Bypoll boost for Opposition unity as Congress-JD(S) win 4 of 5 seats

An unexpected victory in the Ballari Lok Sabha constituency was particularly sweet tor the Congress-JD(S) alliance, which wrested the seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a hiatus of nearly one-and-a-half decades.
Congress workers celebrate after the party’s win in Jamakhandi assembly bypoll, on Tuesday.(PTI Photo)
Congress workers celebrate after the party’s win in Jamakhandi assembly bypoll, on Tuesday.(PTI Photo)
Updated on Nov 06, 2018 11:40 PM IST
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The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance on Tuesday won two of three Lok Sabha seats and both assembly seats with hefty margins in the November 3 Karnataka by-elections, securing a morale booster in what the former called just a teaser ahead of next year’s general elections.

An unexpected victory in the Ballari Lok Sabha constituency was particularly sweet tor the alliance, which wrested the seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a hiatus of nearly one-and-a-half decades. It also won the Mandya Lok Sabha seat and the Ramanagara and Jamakhandi assembly seats.

Karnataka BJP chief BS?Yeddyurappa’s son Raghavendra scored the only win for the BJP by defeating JD(S)’s S Madhu Bangarappa by 52,148 votes in Shivamogga. The seat was won by BS Yeddyurappa in 2014 by a margin of nearly 350,000 votes.

Celebrating “ the sweeping victory” of the coalition in a Twitter post, the Congress called it a “teaser for what is in store for the BJP next year”. “Congratulations to all the workers & leaders of the Congress party in Karnataka on the decisive victory of the Congress-JD(S) alliance in the By-Polls in the state. I thank each & every one of you, for your dedication & hard work that made this victory possible,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi said separately.

Acknowledging the setbacks for the BJP, Yeddyurappa alleged the result reflected the large amounts of money and liquor the ruling alliance had spent ahead of voting. “The painful fact is that we have faced a setback in Ballari and Jamakhandi. I feel this is a warning and we need to begin work there right away,” he said. “Our aim is to win many seats in the Lok Sabha polls and ensure Prime Minister Narendra Modi wins at the Centre. We need to start that work now.”

The by-elections were the first litmus test for the alliance, which was formed after the May assembly elections in which the BJP won the most number of seats but fell short of a majority in the 224-member house. To thwart the BJP’s bid for power, the Congress, the senior partner, agreed to a coalition in which it accepted the JD (S)’s HD Kumaraswamy as chief minister. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted that the 4-1 result “looks like a Test series win under Virat Kohli. Coalition has delivered.”

Tougher tests are to follow with assembly elections due this month and in December in the Hindi-speaking heartland states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Telangana in the south, and Mizoram in the North-east.

In the race for the Ballari Lok?Sabha seat, Congress’s VS Ugrappa beat BJP’s J Shantha by over 243,000 votes. In the Mandya parliamentary constituency , JD(S)’s LR Shivaramegowda defeated BJP’s TR Siddaramaiah with a margin of 324,943 votes.

Ballari had been a bastion of the BJP since 2004, when its candidate G Karunakara Reddy, brother of mining baron G Janardhan Reddy, won the seat. Mandya is at the heart of the Vokkaliga belt of the Old Mysore region and has traditionally seen a direct contest between the Congress and JD(S).

AS Nyamagouda of the Congress defeated Kulkarni Shrikant Subrao of the BJP in Jamkhandi by a margin of 39,480 votes.Chief minister Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha won the Ramanagara assembly constituency, defeating the BJP’s L Chandrashekhar by 109,137 votes.

The defeat in Ramanagara was specially galling for the BJP, which suffered an embarrassment when its candidate L Chandrashekar, a Congress rebel, withdrew from the race two days before voting. Chandrashekar was listed on the electronic voting machine as the BJP candidate and received around 16,000 votes.

JD(S) leader and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda thanked the “people of Karnataka for supporting development-centric administration of JDS-INC government. People of the state have given their response to those who were trying to destabilise the state government.”

There is no doubt that the coalition would continue, Deve Gowda said. “It is now time for us to sit with Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other leaders to discuss how we can take this forward,” he said.

After emerging as the single-largest party in the May 12 assembly elections, the BJP made a failed bid to form government in the only southern state it has ruled in the past. State BJP president and former chief minister Yeddyurappa and senior leader B Sreeramulu were sworn in as members of the assembly after resigning their membership of the Lok Sabha from Shivamogga and Ballari, respectively.

For a similar reason, JD(S) CS Puttaraju, now Karnataka’s minor irrigation minister, also gave up his Lok Sabha membership from Mandya. Among the assembly seats, the Ramanagara seat, one of two which chief minister Kumaraswamy contested, fell vacant after he retained neighbouring Channapatna. Siddu Nyamgoud of the Congress, who won the Jamkhandi seat in May, died in a road accident days after being elected, resulting in the vacancy.

While the BJP put up candidates in all five seats, the Congress-JD(S) alliance worked out a seat-sharing arrangement as a result of which the Congress contested one parliamentary and assembly seat each and the JD(S) the remaining three. Former CM Siddaramaiah of the Congress said the results were a clear indication of the public mood ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. “This election shows what decision the people will take in 2019. I want to thank voters across all five seats and the workers and leaders of our parties for this result.”

Political analyst Narendar Pani, a member of the faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, said while the outcome was a big victory for the Congress and JD(S), there was as yet no evidence that the coalition as a combined entity had worked. “If anything, it has shown that the Congress has faced a slight setback in Mandya, where the BJP was able to poll over 2 lakh votes,” he said. For the BJP, Pani said, there were clear reasons to worry. “In the northern Karnataka seats of Jamakhandi and Ballari it seems that the Congress was able to build a coalition of Lingayats and backward classes. However, it will take heart from the performance in the Old Mysore area,” he said.

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