Keen contest on cards in by-elections in Karnataka

Bengaluru: Even as Assembly elections will be held in four major States (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and West Bengal) and a Union Territory (Puducherry) in coming weeks, Karnataka would witness by-elections in two Assembly constituencies and a Lok Sabha seat on April 17. The Election Commission has announced by-election for Assembly seats in Maski and Basavakalyan and for Belgavi Lok Sabha seat. Though Assembly seat of Sindgi in Raichur has also fallen vacant, the commission has not announced any date for this.

The three constituencies are likely to witness stiff triangular contest with the Congress, the BJP and the JDS fielding their candidates. Two of these by-elections were caused due to death of incumbent legislators. Belgavi had elected BJP member Suresh Angadi in 2019 General Elections who was later appointed a Minister of State in Modi cabinet. He died due to Covid in September 2020. Basavakalyan in Bidar district was represented by B. Narayana Rao of Congress. He too died due to Covid. Maski seat too was held by the Congress where Pratapgouda Patil had won during April 2018 Assembly polls. He later defected to the BJP and was disqualified following his deserting the party. The district is also home to BJP leader Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, who has been running a tirade against the Chief Minister for the last few months. A former Union Minister and sitting MLA from Belgavi, Yatnal has refused to be disciplined. The BJP has been wary of expelling him, for he is known for his polarization of Hindu votes in favour of the saffron party.   

All three constituencies situated in north Karnataka have sizeable Lingayath and Maratha voters among the total over 22 lakh electorates eligible to vote in these segments. Contest is all likely to be tough for the BJP against the backdrop of sex scandal in which a minister (Ramesh Jarkiholi) had to resign his post. He hails from the Belgavi district. Five Jarkiholi brothers, all sugar barons, are active in politics in the district over which they have a vice-like grip. While Ramesh and Balachandra Jarkiholi are BJP MLAs, Satish Jarkiholi is a Congress MLA. Grapevine has it that the Congress would field Satish. But BJP is supremely confident of retaining the seat, notwithstanding the sex scandal. There are several probable on the BJP list. One among them is Shardha, daughter of deceased Member of Parliament Suresh Angadi. She is also daughter-in law of Jagadish Shettar, currently Industries Minister in Yediyurappa’s cabinet.

Congress has decided to field B. Mallamma, wife of deceased MLA as its candidate for Basavakalyan and eyes sympathy votes. JDS has announced that Syed Yasrab Ali Quadri would be its candidate in here. It is eyeing sizeable Muslim votes in the constituency. But one wonders if Quadri would be able to carve out any Muslims vote as he has only recently joined the JDS. In Maski the Congress is fielding Basanagouda Turvihal as its candidate who has joined the party recently. He was earlier with the BJP.

Surprisingly, the Congress has announced the candidate for Sindgi constituency for which the Election Commission has not announced by-election dates. The seat fell vacant on January 28 when JDS MLA M. C. Managuli passed away. He was the oldest member of the current Assembly. The Congress has chosen to give ticket to his son from the constituency. 

M A Siraj is senior journalist based in Bengaluru. He writes for several publications in the country.                                                        

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