The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the Karnataka bypolls winning 12 of the 15 seats they contested in paving way for Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa to continue in power.
After the bypolls, the BJP has 117 seats, five above the majority mark in the Karnataka Assembly. Congress was able to win two and the JD(S) drew a blank. Now, the BJP needs support neither from Independents nor from the JD(S).
Yediyurappa termed it victory for the people of Karnataka. “I am happy that people gave a verdict in our favour. Now I will fulfill all my promises and focus more on governance and less on politics,” the CM said.
Though the Congress and JD(S) played the victim card and sought votes this time based on MLAs defecting to the ruling BJP, people’s mandate however turned otherwise. Following the lacklustre performance, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah resigned as Congress Legislative Party leader accepting moral responsibility for the defeat.
Even Dinesh Gundu Rao resigned the state party president post. “I expected the voter to reject disqualified MLAs for horse trading. But I failed to analyze the mood of voters. I take moral responsibility for the defeat and resign my legislative party leader post and as the leader of the opposition,” Siddaramaiah said.
Except for Hunsur, Hosakote and Shivajinagar, the party won all other seats where rebel Congress and JD(S) candidates contested on BJP ticket. It won in KR Puram, Yeshwanthpur, Mahalakshmi Layout, Chikballapura, Athani, Kagwad, Gokak, Yellapur, Hirekerur, Ranibennur, Vijayanagar and KR Pet. In Hunsur, BJP’s AH Vishwanath who had defected from JD(S) lost to Congress candidate H P Manjunath by a margin of nearly 40,000 votes.
In Shivajinagar, Congress candidate Rizwan Arshad won the seat. It was previously held by former MLA Roshan Baig who was accused in the IMA chit fund scam. In the absence of a strong leader, the BJP fielded a relatively new face and hence lost the seat. Interestingly, the BJP lost in Hosakote where it fielded Congress rebel MTB Nagaraj, the richest MLA (assets worth ₹1,230 crore) in the country.
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BJP MP B N Bache Gowda’s son Sharath Bachegowda contested as an independent candidate won the seat. Nagaraj, however complained to BJP leaders and alleged that the MP followed anti-party politics and worked against his candidature to ensure his son wins. Sharath had served as the general secretary of BJP’s youth wing. He has not made it clear whether he would offer support to the BJP.
Meanwhile, the saffron party made a mark by breaking into the JD(S) bastion in the Vokkaliga belt by winning the KR Pete seat in the old-Mysore region. This is the first victor for the BJP in Mandya district.
Yediyurappa, though established his stronghold in Shivamogga region where he went in search of a career, the chief minister hails from K R Pete in Mandya. On several occasions, he had expressed his unhappiness that the BJP couldn’t open an account in his home district.
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Psephologist Sandeep Shatry said, the ruling party always had an advantage in the by-elections in Karnataka in the past. “The poll verdict indicates that the voters in the state were keen to have some stability and realised that BJP winning is the only survival means,” he said.
Shastry added that the rebels had a strong presence in the seats they contested and BJP’s ground support only increased their chances and helped them win. It gives a fillip to the BJP which lost power in Maharashtra recently. With the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress denying the chance for the BJP to form the government, the saffron party could resort to similar tactics to what it followed in Maharashtra.
However, Shastry said, as the BJP is sitting in opposition in Maharashtra, it would not be easy for them to engineer defection anytime soon. He added that, even in Karnataka BJP has won the battle but not the war, indicating that the party will have to manage the rebellion that will arise after the portfolio allocation and side-lining of its leaders in the aftermath of by election results.