Bengaluru: Counting of votes for the bypolls to three Lok Sabha and two Assembly constituencies in Karnataka began on Tuesday. Bypolls for the three Lok Sabha constituencies – Shivamogga, Ballari and Mandya; and two Assembly constituencies – Ramanagara and Jamkhandi, which were held on Saturday, are seen as a prestigious popularity test for the ruling Congress-JDS coalition.
An estimated 67 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the bypolls. Counting of votes began at 8 am and a total of 1,248 counting staff have been deployed for it. Elaborate security arrangements have been made to ensure to that no untoward incident takes place during the counting of votes, police officials said. A total of 31 candidates were in the fray from the five constituencies, though the contest is mainly between the Congress-JDS combine and the BJP.
The bypoll results will determine the fate of Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s wife Anita Kumaraswamy, state BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa’s son B Y Raghavendra and former chief minister S Bangarappa’s son Madhu Bangarappa among others. Anita Kumaraswamy is expected to have a smooth sailing in Ramanagara, after BJP nominee L Chandrashekhar withdrew from the contest and rejoined the Congress. In Jamkhandi, it remains to be seen whether the Congress’ Anand Nyamagowda will be able to make a successful electoral debut, riding on sympathy wave following the death of his father Siddu Nyamagouda.
Former chief minister Siddaramaiah, who is the Congress MLA from neighbouring Badami assembly constituency had invested lot of time for campaigning in Jamkhandi. In Shivamogga, former chief minister Yeddyurappa’s son B Y Raghavendra is testing his fortunes against another ex-chief minister S Bangarappa’s son Madhu Bangarappa of the JD(S). Janata Parivar veteran and former chief minister J H Patel’s son Mahima J Patel is also in the fray as a JD(U) candidate. In Ballari, senior BJP leader Sriramulu’s sister J Shantha is fighting against V S Ugrappa of the Congress.
In the Vokkaliga bastion of Mandya, JD(S)’s Shivarame Gowda is pitted against a fresh face — Dr Siddaramaiah, a retired commercial tax officer, of the BJP. Among the interesting things that one needs to watch out for is to what extent the BJP would be able to make inroads into the JD(S) bastion of Mandya and the Congress stronghold of Jamkhandi. Of similar interest would be to what extent the Congress will be able to regain its significance in its erstwhile party stronghold of Ballari. The Congress and JD(S) had fought bitterly against each other in the May Assembly polls, especially in the old Mysuru region, but had joined hands to form a coalition government after a fractured mandate.
The outcome of the bypolls is expected to have a bearing on the equations between the Congress and the JDS for the 2019 general elections and also be a factor in determining the bargaining power of the two parties. The bypolls assume significance as the ruling coalition partners contested together, terming it a “prelude” to the Lok Sabha polls next year, and called for a similar “grand secular alliance” against the BJP at the national level.
The announcement of the bypolls for the Lok Sabha seats came as a surprise to all the three major political parties in the state — the Congress, BJP and JD(S) — who questioned the need for the exercise when the general elections are due early next year. The byelections were necessitated after Yeddyurappa (Shivamogga), Sriramalu (Ballari), and C S Puttaraju of JD(S) (Mandya) resigned as MPs following their election to the Karnataka Assembly. Bypolls to Jamkhandi Assembly seat was necessitated due to the death of Congress MLA Siddu Nyamagouda, while Ramanagara fell vacant after Kumaraswamy gave up the seat, preferring Chennapatna, the other constituency from where he had also won.