Karnataka bypolls results: Congress-JD (S) alliance ahead in 4 seats, BJP in 1

Three hours after counting began the ruling Congress-JD(S) are ahead of the BJP in four out of five seats in a Karnataka by-election billed as a semi-final before Lok Sabha polls next year. The ruling alliance has widened its lead in Ballari in what will be the big upset if they win; Ballari has been a BJP stronghold for the last decade and a half.

The by-elections to three Lok Sabha and two assembly seats are seen as a crucial test for the Congress-JDS alliance, forged after state elections in May this year to keep out single largest party BJP.

In Mandya, Shivamogga Lok Sabha seats and Ramanagara and Jhamkhand assembly constituency, the parties that held the seats are ahead.

Ballari Lok Sabha seat, where Congress’ VS Ugrappa is leading over BJP’s J Shantha by 198307 votes after 14 rounds of counting , is so far the only upset of the election.

All other seats look set to be retained by incumbent parties

In Mandya parliamentary seat , JD(S) is leading by 196883 votes over BJP after counting of votes in 10 rounds.

JD-S’s Anitha Kumaraswamy leads over BJP’s L. Chandrashekhar by 105294 votes after 19 rounds in Ramanagar assembly seat.

JD-S’s Anitha Kumaraswamy leads over BJP’s L. Chandrashekhar by 105294 votes after 19 rounds in Ramanagar assembly seat.

JD-(S)’s S Madhubangarappa is trailing BJP’s by Raghavendra by 47388 votes after 16 rounds of counting in Shivamogga parliamentary seat.

AS Nyamagouda of the Congress leads Kulkarni Shrikant Subrao of the BJP by 32933 votes in Jamkhandi after 13 rounds.

Counting of votes began at 8 am and a total of 1,248 counting staff were deployed for it.Elaborate security arrangements were made to ensure to that no untoward incident takes place during the counting of votes, police officials said.

Around 66 per cent of the 54.5 lakh electorate voted in the five by-elections.

While it is a battle for pride in the three Lok Sabha seats of Ballari, Mandya and Shivamogga, the assembly seats results could either reinforce or weaken the Congress-JD(S) alliance’s majority in the state.

The elections have been bitterly contested across the board and leaders have even resorted to personal remarks against their rivals.

Having emerged the single largest party after the assembly elections after it won 104 of the 224 seats, the BJP had made a failed bid to form the government. It was during this time that its state president and former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa and senior leader B Sreeramulu had taken oath as MLAs in the assembly, after resigning their membership to Parliament from the Shivamogga and Ballari seats, respectively.

For a similar reason, JD(S) MP CS Puttaraju, now the minor irrigation minister, had also resigned from Mandya after being elected to the assembly. As a result of this, the three Lok Sabha seats fell vacant, and elections were called despite opposition from all three parties, which had felt that the by-elections were not warranted as the MPs’ tenure would be less than a year.

Among the assembly seats, the Ramanagara constituency, one of two from which chief minister HD Kumaraswamy contested, fell vacant after he retained neighbouring Channapatna. Meanwhile, Siddu Nyamgoud of the Congress, who won the Jamakhandi seat in May, died in a road accident days after being elected, resulting in the vacancy.

While the BJP put up candidates in all five seats, the Congress-JD(S) alliance worked out a seat-sharing arrangement as a result of which the Congress is contesting one parliamentary and assembly seat and the JD(S) the rest three.

In Ballari, reserved for candidates from Scheduled Tribes communities, BJP leader B Sreeramulu has attempted to burnish his credentials as a heavyweight by ensuring the victory of his sister J Shantha, a former MP. She is up against VS Ugrappa of the Congress, who is a member of the legislative council.

For Yeddyurappa, ensuring the victory of his son BS Raghavendra, the party’s candidate in Shivamogga, has taken primacy. Raghavendra is up against the JD(S)’s Madhu Bangarappa, the son of former chief minister S Bangarappa. Added to this, the third candidate in the fray here is also the son of a former chief minister: Mahima Patel of the JD(U), the son of JH Patel.

Mandya, at the heart of the Vokkaliga belt of southern Karnataka, was expected to be a cake walk for the coalition, but the decision of the Congress to leave the seat for the JD(S) as part of their arrangement, led to open dissidence within the party. In these southern districts, the Congress and JD(S) are bitter rivals and the BJP is a minor force.

The BJP, though, has tried to use this dissidence to enlarge its base in the district, which was swept by the JD(S) in the May elections after it won all seven assembly seats there. The BJP has fielded Siddaramaiah, a former bureaucrat, against LR Shivaramegowda of the JD(S).

However, the BJP has been unable to make inroads elsewhere in the south. It faced a major embarrassment last week when its candidate L Chandrashekar, a Congress rebel who had joined the party in October, decided to withdraw his candidature and move back to the Congress two days before voting, angry that BJP leaders had refused to campaign for him.

Despite this, Chandrashekar’s name did appear on the electronic voting machine as the allotted time for withdrawal of candidature had elapsed. He is up against Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha.

In Jamakhandi, Anand Nyamgoud, son of Nyamgoud, is up against his father’s bitter rival Shrikant Kulkarni of the BJP, who lost by less than 3,000 votes in May. Though Anand is the Congress candidate, the seat is the site of a prestige battle for former chief minister Siddaramaiah, who has taken up the responsibility of ensuring his party’s victory as he is also currently a legislator from the Bagalkot district.

Political analyst Narendar Pani, who is a faculty member at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, said among the contests the two most important ones that could have long-term implications were the Jamakhandi and Mandya constituencies.

“Jamakhandi is a personal battle for Siddaramaiah and a loss there could dent his hold over the Congress,” Pani said. There had already been much upheaval in the state Congress since May after the party was reduced from 122 seats in 2013 to 80 seats after the assembly polls.

The Mandya seat, Pani said, would have implications for the coalition. “A good showing by the BJP in the seat would mean that Congress supporters have chosen to go with it to teach the party a lesson for joining hands with the JD(S),” he said.

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