With the Election Commission on Saturday announcing the by-poll schedule for 15 Assembly constituencies in Karnataka, the Congress has sounded the poll bugle, while the JD(S) announced it would go it alone. The ruling BJP, amid ongoing efforts to protect the interests of the disqualified Congress-JD(S) MLAs with whose help it came to power, has expressed confidence of winning all the seats. Winning a majority of the seats in the by-polls is necessary for the BJP to continue to stay in power. The EC announced by-elections to constituencies represented by 15 of the 17 disqualified former Congress-JD(S) MLAs on October 21 with results to be declared on October 24. Absence and resignation of 17 Congress-JD(S) MLAs during the trust vote had led to the collapse of the H D Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in July, and helped BJP to come to power.
After examining the petition moved by leadership of both parties, the then Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar had disqualified 17 Congress-JD(S) MLAs under the anti-defection law, which they have challenged in the Supreme Court. The 15 constituencies that will go to polls are: Athani, Kagwad, Gokak, Yellapura, Hirekerur, Ranibennur, Vijaynagara, Chickballapura, K R Pura, Yeshwanthpura, Mahalakshmi Layout, Shivajinagara, Hosakote, K R Pete and Hunsur. Among the 15 constituencies going for polls, 12 were represented by Congress and three by JD(S). By-polls have not been announced for Maski and Rajarajeshwari Nagar constituencies, due to the pending election petitions in the High Court relating to the 2018 Assembly elections.
The BJP, which came to power with the help of these 17 disqualified MLAs, had plans to field them as candidates in the bypolls on getting respite from the Supreme Court, where the legislators have challenged their disqualification. The then Speaker Ramesh Kumar had ruled that those disqualified, cease to be MLAs with immediate effect till the expiry of the 15th Assembly (in 2023). With the EC announcing the by-poll schedule on Saturday, and the Supreme Court yet to hear their plea, the 17 disqualified legislators are in “trouble.” The former legislators went into a huddle soon after the announcement of schedule and reportedly even met Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, who is travelling to Delhi tonight, and legal experts. They have said they will be seeking a stay on the election process on Monday, as their petition challenging disqualification is pending before the Supreme Court.
Reacting to the poll schedule announcement, BJP state President Nalin Kumar Kateel said, “the Election Commission has announced by-polls for 15 constituencies. On the disqualified MLAs, court and EC will decide. Our party is prepared for polls.” Expressing confidence that the BJP will win all 15 seats, he said, “without challenge it is not politics.” Winning most seats in this by-elections is crucial for BJP to stay in power that has the strength of 105 MLAs (including 1 independent) in the Assembly whose current strength is 208 (after disqualification of 17 legislators). While the Congress’ strength is 66, JD(S) has 34 MLAs in the Assembly that also consists of one BSP member, a nominated member and the Speaker. The actual strength of the Assembly is 225 and the half-way mark is 113. The BJP will need to win at least eight seats in the by-polls to remain in majority in the 225-member House.
With the announcement of the by-polls, JD(S) that had run a coalition government and contested the Lok Sabha polls with the Congress, made it clear that it will go it alone in the by-election. “On October 21, fifteen Assembly constituencies in Karnataka will go for by-polls…In my opinion the results of these 15 seats will determine the political future of the state. Our party has already decided to field candidates in all the 15 constituencies,” JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy said. Speaking at a party event in Mysuru, the former Chief Minister said the party will have to win at least 8 to 10 seats in this election, adding he will work with party workers for the next one month. JD(S) patriarch H D Deve Gowda said Kumaraswamy has already shown an inclination of the party contesting in all the 15 constituencies, because he did not want workers to face the “sufferings” that he had gone through from Congress, by continuing the alliance. He said the party leaders will meet soon and take a final decision on contesting all constituencies. On its part, the Congress on Saturday launched its campaign for by-elections in Hosakote, where several top leaders including KPCC President Dinesh Gundu Rao, CLP chief Siddaramaiah among others participated.
Accusing disqualified Congress MLA M T B Nagaraj, who represented Hosakote of “betraying” the voters and the party, Congress leaders requested people to teach him a lesson, and also the BJP for its support. Later speaking to reporters, Siddaramaiah said, “Election has been announced on October 21… we had expected by-elections, but did not expect it in October itself, we had thought it will be in November or December.
Election Commission has announced, we are prepared to face it.” Regarding an alliance with JD(S), he maintained the “high command will decide, they will seek our opinion.” However, several top leaders of the Congress on condition of anonymity had recently said the entire rank and file of the party were happy to end the partnership with JD(S).
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Source: Financial Express