Bengaluru: The ruling Congress-JDS coalition in Karnataka faces a litmus test as three Lok Sabha and two assembly constituencies go to bypolls Saturday, the outcome of which is expected to have a bearing on the state’s political scene. The polls are significant as the coalition partners, who have decided to contest them together, have termed it as a “prelude” to the May 2019 general elections and called for a similar “grand secular alliance” against the BJP at the national level.
BJP which has been questioning the longevity of the coalition government has predicted its fall once the by-poll results are out. Polling in the by-polls to three Lok Sabha seats – Ballari, Shivamogga and Mandya and Ramanagara – and Jamkhandi assembly segments will be held between7 am to 6 pm Saturday, with a total of 54,54,275 voters elgible to cast their franchise in about 6,450 polling stations.
There are a total 31 candidates in the fray in all thefive constituencies, though the contest is mainly between the Congress-JDS combine and the BJP. Counting of votes will be on November 6.
Among the prominent candidates in the fray is Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s wifeAnita Kumaraswamy, who is expected to have a smooth sail facing avirtual no-contest in Ramanagara after BJP nominee L Chandrashekhar withdrew from the contest and rejoined Congress, giving a jolt days before the polls. Officials at the state Chief Electoral Officer’s office said, a total of 1,502 polling stations had been declared as sensitive.
A total of 35,495 polling personnel will be on duty for the bypolls in which 8,922 Voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) will be used, they added. Senior police officials said elaborate security arrangements have been made in all the five constituencies. The announcement of the by-polls for the Lok Sabha seats came as a surprise to all thethree major political parties in the state — Congress, BJP and JD(S) — who questioned the need for the exercise when the general elections are due early next year.
Congress and JDS, who came together in a post-poll alliance after the assembly elections in May this year threw up a hung House, have decided to face the polls unitedly against the BJP, which they perceive as their common enemy. While the Congress has fielded its candidates in Jamkhandi and Ballari, JD(S) is contesting in Shivamogga, Ramanagara and Mandya under an electoral understanding.
The outcome of the by-polls is expected to have a bearing on the alliance between Congress and JDS for the 2019 polls and also be a factor in determining the respective bargaining power of the two parties. The bypolls brought to forefamily politics with kin of several leaders being fielded. In Jamkhandi, Congress candidate Anand Nyamagowda, son of former MLA Siddu Nyamagouda, is pitted against Srikant Kulkarni of the BJP.
In Shivamogga, state BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa’s son B Y Raghavendra is testing his fortunes against another former chief ministerS Bangarappa’s son Madhu Bangarappa of the JD(S). In Ballari, senior BJP leader Sriramulu’s sister J Shantha is fightingagainst V S Ugrappa of the Congress, considered anoutsider.
In the Vokkaliga bastion of Mandya, JD(S)’s Shivarame Gowda, is pitted against a fresh face in Dr Siddaramaiah, a retired Commercial Tax officer from the BJP. BJP has lodged a complaint with the Election Commission about the developments in Ramanagara and requested it to “annul” the elections immediately.
During campaigning, openexpression of displeasure by Congress workers came to fore in Ramanagara and Mandya constituencies thatcome under old Mysuru region over the party’s decision to support the JDS candidates. Congress and JD(S) that had fought bitterly against each other in the assembly polls, especially in the old Mysururegion.
The by-elections have been necessitated after Yeddyurappa (Shivamogga) and Sriramalu (Ballari), and C S Puttaraju of JD(S) (Mandya) resigned as MPs on their election to the assembly in May this year. Bypolls to Jamkhandi assembly seat was caused by 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 won.