023 state polls,” said Congress leader and former CM Siddaramaiah after the results of the council emerged this week.

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