Sunday, Nov 27, 2022

Karnataka Bypoll Results A Big Jolt To BJP As Congress, JDS Show Strength Of Unity

The ruling Congress-Janata Dal-Secular (JD(S)) alliance in Karnataka on Tuesday won two assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat in the by-elections.

PTI Photo (File)

Diwali started off on an upbeat note on Tuesday for Karnataka's ruling Janata Dal Secular-Congress coalition which has pocketed four of the five seats where by-elections were held last weekend. The tally puts the BJP -- which as the prime opposition has been eyeing a chance to wrest power in the state -- on the backfoot, more so after the coalition partners wrested the Bellary Lok Sabha seat which the party has been winning since 2004.

Its sole win came in Shimoga where B Y Raghavendra retained the seat which his father, B S Yeddyurappa, the BJP's state president, had vacated in May.

The by-elections were held in three Lok Sabha seats -- Bellary, Shimoga (both previously held by the BJP) and Mandya -- and two assembly constituencies, Jamkhandi, whose representative Siddu Nyame Gowda of the Congress died in a road accident in May, and Ramanagaram, the home turf of Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy.

"Time for genuine introspection," said senior BJP legislator S Suresh Kumar in a tweet on Tuesday. "Time for our cadre-based organisation-party to re-invent itself to get ready for the major exam."

While the BJP was looking to retain Bellary and Shimoga, it was also fancying its chances in Jamkhandi, a seat it had lost by a narrow margin in the May assembly polls. However, Congress candidate Anand Siddu Nyame Gowda won in Jamkhandi by a margin of 39,480 votes.

In Bellary, Congress candidate V S Ugrappa defeated the BJP's J Shantha by more than 2.4 lakh votes. The Bellary Lok Sabha seat is famous for the 1999 clash between Sonia Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj but it had slipped out of the Congress' grasp soon after. The BJP has been winning elections in Bellary since then, on the back of the growing clout of mining magnate G Janardhan Reddy and his siblings. Shantha is the sister of B Sreeramulu, a popular leader from the Valmiki Nayaka community and Reddy's close friend. Sreeramulu had won the Bellary parliamentary poll in 2014. He vacated the seat after he won the assembly elections in May.

The Bellary bypoll was seen as a battle between Sreeramulu and Congress strongman D K Shivakumar who was given charge of the campaign. "They have won a temporary win in Bellary, that's all," said BJP leader R Ashoka in a press conference on Tuesday.

Midway during the campaigning, Janardhana Reddy hit headlines with an insensitive remark about former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his late son Rakesh, an episode that senior BJP leaders believe contributed to the party's poor showing.

In Ramanagaram in southern Karnataka, the BJP had faced a setback last week when their candidate L Chandrashekar retired from the race just two days before polling. Anitha Kumaraswamy, the CM's wife, has won the election there with a margin of over one lakh votes.

Political observers weren't expecting an upset for the JDS in both Ramanagaram and Mandya though the big question was whether the ruling coalition would succeed in uniting their grassroots-level workers. In many parts of south Karnataka, the Congress and JDS are fierce rivals.

Overall, the coalition partners have won two seats apiece. "The results of Karnataka by-elections is the reflection of unity of the JDS-INC front. I am grateful to the leaders and party workers of both parties for their enormous contribution," tweeted JDS supremo H D Deve Gowda, who had campaigned in the polls.

Ahead of the bypolls, both Gowda and Siddaramaiah -- who had fallen out a decade ago -- said that they had buried old differences to work together. Last month, Gowda said that these bypolls held out a message for general elections in 2019.