Karnataka bypolls: Tough test for BY Raghavendra in Shivamogga, Anitha Kumaraswamy on strong footing

The impending results of five by-elections from Karnataka, due to be announced on Tuesday, are expected to help the Congress-JD(S) combine to evaluate the effect of its maiden electoral partnership. Simultaneously, they will also put under scanner BS Yeddyurappa’s leadership of the state BJP.

The three Lok Sabha and two Assembly seats which went to polls across the state on Saturday, hold the key to political alignment and the selection of candidates in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, which are less than six months away.

In both Ramanagaram Assembly and Mandya Lok Sabha seats — which the JD(S) is trying to retain – while the local Congress leaders campaigned reluctantly for their traditional rivals, the party workers minced no words in expressing their resentment at the ‘imposed alliance’ with those whom they had fought for decades.

But, fortunately for the JD(S), as the BJP has negligible presence in both the constituencies, it could well be a walkover with Anitha Kumaraswamy, Chief Minister Kumaraswamy’s wife, easily entering the Assembly and LR Shivarame Gowda being elected to the Lok Sabha for a short stint of five months.

In a huge embarrassment to the BJP, just two days before the campaigning ended, its candidate L Chandresekhar retired from contest and rejoined the Congress, of which he was a member until a fortnight ago. With egg on their faces, the BJP leaders cried ‘betrayal’ and ‘use of money power by the JD(S)’, but irreversible damage had been done.

 Karnataka bypolls: Tough test for BY Raghavendra in Shivamogga, Anitha Kumaraswamy on strong footing

File image of Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy with wife Anitha. PTI

Chandresekhar’s contention was that he was left to fend for himself as no senior BJP leader came to campaign for him while Yeddyurappa said he ignored Chandrasekhar as he “smelt” that there was something wrong with his candidature.

The central BJP leaders have taken umbrage at the faux pas and begun an inquiry as to how such a serious blunder was committed. The focus is on Yeddyurappa’s role as state president, as in May 2018, he had similarly embarrassed the party by getting sworn-in as chief minister but failing to mobilise the support of at least eight MLAs to stitch together a majority.

Yeddyurappa faces another sterner test as he has fielded his son, BY Raghavendra from Shivamogga Lok Sabha seat vacated by him. Raghavendra had been elected once earlier, but now he is facing a tough fight from JD(S)’s candidate, Madhu Bangarappa.

Shivamogga was traditionally a Congress bastion as its candidates have won 11 out of 15 elections, until Yeddyurappa emerged as a leader from this Malnad region. Former chief minister Bangarappa, apart from getting elected to the Assembly eight times, had won Shivamogga Lok Sabha seat thrice, once each from the Congress, the BJP and the Samajwadi Party.

Banking on late Bangarappa’s popularity, JD(S) staked claim over this seat as Madhu happens to be a member of the party. In the recent Assembly elections, Madhu had been defeated by his elder brother, Kumar Bangarappa of the BJP in Sagara constituency. It was a reversal of fortunes, as in 2013 Madhu had defeated Kumar from the same constituency.

The campaign turned nasty when Kumaraswamy’s personal barb at Kumar accusing him of shabbily treating his father in his last days, was returned by Kumar who spoke of Kumaraswamy’s actress-second wife, Radhika Kumaraswamy potentially resorting to ‘Me Too’ to embarrass him.

The by-election to Ballary Lok Sabha seat also produced a lot of heat and dust as BJP’s Sriramulu, on getting elected to the Assembly, has put up his sister J Shantha, who is being opposed by VS Ugrappa of the Congress. Though Ugrappa is an outsider to this constituency, he is being strongly backed by Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar, who are playing the ‘backward class card.’

Ballary had seen an intense battle between Sonia Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj in late 1990s, which Sonia won, but it is no longer a safe seat for the Congress. The JD(S) has extended support to the Congress, though its presence here is minimal.

At Jamkhandi, the Congress has put up Anand Siddu Nyamagouda, son of Nyamagouda, who died in an accident soon after the May election. Srikanth Kulakarni of the BJP, who had lost narrowly last time, is also seeking sympathy from the voters.

Whichever way these election results go, they are expected to help all three parties to fine tune their strategies for the mega fight in the April-May 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Updated Date: Nov 05, 2018 23:33:54 IST