Congress upbeat over byelection victory in Karnataka

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged winners in one each of the two Assembly seats for which the byelection was held on April 14. While the Maski seat was bagged by the Indian National Congress, the Basavakalyan seat went the BJP way. Congress also drew consolation from the outcome of the byelection for Belgaum Lok Sabha seat. Though the BJP candidate won the seat, the victory margin came down to just around 5,000 votes. The outcome of the three byelections is being interpreted in political circles as resurgence of the Congress in the State.

In Maski, Congress’ Basanagouda Turvihal trounced BJP’s Partapagouda Patil by a margin of 30,000 votes. The byelection was caused due to MLA Patil’s defection from Congress to the BJP along with 15 others leading to collapse of the Congress-JDS coalition Government in Karnataka in August 2019. But he was disqualified and the Election Commission did not hold the byelection for over 20 months. In 2019, He had won the seat by defeating Turvihal who was then in the BJP. Thus the contest was between two old rivals who had exchanged the parties. However, Patil is an old warhorse as he has represented the constituency for four terms. Videos of BJP activists distributing cash among the public were made viral by the Congress during the campaign. It helped the Congress workers to make a dent into the image of the BJP.

In Basavakalyan, it was BJP’s Sharanu Salagar who sailed to the winning post, defeating Congress’ Mala B. Narayanrao, wife of the sitting Congress MLA whose demise caused the vacancy. However, it seems the Congress could not fully harvest the sympathy vote as JDS Muslim candidate Yasrab Ali Quadri took away nearly 7,000 votes and the BJP consolidated its Lingayath and Maratha votes. Yet it cannot be said that only division of Muslim votes caused the setback to the Congress as victory margin for Salagar far exceeds the votes Quadri carved away. An MIM candidate too was in the fray and ended up taking around 2,000 votes.

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The Belgaum results have set off alarm bells for the BJP as its candidate Mangala Angadi could win the seat by a slender margin of just over 5,000 votes. She is the widow of former MP and Union Minister Suresh Angadi who died six month ago due to Covid. Her husband had won the seat by a margin of 3.19 lakh in 2019. Mangala Angadi defeated Congress strongman Satish Jarkiholi who is sitting MLA from Yemakanmardi constituency. Currently, three Jarkiholi brothers, all sugar barons, are sitting MLAs of Karnataka Assembly. Of the three, Satish is in Congress while Ramesh and Balachandra Jarkiholi represent the BJP in the House. Ramesh who is facing a probe in a sex scandal, did not actively participate in the canvassing for the BJP.

BJP leader and Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, commenting on the outcome, expressed dissatisfaction over the outcome of the three byelections.

The Congress camp is also upbeat as the Party secured wins in the six of the 10 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) for which the elections were held on April 27. The main rival the BJP could win in just one while the JDS emerged victorious in two of them. Of the total 265 wards for which the election was held, the Congress bagged 121, JDS 66, while the BJP could win only 14. The AAP opened its account in the State for the first time as Shabnam Zabeen of the party bagged a seat in the Bidar City Municipal Council. Significantly, the BJP suffered setback in Bhadravathy and Tirathahalli, both falling in the home district of Chief Minister Yediyurappa. Curiously, the SDPI was in alliance with Congress in Medikeri (formerly Mercara, the headquarters of the Coorg district). The SDPI however registered win on five seats in the small town.

M A Siraj is Bengaluru based seasoned journalist who writes for a variety of newspapers including The Hindu, and news portals.

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