Karnataka bypoll a huge test for Cong’s DK Shivakumar and JDS’ HD Kumaraswamy
With the Election Commission announcing bypolls for two seats in Karnataka – Sira in Tumkur and Raja Rajeshwari Nagar (RR Nagar) seat in Bengaluru – it is the opposition Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress than the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that is trying to make a mark.
The Sira seat became vacant after sitting JDS legislator B Sathyanarayana died due to novel coronavirus on 5 August. In the 2018 assembly elections, the RR Nagar constituency was won by Munirathna Naidu of Congress but he later switched over to the BJP.
Ironically it was the then BJP candidate Tulsi Muniraju Gowda who went to court challenging Naidu’s election alleging he had created fake voter ID cards. The EC had subsequently declared Naidu’s election as null and void.
With the ruling BJP having 117 seats in the 225-member assembly (including one nominated member) plus the support of two of the three independents, it is comfortably placed with a clear, simple majority. However it is the opposition parties who have a point to prove in the bypolls.
DK Shivakumar, who was appointed as the Karnataka Congress president in March this year, is keen to prove that under his leadership, the party would be able to take on the BJP.
For the JDS, it is a question of survival as both seats are Vokkaliga dominated and the party is traditionally seen to represent the interests of this community. It is also an electoral tussle between JDS leader HD Kumaraswamy and DK Shivakumar on who will be seen as the real Vokkaliga leader as both belong to the community.
Kumaraswamy had recently acknowledged that the Sira seat would be a test, even as he swatted away rumours of increasing proximity to BJP. “We will win Sira,” Kumaraswamy had said on September 12 after holding a meeting of workers from the constituency.
However, a senior JDS leader who did not want to be identified, said the party faces an uphill task. Due to age and health-related issues even before coronavirus claimed his life, Sathyanaryana was not very active in the constituency “so even if we give a ticket to one of his family members to encash the sympathy, it might not work. Also remember, even our party’s tallest leader Deve Gowda was defeated in Tumkur in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.” Sira is an assembly constituency under Tumkur Lok Sabha seat.
Both Deve Gowda and Kumaraswamy will be in Sira on Wednesday to decide on their candidate and strategy.
The Congress has already named former minister TB Jayachandra who had lost the previous assembly polls as its candidate. Karnataka president DK Shivakumar had declared on 17 September that ‘Jayachandra is the unanimous choice of workers and leaders from the constituency. He has won six assembly polls in the past. I am confident we will win the seat again.”
The BJP, which is the third player in the constituency, is likely to field either SR Gowda or BK Manjunath. Both are party workers. In the RR Nagar seat, the BJP is likely to give Congress turncoat Munirathna Naidu the ticket, while Congress and JDS may field fresh faces. The parties are all in a huddle on finalising names of candidates except in Sira where Congress has already declared Jayachandra’s name.
Political analyst Manjunath commenting on the bypoll prospects said “The ruling party has other challenges such as cabinet expansion and eventual replacement of Yediyurappa. The BJP will also be more concerned about winning the four legislative council seats for which elections have been announced as they lack a majority in the upper house. It is the JDS and Congress who are both out to prove a point in the assembly polls. While all the three will obviously try to win, it is the JDS which has the most to lose in case it does now win either of the assembly seats.”
Election Commission has also announced polls for four graduates and teachers constituency for the Karnataka Legislative Council for which voting will happen on October 28. For the two assembly constituencies, voting will happen on November 3.