Two Assembly seats, Sira and Rajarajewari Nagar (RR Nagar) in Karnataka, go to polls on November 3 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Both the constituencies witnessed a high-pitched battle with leading political parties playing the caste card to garner votes. But the by-elections are a prestige issue for both Karnataka chief minister B S Yediyurappa and Congress state president D K Shivakumar.
Win or lose, the BJP’s hold on Karnataka will not be impacted as the party enjoys a clear majority with 116 seats in the 224-member Assembly. Yet, the elections are important for BSY for other reasons.
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A win would help him have an edge over the RSS, which is against his continuity in the state. Secondly, his son B Y Vijayendra led the election campaign amid corruption allegations against him and his family members. So, he may go on to silence the voices against him over corruption allegations. And, lastly, it would also go in line with state unit president Nalin Kumar Kateel’s long-term goal to establish the party’s footprint in the Vokkaliga-dominated area, which otherwise is a stronghold of the JD(S) and the Congress.
For the Congress, it’s the image of D K Shivakumar that’s at play amid the money laundering case against him. It’s the first election that is being conducted after he officially took charge as the party president in the state in May. Also, the RR Nagar polls are held in Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha constituency, the only seat held by the Congress (by his brother D K Suresh) in the state.
And last, it’s a battle for loyalty as DKS is keen to punish the BJP candidate who switched over from Congress and was responsible for the collapse of the JDS-Congress coalition government. But the CM announced a ministerial berth to the BJP candidate, if voted to power, to woo voters saying it would help the constituency.
In RR Nagar, the Congress party’s youth wing workers from different districts were on rounds doing a door-to-door campaign to help its nominee H Kusuma, wife of late IAS officer DK Ravi.
Kusuma, a vokkaliga, is seen as an independent, educated candidate having a clean image as opposed to her opponent from the BJP who’s facing corruption allegations. She holds an MS degree in information technology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her father had unsuccessfully contested for the seat in 2008. The Congress wrested power in 2013 and won it in 2018. But its candidate switched to the BJP.
Meanwhile, in Sira, the senior Congress leader T B Jayachandra is a former minister and six-time MLA. While he visited several Vokkaliga seers to garner support, the party banks on him for this experience and the work done by him, while the JD(S), which parted ways with the Congress after the break up of the coalition government, nominated Ammajamma, the wife of the late legislator B Sathyanarayana, whose death necessitated the bypol. The JDS hopes to gain empathy votes, and the BJP candidate, Rajesh Gowda, the son of former Chitradurga MP, hopes that the fight between the JDS and the Congress will turn to his favour.
Yediyurappa, in the last leg of the campaign, promised voters that the government will take efforts to fill all the 13 lakes in Sira, a parched region, in six months, to get rid of the water shortage problem. “I assure you that we will develop Sira and make it a model taluk. This is my promise,” the CM had said.
As the campaign came to a close, BJP candidate Munirathana, who’s into cable business, allegedly distributed 34,000 set-top boxes. This Congress is now demanding that the BJP candidate be disqualified.
“The BJP candidate brazenly accepts that he distributed 34,000 free set-top boxes. It exceeded the budgeted election expense and the candidate should be disqualified immediately,” demanded DK Shivakumar on Monday.
He had mocked the BJP in the past. for selecting the candidate against whom they themselves had complained of allegations.
“If he wins, it would be an embarrassment and more trouble for the CM, Yediyurappa,” DKS had said. “There were three women corporators who had complained against him for interfering in party affairs and spoke ill of them. Today, we are challenging one such candidate with a woman contestant and we hope the voters will reward her,” he said.