Karnataka Bypolls: Voting on 15 Seats Today, BJP in the Hunt for Six to Stay Afloat

Karnataka Bypolls: Voting on 15 Seats Today, BJP in the Hunt for Six to Stay Afloat

New Delhi: After a protracted drama in Maharashtra, the political spotlight has shifted to Karnataka where bypolls to 15 assembly seats will be held on Thursday. Stakes are high for the ruling BJP which needs six more seats to remain in power in the southern state.

The BS Yediyurappa government has a wafer-thin majority of 106 MLAs, including an Independent lawmaker, in the current 207-member Assembly. The actual strength of the House is 224 members, but 17 Congress and JD(S) MLAs had resigned in July and switched over to the BJP, leading to the collapse of HD Kumaraswamy’s coalition government.

These MLAs were then disqualified by Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, necessitating the bypolls. The Supreme Court, while upholding the disqualification, quashed the Speaker’s decision to bar them from contesting the elections. Many of them are contesting on BJP tickets this time.

Of the 17 seats rendered vacant by the disqualification, 15 will go to polls on Thursday. Bypolls to Maski and RR Nagar seats haven’t been announced yet since challenges regarding polls in these two constituencies are pending in the high court.

After Thursday’s bypolls, the assembly’s total strength would go up to 222, bringing the half-way mark to 112. The opposition Congress-JD(S) has the support of 101 MLAs, which includes the lone Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA.

The 15 constituencies going to polls are Athani, Chickballapur, Gokak, Hirekerur, Hosakote, Hunasuru, Kagwad, KR Pura, Krishnarahapete, Mahalakshmi Layout, Ranibennur, Shivajinagar, Vijayanagara, Yellapur, and Yeshwanthpur. Of these, the BJP has fielded the disqualified turncoats in 13. Many of these candidates have enjoyed long associations with the Congress and JD(S).

Ramesh Jarkiholi, who is contesting on a BJP ticket from Gokak, had won the same seat with the Congress in 2013 and 2008 assembly elections before retaining it last year. Similarly, BJP candidate from Yellapur, Arabail Hebbar Shivaram, had contested from the same constituency as a Congressman in 2008. He had lost then, but won in the 2013 elections.

BJP candidates Mahesh Iranagouda Kumathalli, K Sudhakar, N Nagaraju (MTB), BA Basavaraja and ST Somaskekhar – contesting from Athani, Chickballapur, Hosakote, KR Pura and Yeshwanthpur, respectively -- were all Congress MLAs in the outgoing Assembly and were re-elected last year.

Among JD(S) rebels, Shrimant Balasaheb Patil, who is contesting on BJP ticket from Kagwad constituency, had fought the 2008 and 2013 assembly elections on JD(S) tickets. He had even contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Chikkodi. Patil lost all these elections.

Anand Singh, who won the Vijayanagara seat on a Congress ticket in 2018. He had joined the grand old party a couple of months before the assembly elections. Before that, he was with the BJP and had won the same seat in 2008 as well as 2013 for the saffron party.