New Delhi: Several leaders among the BJP top brass today conceded the decision to remove B S Yeddyurappa from the chief minister's post and his subsequent decision to form his own party has been a major contributor, along with infighting, to their rout in Karnataka assembly poll.
The BJP Parliamentary Board met here this evening to discuss the reasons for the party's massive defeat in the southern state. BJP's first government in the South not only failed to retain power but was reeduced from 110 seats in the last assembly elections in 2008 rpt 2008 to 40 seats this time.
While most leaders acknowledge that Yeddyurappa had his revenge in these elections by ensuring that BJP puts up a dismal performance, those who had insisted on the former chief minister's ouster from the top post were firm that there cannot be a compromise in the fight against corruption.
Yeddyurappa had to step down in July, 2011 after the Karnataka Lokayukta indicted him in a land graft case. He finally quit BJP in November, 2012 and formed KJP.
"Division of our votebase has affected us as also the image of a lack of unity within the party in Karnataka. Also, the fact that some of our leaders walked out of the party and some formed another party," BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu said.
A three-way split in its voter base put paid to BJP's hopes of securing a renewed mandate, bringing down its only citadel in the South.
Yeddyurappa's twin agenda of decimating BJP and emerging a kingmaker remained half-complete as he succeeded in one but failed to make an impressive debut through his nascent outfit securing only six seats out of 216 it contested.
Several heavyweights, including Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar (Hubli-Dharwad Central), Yeddyurappa (Shikharipura), Siddaramaiah (Varuna) and H D Kumaraswamy (Ramnagaram) , won from their constituencies but Parameshwara (Koratagere) lost heavily.
Kumaraswamy's wife Anita and Yeddyurappa's confidant Shobha Karandlaje suffered defeats from Channapatna and Rajaji Nagar respectively.
Twelve ministers of the Shettar Cabinet, including Deputy Chief Minister K S Eshwarappa, fell by the wayside, rubbing salt into the wounds of the vanquished BJP.
C P Yogeeshwara, who quit the Jagadish Shettar Ministry, towards the end of the tenure of the Government and contested on Samajwadi Party ticket, won from Channapata, defeating Anitha Kumaraswamy (JDS) by nearly 6,500 votes.
For the BJP, the worst was in store in its heartland in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, while it failed miserably to keep its base in tact in Bombay Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka regions that gave electoral muscle.
As expected, JDS maintained its hold in the Vokkaliga belt while making some gains beyond its traditional support base that fetched it 12 more seats than 28 it won in the last elections. With a clear cut verdict, JDS' hopes of playing the role of a kingmaker have also been dashed.
Polling was held in 223 segments, with the one in Periyapatna in Mysore district put off to May 28 following death of BJP candidate.
BJP's performance in its own strongholds was pathetic, reflected in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi where its defeat was near complete as also in Yeddyurappa's home district of Shimoga and Bellary.
Eshwarappa's loss in Shimoga is all the more significant as he was a former state unit President of the party and also held the key portfolios of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj and Revenue. He was in the "hit-list" of Yeddyurappa, who now had the "sweet revenge".
Another big gun to lose was Industries Minister Murugesh R Nirani, who spearheaded two global investors meet, and was in two minds till the last minute whether to join forces with the KJP but eventually continued to be in the BJP, in Bilgi.
Congress candidate and former Union Civil Aviation Minister C M Ibrahim was pushed to third position in Bhadrawati.
In the 2008 polls, the BJP had secured 110 seats, Congress 80, JDS 28 and Independents six. Falling short of numbers, the BJP had formed government with the support of independents and wooed Opposition MLAs who were made to resign and recontest on the BJP ticket that gave it stability of numbers.
Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, who won a fifth term from Hubli-Dharwad central, said he accepted the people's verdict and submitted resignation to Governor H R Bhardwaj who asked him to continue till alternate arrangements are made.
Making no bones about his ambition, Siddaramaiah declared himself as a "strong contender" for the chief minister's post.
Kharge said "If they (high command) think that I am fit for the post, then it is up to them to take a decision. I will abide by any decision the high command takes".