This is bypoll season in Karnataka—people will vote for two assembly seats on November 3. The stakes are noticeably lower this time, though. For one, the state’s ruling BJP has a clear majority in the assembly and the elections at Sira and Rajarajeshwarinagar will not make much of a difference to that. Still, the B.S. Yediyurappa government can do with a win, given the accusations by the Congress over its handling of COVID-19.
Besides, neither of these seats belonged to the BJP in the first place. That explains why the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) have been sparring as the campaigns got underway. Both constituencies have a sizeable population of Vokkaligas—the community that H.D. Kumaraswamy of JD(S) and Congress state president D.K. Shivakumar belong to. Since these are the first elections with Shivakumar at the helm of the Congress in Karnataka, observers reckon he’ll need to prove that he can pull off a victory. It is for the JD(S), being the smaller party, that these bypolls present a bigger challenge, observers say. Last December, it lost a bypoll to the BJP in the Vokkaliga heartland of Mandya. “The JD(S) has more to lose now,’ says political analyst Prof Harish Ramaswamy.