Bypoll results can help revive Cong before 2023 polls: Experts
The Congress won one of the two Assembly seats and made significant gains in the Belagavi Lok Sabha constituency in the recently concluded bypolls, results of which were announced on Sunday. Though numerically the Congress emerged victorious on only one of the three bypolls in the state, but political analysts said the results might revive the party’s chances in the state, which will go to assembly elections in 2023.
DK Shivakumar, the Karnataka Congress president, said the results showed that people were showing their confidence in the party.
With just two years to go for the assembly polls, the Congress has an opportunity to wrest power in the state by capitalising on the internal bickering within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the growing voices against chief minister BS Yediyurappa, analysts said.
“If they (Congress) make their candidates’ choice strategically and carefully, they can fight the BJP,” A Narayana, political analyst and faculty at the Azim Premji University in Bengaluru said.
Congress’s Basanagouda Turvihal won the Maski assembly bypoll, defeating BJP’s Pratap Patil by a margin of 30,606 votes, while the other assembly bypoll saw BJP’s Sharanu Salagar beat the Congress candidate, Mala B Narayanrao by 20,629 votes. In Belagavi Lok Sabha bypoll, BJP’s Mangal Suresh Angadi defeated Congress’ Satish Jarkiholi by a narrow margin of 5,240 votes.
On the latter’s candidature for the Lok Sabha bypoll, Nayarayan said Satish Jarkiholi was a strong local face with influence over the district. Analysts also pointed out that while Jarkiholi lost the Belagavi bypoll, but the margin was a positive sign for the Congress, which had lost the seat to late Union minister Suresh Angadi of the BJP in 2019 by a margin of nearly 4 lakh votes.
Analysts said the Congress has gained in Karnataka by decentralising power, leaving more decision-making powers with local units than with the high command. However, this has led to the creation of local chieftains like Siddaramaiah, who refuses to cede control over the party affairs to Shivakumar, the Congress president in the state, analysts said.
They pointed out that another factor that was working in Congress’ favour was the gradual dilution of former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy-led Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S).
“We have seen the gradual dilution of the JD(S). They are increasingly getting marginalised and searching for a political identity for themselves. That gives the Congress greater credibility in terms of revivalism in Karnataka politics,” Vinod MJ, a Bengaluru-based political analyst, said.
Analysts also said that the Congress’ decision to put Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar at the helm of affairs gives it a good chance for a revival, if the two could manage to put their differences aside.
Another positive for the Congress was its performance in the recent local urban body elections, where it managed to win six out of the 10 ULBs across several districts, including pockets of Shivamogga, the home district of chief minister Yediyurappa.
The results came as an embarrassment to the ruling BJP, which is yet to put its house in order despite being in power for two years in the state. With allegations of mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic situation, lack of performance, cash-crunch, running a parallel administration through his second son (BY Vijayendra) and simmering dissent, Yediyurappa has spent most of his time in office dousing one crisis after another.
While the BJP shrugged away any chance of Congress’ revival, analysts said the party would do that at its own risk. “This is a kind of revivalism that the BJP cannot ignore,” Vinod MJ added.