As the curtains go down on the election campaign for two bypolls in Karnataka -Chincholi and Kundgol – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader BS Yeddyurappa urged the members of the Lingayat community in the region to not vote for the Congress.
“It will be a mistake on the part of Veerashaiva community members (living in this part of the state) if they vote for the Congress. The party, insulted its leader Veerendra Patil who had helped the Congress win 178 seats in Karnataka,” Yeddyurappa said while campaigning in Chincholi.
Patil, a Veerashaiva, was the chief minister of the state twice, from 1968 to 1971 and from 1989 to 1990. The Congress had unceremoniously asked him to step down as the Chief Minister in 1990.
The elections to Chincholi and Kundgol Assembly seats will be held on May 19.
At Chincholi, BJP’s Avinash Jadhav contests against Subhash Rathod of the Congress-JD(S) combine, while Kundgol will witness a battle between BJP’s Chikkanagouda Patil and Congress-JD(S)’s Kusumavathi Shivalli.
The bypolls are crucial for the Congress-JD(S) combine formed the government last year with 118 seats, five above the required majority. After the death of Congressman CS Shivalli and the resignation of Umesh Jadhav, the alliance lost its two Assembly seats for which the bypolls are to be held.
While the Congress party lodged a complaint with the State Election Commission on Thursday, until Friday noon, the EC initiated no action as they awaited for a report from the returning officer at Chincholi. The campaigning for the by-polls ends on Friday.
“We forwarded the complaint to the returning officer and have sought a report from him. Since we had less time (before the campaign ends), to investigate and take action. If guilty, we will take suitable action,” one of the investigating officer in the EC office said.
On a similar remark by the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati who said Muslims should not vote for Congress, the EC banned her from campaigning for 72 hours. In another instance, the EC filed a first information report against Mumbai Congress president Milind Deora for allegedly attempting to influence voters by using religion.
“Yeddyurappa’s statements are offences of undue influence under Indian Penal Code and Representation of Peoples Act. Even if the campaigning comes to an end, the EC can register an FIR,” Brijesh Kalappa, All India Congress Committee spokesperson said.
Both the BJP and the Congress exude confidence of winning the bypolls. If the Congress emerges victorious and no other MLAs defect, the government would remain stable. But if it loses, the government will be on a shaky ground.
“We will win the bypolls and there’s no threat to the ruling coalition. Since last year, the BJP has been pushing hard to destabilise the government. They won’t be successful,” Sathyan Puthoor, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee secretary had earlier told The Federal.
After the Lok Sabha elections, BJP leaders including B S Yeddyurappa gave statements saying the party will form the government in the state after May 23. The Congress-JD(S) earlier thwarted several attempts made by Yeddyurappa to lure its leaders with money and ministerial berths to form the government.