Karnataka bypolls: JD(S) focusing on 3 seats to ‘teach defectors a lesson’
The Janata Dal (Secular) is focussing on three of the 15 seats in Karnataka where assembly bypolls will be held on December 5. The regional outfit held all three seats before the sitting MLAs revolted resigned, toppling the Congress-JD(S) government in the state.
Now, the party has fielded former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, his son and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, his brother HD Revanna and the lone party MP HD Revanna to muster support for the party and ensure the “turncoats” are defeated. All three rebels have been fielded by the BJP.
The party has named candidates in 12 of the 15 seats, and is backing an independent in the 13th seat, but the three seats of Hunsur, KR Pete and Mahalaxmi layout are the only ones where the party has decided to bring in heavyweight campaigners.
These are also the only three seats the party held previously. The first two seats fall in the traditional stronghold of old Mysuru region while the third is in Bengaluru city.
The December 5 bypolls are crucial because they may determine who rules the state. The assembly’s current strength is 207, of which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds 105 seats and is backed by one independent, the Congress has 66, the JD(S) 34 and one seat is held by an independent.
After the bypolls, the strength of the House will rise to 222 and the halfway mark will be 112. So, to hold on to power, the BJP needs to win six seats while the Opposition needs to win 11 seats to bring down the administration.
Bypolls to two seats is not being held because of pending legal cases. The total strength of the assembly is 224.
The Opposition is confident of winning, and has focussed on attacking the BJP candidates, who defected from the Congress and the JD(S) earlier this year.
In Hunsur on Wednesday, Deve Gowda called on voters to teach the BJP candidate AH Vishwanath a lesson and said the JD(S) rebel had stabbed him in the back by defecting.
The Congress has also deployed heavyweight Vokkaliga leader and the party’s main troubleshooter D K Shivakumar, to campaign for its candidate in the constituency. Shivkaumar told voters to not forget what BJP chief minister BS Yediyurappa did to topple the coalition government. “Vishwanath is somebody who back-stabbed both Congress and JD(S),” he said.
Vishwanath was nonchalant and said the voters had seen his work and he was confident of getting re-elected.
In neighbouring KR Pete, an emotional Kumaraswamy said the BJP candidate Naryanagowda who was elected on a JD(S) ticket last time “slit our throat”.
“He has cheated the people of this constituency. Some legislators got lured by the BJP and ensured that our coalition government was toppled. Voters should give a befitting reply,” he added.
In Mahalaksmi Layout, the JD(S) and the Congress are again fighting a former JD(S) rebel who is contesting this time on a BJP ticket.
”We are not into revenge politics, but to save democracy. In spite of anti-defection law being present, some parties are treating it with scant respect. So people should teach all the 15 disqualified legislators who are now contesting on BJP tickets a lesson by sending them packing,” Kumaraswamy had said.
The 15 rebels were key to the falling of the one-year-old Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka in July. The legislators resigned their positions, reducing the alliance to a minority. They were then given tickets by the BJP for the bypolls.
Political analysts point out that the Congress and JD(S) will face problems because they are no longer in coalition and the competing candidates may split votes. “There are also several internal fault lines within JD(S),” said analyst L Manjunath.
BJP spokesperson S Prakash sounded confident and referred to an earlier statement by Yediurappa, who had said the party will win all 15 seats.