JD(S)-Congress coalition trumps BJP in Karnataka bypolls
Karnataka's ruling Janata Dal(Secular)-Congress combine on Tuesday won two of the three Lok Sabha bypolls and both Assembly constituencies in the fiercely fought by-elections on Saturday, giving a shot in the arm to the ruling combine that faces frequent questions about longevity.
The BJP suffered an embarrassing reverse in Ballary, a seat it had won since 2004 with a vice-like grip of the mine-rich district by the Reddy brothers. The BJP managed to hold on to the Shivamogga Lok Sabha seat.
Buoyed by the victory in the bypolls, Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Congress state president Dinesh Gundu Rao on Tuesday asserted that they would contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections together against the BJP. 'We will contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections together. As we did this time, we will sit together to chalk out strategies to fight the Lok Sabha election in a coordinated manner,' the chief minister said.
Gundu Rao said: 'It (the electorate) has rejected the BJP, its divisive politics and dictatorial tendencies.'
An upset B.S. Yeddyurappa of the BJP said the “truth of the matter” was that “money and liquor had a bigger role in this election”.
The electoral performance comes as a booster to the combine as the bypolls were seen as a barometer of the public mood ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
The coalition partners had put up joint candidates, considered a test of their ties.
In Ballary, the Congress's V.S. Ugrappa won the seat by more than 2.43 lakh votes over the BJP's J Shantha, the sister of B. Sriramulu, a key aide of the Reddys and former MP from there.
Sriramulu is considered a close confidant of Janardhan Reddy, but the BJP had distanced itself from the mining baron in the May Assembly polls.
The BJP's loss was attributed to factors such as the lack of involvement of the Reddy brothers -- Janardhana Reddy is barred from entering Ballary district because of an illegal mining case -- and the party’s dependence solely on Sriramulu, while its leaders supposedly did not take a wholehearted plunge into the campaign.
The Congress had invested much prestige and men and material in the fight. The result also reflects the Assembly poll outcome trend with the Congress then having won six of the eight seats.
Ballary had been a Congress stronghold till 2004 and had elected Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls against the BJP's Sushma Swaraj. Since 2004, the influence of the powerful and mighty Reddy brothers was evident in what was infamously called 'Republic' of Bellary.
In Shivamogga, the traditional stronghold of Opposition leader and former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, his son B.Y. Raghavendra defeated the JD(S)’s Madhu Bangarappa by 52,148 votes in a closely fought contest.
Madhu is the son of the late Congress chief minister S. Bangarappa.
Kumaraswamy's wife Anitha bagged the Ramanagara Assembly seat by 1,09,137 votes against the BJP's L. Chandrashekar, who pulled out of the contest, but officially remained the party candidate.
Chandrashekhar, who had joined the BJP ahead of the polls, returned to the Congress weeks later, leaving the field open for a walkover for Anitha..
The Ramanagara seat fell vacant after Kumaraswamy preferred to retain Chennapatna, the other constituency from where he won.
In the Jamkhandi Assembly segment, Congress candidate Anand Nyamgouda defeated the BJP's Srikant Kulkarni by 39,480 votes, riding a sympathy wave following his father and sitting MLA Siddu Nyamagouda's death in a road accident.
JD(S) candidate L.R. Shivarame Gowda scored a huge victory in Mandya, defeating the BJP's Siddaramaiah, a political greenhorn and a former civil servant, by 3,24,943 votes.
Mandya is a stronghold of the Vokkaliga community to which H.D. Deve Gowda belongs.
With Tuesday's victory, the Congress-JD(S) alliance's tally will go up to 120 seats in the 224-member Assembly, where the BJP will have 104 MLAs.