Udupi verdict shows voters tiring of BJP antics

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The defeat in the Udupi-Chikamagalur by-election to the Lok Sabha is the price the BJP has paid—at last—for making a mockery of the mandate it had received from voters in Karnataka voters and reiterated in the string of by-elections held of the assembly in the interregnum.

The subtle changes witnessed in the voting pattern in the by-poll can be ignored only at their peril by the BJP’s strategists.  In a way the voting pattern is indicative of the mood of the people that their patience over the power tantrums of BJP may be running out.

The BJP’s fast rise in Karnataka, especially in the past decade, is mainly attributed to newly enrolled voters voting en masse in its favour to the total exclusion of the two other contenders, Congress and JD S . As a consequence, in the 2008 assembly election, it could displace the Congress as the party with the biggest share of votes.

This vital trend has been reversed this time.

In Udupi-Chikamagalur, an additional 24,000 voters had been freshly enrolled. Not a single vote has gone to the BJP this time in a constituency which all along was considered as one of its bastions in Karnataka.

To make the matters worse, the BJP could not even retain the vote base.

It has suffered erosion to the tune of over 48,000 votes between the 2009 when the parliament elections were held and in the by-election held now. In 2009 itself, the erosion in the vote base was marginal to the extent of little more than 9,000 over the 2008 assembly polls in the concerned segments.

Between 2008 and 2012, the party has lost more than 57,000 voters.

The only redeeming factor, however, is that of the more than 400,000 voters who had reposed confidence in the party in 2009, only ten percent chose to change their political loyalty, while the bulk of the voters chose to remain steady with the party, despite the plethora of scams and scandals that have plagued the party and the deep rooted schism among its top leaders that is now out in the open.

This may be a comforting thought for BJP leaders but one of them, B.S. Yediyurappa who is going all out to rehabilitate himself, is certainly not going to be happy. This is one election, where Yediyurappa openly said that he would not campaign for the party. While the party was battling here, Yediyurappa was on a temple sojourn seeking divine intervention to realise his ambition.

If Yediyurappa’s absence can be one of the contributing factors for the loss of 40,000 votes, then his image as the main vote catcher for the party and his status as the mass leader of the BJP in Karnataka gets a serious dent.

This was one election, which nobody seriously expected Congress to win. But it did not on its own volition but by default as it appears.  For the BJP’s loss of votes in the by-election, has not been a gain for the Congress.

Congress, as the poll figures reveal, could only rake up an additional 24,000 votes to its 2009 tally, which it had lost by a margin of 27,000 votes. The biggest gainer however for the record sake happens to be JDS, which could get  more than 72,000 votes this time, while it had left the seat uncontested last time

Another interesting feature is that the poll turnout in the 2009 general election and the present byelection, was almost been identical – a little more than 68%. And the only change in the scenario has been that over 28,000 new voters were added to the electoral list.  And the increase in the poll turn out has been around 18,000.

While all the new voters are expected not to miss the maiden opportunity to cast vote, obviously around 10,000 established voters who had voted last time obviously stayed way. And this scenario offered an ideal setting for discerning the response of the voters to the ugly happenings in BJP in general and to the internecine quarrels in particular.

Ultimately it so happened that while the Congress could increase its vote share by little more than 18,000 votes, the BJP had lost to the tune of  48,000 votes, and the JDS which had stayed away from contest three years ago, raked up support of  whopping  72,000 votes.

There has been a considerable decline in the number of apolitical voters, who would prefer voting “others” to any of the established parties. The number of such voters   which was around 55,000 last time had got reduced to little more than 28,000.  The bulk of them appeared to have supported JDS.

The moot question is why did the JDS, which had skipped contesting in 2009 choose to be in the arena this time, where it had not got a ghost of chance of winning.  And who was the ultimate beneficiary?

The Congress spokesmen had gone on record to say that move was to keep the secular votes in the constituency (a euphemism for the votes polled by the CPI last time) from going to Congress. Did the presence of the JDS help Congress to win or prevented BJP from winning?