India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost a key election in the state of Karnataka on May 10. The opposition Indian National Congress (INC) won a decisive victory in the southern state, securing 135 seats in the 234-member legislative assembly. The BJP won 65 seats, while the Janata Dal (Secular) [JD(S)] won 19 seats.
The BJP had been in power in Karnataka, having formed the government in July 2019 under controversial circumstances. The BJP toppled a coalition of the INC and JD(S) by having legislators of the two parties defect.
The BJP conducted a high-octane campaign in the state in 2023, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his second-in-command Home Minister Amit Shah. The party resorted to its usual strategies of religious polarization. However, in the run-up to the campaign, analysts pointed out that there was deep dissatisfaction with the BJP government in Karnataka.
Newsclick analyst Subodh Varma noted that a pre-poll survey had found that “68 percent of those surveyed identified corruption, 47 percent said price rise and 34 percent said unemployment were important factors in deciding which way to vote… The survey found that among poorer sections, price rise becomes an even bigger issue with about 51 percent of respondents reporting it as a major factor.” He added that these issues, along with unemployment and the crisis faced by farmers, were “[overriding the] caste and regional divisions” in the state.