Bangalore, Aug. 24: The ruling Congress in Karnataka today wrested two Lok Sabha seats from the Janata Dal (Secular), trumping the rival in its Vokkaliga heartland despite a last-minute pact it had worked out with one-time ally BJP.
Actress Ramya and local leader D.K. Suresh won from Mandya and Bangalore Rural as the Congress won the by-elections by thumping margins, including a 1,36,996-vote demolition of Anitha Kumaraswamy, wife of former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and daughter-in-law of former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda.
In Delhi, central Congress leaders celebrated the results as confirmation that Rahul Gandhi’s decision to back Siddaramaiah, an OBC, over S.M. Krishna, a Vokkaliga, for chief minister had paid off.
“I’ve been saying from the beginning that the Congress will win both the seats. This shows the change in the voters’ perception about our rivals,” Siddaramaiah said.
Sources said the results had also proved as baseless the fear that Siddaramaiah’s elevation might alienate the Vokkaligas, who have traditionally backed Gowda. “If the JD(S) could not save these two seats despite assistance from the BJP, this shows two things: one, the choice of the chief minister was perfect; and two, we are now being supported by all the castes,” said a leader.
The sources said the results had also proved that the Congress’s victory in the May Assembly elections was not a fluke. While it’s too early to predict a trend for the 2014 general election, the twin triumphs must have come as a morale booster for the Congress, which is counting on Karnataka to offset possible losses in other states. The party expects to win over 20 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka. In 2009, it had won six.
In the August 21 bypolls, Suresh beat Anitha Kumaraswamy by 1,36,996 votes in Bangalore Rural. In Mandya, Ramya beat C.S. Puttaraju by 67,611 votes. Both the segments — with substantial pockets of Vokkaliga, backward class and Muslim voters — have traditionally been JD(S) backyards.
The bypolls were held because Kumaraswamy and N. Cheluvarayaswamy had resigned from Bangalore Rural and Mandya to contest the Assembly elections in May. Kumaraswamy said he would resign as JD(S) state president. “I’m also thinking of resigning the post of leader of Opposition in the Assembly,” he told reporters.
Even a last-minute pact with the BJP, which withdrew its candidates, didn’t help. “The ‘secular’ JD(S) made this one big mistake of aligning with the ‘communal’ BJP,” Congress leader C.M. Ibrahim said.