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Congress breaks Bellary barrier

Bangalore, Aug. 25: The Congress today breached the BJP bastion of Bellary in Karnataka for the first time in more than a decade, winning an Assembly seat in the mining zone where the Reddy brothers have long held sway.

Bellary Rural was one of the three seats where byelections were held last week. Of the other two, the ruling Congress retained one and the BJP another.

BJP strongman B.S. Yeddyurappa’s son won in a constituency on family turf Shimoga but the slim margin set off worries months after the party bagged 17 of the state’s 28 Lok Sabha seats.

The trophy seat, though, was Bellary Rural, which the Congress won by over 33,000 votes, triggering celebrations at the state party headquarters before the other results were announced.

B. Sriramulu, a lieutenant of the Reddy brothers, had vacated the seat after he was elected to the Lok Sabha from the area in May this year.

“We will introspect on the loss in Bellary Rural,” said Union minister Ananth Kumar, who hails from the state. He seemed to play down the setback by arguing the bypolls were “contested on local issues and didn’t reflect people’s overall view of the BJP”.

But Bellary Rural wasn’t the BJP’s only source of agony. Equally disturbing was the outcome in Shikaripura, another party bastion where Yeddyurappa’s son B.Y. Raghavendra won less decisively than expected. Raghavendra’s margin of over 6,000 votes was a quarter of his father’s leads of over 25,000 last year. Yeddyurappa had vacated the seat when he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Shimoga, of which Shikaripura is a part.

The third seat was Chikkodi-Sadalga, which the Congress retained. Chief minister Siddaramaiah toasted the results. “That we won Bellary Rural comfortably is an indication the people have come out of the clutches of the Reddy brothers,” he said.