If politics was just about arithmetic and not the complex chemistry that it is, the wisdom of hindsight suggests that a pre-poll alliance between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) would have fetched the new partners another 38 seats and a strength of 153 in the 224-member Assembly.
A purely mathematical calculation leads to the conclusion that the Congress lost as many as 25 seats because the JD(S) cut into its votes. Similarly, the JD(S) would have won 13 more seats if the Congress had not fielded its candidates.
The numbers suggest that the JD(S) lost out to the BJP in its strongholds in the Old Mysore and Central Karnataka regions, largely because a portion of votes went to the Congress. In Tumkur city, the JD(S) candidate lost to the BJP by just 5,393 votes, whereas in Shivamogga Rural and Turuvekere, the JD(S) candidates lost by just 3,777 and 2,049 votes respectively.
Even in JD(S) supremo and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda’s pocket-borough of Hassan, the party lost to the BJP with a margin of 13,006 votes, while the Congress candidate polled 38,011 votes. The BJP managed to open its account in Hassan because of the split in the votes.
Similarly, the Congress was damaged because of the JD(S) presence in most seats. In Aland, part of Bidar Lok Sabha constituency, the Congress lost to the BJP by just 695 votes. Even in party stalwart Mallikarjun Kharge’s stronghold of Kalaburagi (Gulbarga), the Congress lost two seats to the BJP, with the JD(S) polling far more votes than the BJP’s margin of victory. In Kalaburagi Dakshin, for instance, the Congress lost just by 5,431 votes while the JD(S) polled 14,359 votes.
However, this is not enough to convince veteran politicians, especially in the Congress, that there should have been a pre-poll alliance with the JD(S). The instance of former chief minister JH Patel losing to a greenhorn like Vadanal Rajanna at Channagiri in 1999 is cited as an instance of pre-poll alliances messing up local equations.
Patel, a protégé of the veteran Ramakrishna Hegde, had remained in the Janata Dal (United) when Deve Gowda split the party and formed the JD(S). The JD(U) then allied with the BJP for the 1999 Assembly polls. It was, significantly, the BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa who encouraged his follower, Vadanal Rajanna, to contest as an independent against Patel in Channagiri, a result that was spectacular in the political decimation of the then CM, who came in third.
“Elections are a combination of various factors. You can’t cite some seats to say that we would have got a clear majority if we had aligned with the JD(S). What we could have done was to avoid humiliating Deve Gowda, who is a respected figure across the state,” Congress MP BK Hariprasad said to BusinessLine in what seemed to be a clear criticism of the defeated Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.