The huge victory margin of 46,790 votes with which Independent candidate B Sriramulu on Sunday won the Bellary Rural assembly bye-election has stunned Karnataka's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the main opposition Congress.
"More than our defeat, the huge victory margin of Sriramulu over the Congress has surprised us and went beyond our calculations. We didn't expect our candidate (P. Gadilingappa) to lose even security deposit," a BJP spokesman told IANS here.
Of the total votes (about 120,000) polled Nov 30 in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) reserved constituency, about 300 km from Bangalore, Sriramulu secured 74,527, while his Congress rival B. Ramprasad got 27,737 and Gadilingappa just 17,366, which is less than one-sixth of the polled votes.
Around 71 percent of the 171,000 electorate cast their votes Wednesday in incident-free polling amid tight security.
"I can't believe it. It's a big setback for us, as we never expected this. We thought it would be a close fight between Sriramulu and Ramprasad," Leader of the Opposition in the assembly and Congress lawmaker Siddaramiah told reporters at Channarayapatna, about 160 km from Bangalore.
In the 2008 assembly elections, Sriramulu defeated Ramprasad by 25,000 votes as a BJP nominee.
Accepting the verdict, Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda said over 17,000 electorate had reposed faith in the ruling BJP, which had "zero votes" after Sriramulu quit the party Nov 9 and its five lawmakers, including two parliament members campaigned for him.
"We had zero votes in the constituency after Sriramulu left the party. We now have over 17,000 votes. It's'a good beginning and augurs well as we will work hard to revive our fortunes there in the next assembly elections (2013)," an unfazed Gowda told reporters here.
Admitting that entrusting the political and administrative affairs of the district (Bellary) to the mining barons, the Reddy brothers, over the past three years had cost the party dearly, Gowda said though he would not hold anyone responsible for the shock defeat, he would attribute the loss to the mistakes the party committed since came to power in the state for the first time in May 2008.
"Nobody is responsible for our defeat. The mistakes committed by us in the last three years are responsible," he said.
Defying the party's diktat, BJP lawmakers G. Somashekara Reddy, youngest of the three Reddy brothers, S.T. Suresh Babu, B. Nagendra, the Bellary Lok Sabha member and Sriramulu's sister B. Shanta and Raichur Lok Sabha member Sanna Fakirappa openly campaigned for the rebel leader. They were also suspended from the party.
Of the other two Reddy brothers, G. Janardhana, a legislative council member and former state minister, is in a Hyderabad jail since Sept 5 after he was implicated in the multi-crore mining scam in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh while G. Karunakara, a lawmaker from the same district, and a former state minister, did not take part in the electioneering.
Asserting that the adverse verdict would have no bearing on his four-month-old government, Gowda said the ruling party had majority (119) in the 225-member legislative assembly, including Speaker K.G. Bopaiah and support of an independent Varthur Prakash, who is the state's textiles minister.
"My government is safe and secure. There is no destabilisation threat. We have mandate till mid-2013. As we have the majority in the house (assembly), we will not need Sriramulu's support to survive," Gowda pointed out ahead of the nine-day winter session of the joint legislature from Monday.
Though the regional party Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) hailed Sriramulu's'thumping victory after extending tacit support to him and by not contesting in the by-poll, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president G. Parameshwara minced no words in alleging that money power and muscle power played a huge role in the former's victory.
"This is not the first time we have lost in a bye-election. We have seen how in successive elections, the BJP and now its rebel leader have used money and muscle power to win again and again," Parameshwara told reporters here.
The Congress, which has 71 members in the legislative assembly, failed to win even in one of the dozen by-elections held across the state since 2008. The JD-S has 26 members.