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Karnataka bypolls 2018 results: Ballari, BJP fort for 15 years, crumbles with Congress-JD(S) big win

Karnataka bypolls: The bypoll in Ballari took place following the resignation of BJP’s sitting Lok Sabha member B Sreeramulu after he won the assembly election from Molkalmuru in Chitradurga district. The Congress-JD(S) combine put up a tough fight.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2018 22:36 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Karnataka
The by-election to the Ballari Lok Sabha seat saw a pitched battle with both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Congress-Janata Dal(Secular) alliance going all out to capture the seat.
The by-election to the Ballari Lok Sabha seat saw a pitched battle with both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Congress-Janata Dal(Secular) alliance going all out to capture the seat.(HT File Photo)
         

Ballari first hit the national headlines in 1999 when then Congress chief Sonia Gandhi chose to fight for election to the Lok Sabha from the seat, in the heart of Karnataka’s mining region. For weeks, Gandhi was locked in a bitter fight with senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj, eventually defeating her by about 55,000 votes.

Gandhi vacated the seat in favour of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh and the party lost Ballari in the 2004 general elections, never to win it again for the next 14 years. The region turned into a BJP stronghold over the past 14 years, on the back of the control exercised by the controversial Reddy brothers.

But on Thursday, Congress’ VS Ugrappa reversed the trend as he trounced BJP’s J Shantha by 385,000 votes. Ugrappa’s victory came against all odds as the BJP was confident of retaining the seat won by senior leader and the party’s tribal face, B Sreeramulu, in 2014. Shantha is a former MP and Sreeramulu’s sister but couldn’t stop Ugrappa from amassing more votes than her brother did in 2014.

The seat fell vacant after Sreeramulu’s victory from the Molkalmuru seat in the May assembly elections. The BJP emerged as the single-largest party and staked claim to forming a short-lived government. The Congress backed the Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy for chief minister and could secure a majority on the floor of the house.

Experts pointed out that while the battle on the ground was between Ugrappa and Shantha, the real fight for the prestigious Lok Sabha seat was between Sreeramulu and Congress strongman DK Shivakumar, who was asked to ensure a victory.

Political analyst Narendar Pani said the margin of victory showed that the Congress was able to stitch together a broad-based alliance. “The result also shows the Congress an alternative strategy of not just delegating responsibilities to state level leaders, but to decentralise further and thinking at the constituency level,” he said.

Campaigning for the seat saw a high-pitched battle of personalities, between Sreeramulu and Shivakumar, and between former chief minister Siddaramaiah and his bête noire, mining baron G Janardhana Reddy. The BJP attempted to paint Ugrappa as an outsider to the constituency and the Congress focused on the mining scam and Reddy brothers’ alleged links to the scandal.

The campaigning styles of both parties were also studies in contrast. While the BJP banked on Sreeramulu to deliver his pocket borough, the Congress decentralised its efforts by delegating responsibility to local leaders. The Congress won six of the nine seats in the district and the MLAs were charged with ensuring the party’s victory in their segment.

The ruling coalition even arranged rallies addressed jointly by Siddaramaiah and his one-time mentor-turned-bitter-rival, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda. Chief minister HD Kumaraswamy also addressed some public meetings.

Shivakumar thanked the voters and even the BJP for ensuring that the campaigning was without incident. “I asked Congress workers not to campaign thinking that the term for this election would be only five months. We campaigned for a five-and-a-half year term because we will have to hit the ground again in another six months,” he said, adding that he was pressured from all sides, but “DK Shivakumar is not someone who fears defeat or death”.

Sreeramulu, meanwhile, took full responsibility for the defeat. “The Congress’s Ugrappa is jumping up and down with this victory, but I have said in the past that they have misused the governmental machine and that is why they won,” he said. “There has been a setback here. But I am not angry with anybody.”

First Published: Nov 06, 2018 07:14 IST

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