BJP wins both the Assembly byelections in Karnataka

Published : November 10, 2020 19:52 IST

Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, who has strengthened his base in the party. Photo: H.S. MANJUNATH

In keeping with the trend across States where the ruling party has won the byelections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won both the constituencies in Karnataka. In Rajarajeshwari (R.R.) Nagar, the film producer Munirathna, who had defected to the BJP last year, won by a huge margin of 58,113 votes, defeating Kusuma Hanumantharayappa, the Indian National Congress candidate. In Sira in Tumakuru district, Rajesh Gowda, the BJP candidate and a radiologist who is making his political debut, defeated T.B. Jayachandra, a veteran Congress leader and former Law Minister, by a convincing margin of 13,414 votes. The Janata Dal (Secular) was a distant third in both the constituencies and the loss in Sira is particularly galling for the party as it was the death of its legislator that had necessitated the byelection in that constituency.

With this victory, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa has again proved to his detractors within the party that he remains the strongest leader of the party in the State. This will also put a stop, temporarily at least, to the persistent internal machinations to replace him.

Former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who addressed a press conference when it was clear that the Congress had lost, accused the BJP of using “money power” to win the elections. He said: “In politics, winning and losing is part of the game. We were hoping for a positive result from Sira but have accepted the decision of the people. The party which is in power must conduct elections in an impartial manner but from what information I have received, the BJP has used its ruling power status and used money power to win in both constituencies.” This view was reiterated by Naseer Hussain, Congress member of the Rajya Sabha from Ballari in Karnataka: “Though the BJP never had a mandate in Karnataka [last year], they are adept at using their money and muscle power to manufacture victories as we have seen today.”

Responding to these accusations, Munirathna said: “When Congress won bypolls during Siddaramaiah’s tenure in Nanjangud and Gundlupet, was it due to the money power of the party? No one should take these allegations seriously.”

Speaking to mediapersons, R. Ashoka, the Vokkaliga strongman of the BJP who is also the Revenue Minister said: “Even when D.K. Shivakumar [president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee] and Siddaramaiah come together, they are unable to challenge Yediyurappa. Siddaramaiah, who predicted that Yediyurappa will be replaced after the bypolls should close his astrology shop.” Ashoka, who was in charge of the election management of the R.R. Nagar constituency, attributed the victory of the BJP candidate in Sira to “the party and B.Y. Vijendra [son of Yediyurappa]”.

Interestingly, both these constituencies are situated Old Mysore, a region where dom the Vokkaliga community is predominant. The BJP has struggled to breach this part of the State, where the JD(S) and Congress have been the traditional rivals. Its victory today has shown that its efforts over the past few years to become a serious player in the region have paid off.

The political analyst Muzaffar Assadi told Frontline that the BJP’s victory demonstrated three things: “First, Yediyurappa is strengthening his base in the party. This does not mean that his position is not vulnerable but that it is stabilised for now. Second, the BJP has made serious inroads into the Old Mysore region, and third, the JD(S) has lost ground in its traditional bastion.”

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