With the Election Commission announcing bypolls in 15 Assembly segments of Karnataka on October 21, the future of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and that of the rebel MLAs, are all at stake.
While the candidates have only a week left for filing their nominations, the 17 rebel MLAs stare at an uncertain future as they were disqualified by previous Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh as per the anti-defection law, barring them from contesting any election till the term of the current Assembly ends.
However, the rebels have filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking an interim relief to contest the bypolls. The case will come up for hearing on Wednesday (September 25) after it was kept pending for nearly two months.
If the court rules against their favour it could jeopardise their career. However, the MLAs and the ruling BJP, which came to power in the backdrop of their resignations in July, are hopeful of a favourable verdict.
The BJP was counting on the Supreme Court verdict to field the rebels as their candidates for the bypolls. However, with the court yet to pronounce its verdict, the party is now in a fix, even though BJP’s newly appointed state president Nalin Kumar Kateel said that the party was ready for the polls. Chief Minister Yeddyurappa, who is now under pressure from the rebels, had rushed to Delhi on Sunday to meet BJP chief Amit Shah and find an amicable solution to the crisis.
With no respite yet, the rebels now hope to field their kith and kin in the upcoming polls. In Yellapur, disqualified MLA Shivaram Hebbar now seeks a BJP ticket either for his son or wife. Similarly, former JD(S) president AH Vishwanath and leader GT Devegowda are also vying for tickets for their sons. In Gokak, the seat which fell vacant post the resignation of Ramesh Jarkiholi, the Congress is now keen to field his brother Lakhan Jarkiholi. And in Hirekerur, BC Patil is looking forward to field his daughter Srushti Patil.
For the BJP to continue in power, it needs to win at least eight of the 15 seats in the bypolls. It currently has the support of 105 MLAs in the Assembly, whose present strength is 208.
Besides, there is no official communication on the Congress-JD(S) split even though leaders of the two parties have been engaging in making statements against each other since the coalition government collapsed in July. Congress leader Siddaramaiah had even blamed the JD(S) for the fall of the government.
Meanwhile, JD(S) leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy had said that the party has already decided to field its candidates in all the 15 constituencies, while stating that the results of the bypolls would determine the political future of the state.
The 15 constituencies that are set to go to polls on October 21 are Gokak, Athani, Kagawad, Yellapur, Ranebennur, Vijaynagara, Hirekerur, Yeshvanthapura, Mahalakshmi Layout, Shivajinagar, KR Puram, Chikkaballapur, Hosakote, KR Pete and Hunsur.
The Congress represented as many as 12 seats of the total 15, while the JD(S) held three. Bypolls to Maski (Raichur) and Rajarajeshwari (Bengaluru) have not been announced as the elections to these constituencies have been challenged in the court.