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Karnataka bypolls: 15 constituencies go to polls tomorrow

BENGALURU: Stakes are high for the three political parties — BJP, Congress and JD(S) — when the 15 assembly segments in Karnataka will go for polling tomorrow. The byelection is particularly crucial to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa for the survival of his four months old government.

In the 222 members assembly, the BJP needs to win at least seven seats to reach the majority mark of 111 and to retain power. Karnataka witnessed major political upheaval in the last few months when 17 legislators from the Congress and the JD(S) quit their party to join the BJP. The defection led to the collapse of a year old JD(S) – Congress coalition government. The Supreme Court upheld the speaker’s decision to disqualify defectors and allowed them to contest the bypolls.

By-elections will be held in 15 of the 17 constituencies. The Election Commission has not announced poll schedule to two assembly segments – RR Nagar and Maski – due to pending cases in the Karnataka High Court over the results of 2018 assembly elections. The 15 constituencies where voting will take place tomorrow are: Athani, Kagwad, Gokak, Yellapur, Hirekerur, Ranebennur, Vijayanagar, Chikkaballapur, K R Pura, Yeshvanthpur, Mahalakshmi Layout, Shivaji Nagar, Hoskote, K R Pet and Hunasur.

Of the 15 segments, the BJP has fielded disqualified MLAs in 13 and has given tickets to party leaders in the remaining two seats. The Congress is contesting in all 15 constituencies and the JD(S) candidates are in the fray in 12 seats. Two rebels, Sharath Bachegowda and Kaviraj Urs, who were formerly with the BJP are contesting independently.

Days before the bypolls, the former allies turned foes — the Congress and JD(S) leaders have indicated the possibility of coming together of two parties yet again if the BJP fails to win the required numbers.

The election campaign that lasted for two weeks saw the BJP seeking votes with a promise of providing “stable government.” The challenge before the party leaders has been to convince voters on what forced to defectors to switch their loyalties. The Congress and the JD(S) created a counter-narrative blaming the BJP for the collapse of the coalition government. They have also tried to rake up public sentiment by calling defectors as “backstabbers.”

Bypolls is a litmus test to all three leaders from the BJP, Congress and JD(S). While for Yediyurappa it is a question of his government’s survival, for Congress leader Siddaramaiah it is an opportunity to reiterate his leadership in the party.

Source: Economic Times