Karnataka by-poll: A litmus test for Cong-JD(S) coalition
Bengaluru, Nov 3: The ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition in Karnataka faces a litmus test as three Lok Sabha and two assembly constituencies go to bypolls on Saturday, the outcome of which is expected to have a bearing on the state's political scene.
The polls are significant as the coalition partners, who have decided to contest them together, have termed it as a "prelude" to the May 2019 general elections and called for a similar "grand secular alliance" against the BJP at the national level.
The BJP, which has been questioning the longevity of the coalition government, has predicted its fall once the bypoll results are out.
Polling to three Lok Sabha seats - Ballari, Shivamogga and Mandya and Ramanagara - and Jamkhandi assembly segments will be held between 7am to 6pm on Saturday, with a total of 54,54,275 voters elgible to cast their franchise in about 6,450 polling stations.
There are a total 31 candidates in the fray in all the five constituencies, though the contest is mainly between the Congress-JD(S) combine and the BJP.
Counting of votes will take place on November 6.
Among the prominent candidates in the fray is chief minister HD Kumaraswamy's wife Anita Kumaraswamy, who is expected to have a smooth sail facing a virtual no-contest in Ramanagara after BJP nominee L Chandrashekhar withdrew from the contest and rejoined Congress + , giving a jolt days before the polls.
Officials at the state chief electoral officer's office said a total of 1,502 polling stations had been declared as sensitive.
A total of 35,495 polling personnel will be on duty for the bypolls in which 8,922 voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) will be used, they added.
Senior police officials said elaborate security arrangements have been made in all the five constituencies.
The announcement of the bypolls to the Lok Sabha seats came as a surprise + to all the three major political parties in the state - Congress, BJP and JD(S) - who questioned the need for voting when the general elections are due early next year.
Congress and JD(S), who came together in a post-poll alliance after the assembly elections in May this year threw up a hung House, have decided to face the polls unitedly against the BJP, which they perceive as their common enemy.
While the Congress has fielded its candidates in Jamkhandi and Ballari, JD(S) is contesting in Shivamogga, Ramanagara and Mandya under an electoral understanding.
The outcome of the bypolls is expected to have a bearing on the alliance between Congress and JD(S) for the 2019 polls and also be a factor in determining the respective bargaining power of the two parties.
The bypolls brought to fore family politics with kin of several leaders being fielded.
In Jamkhandi, Congress candidate Anand Nyamagowda, son of former MLA Siddu Nyamagouda, is pitted against Srikant Kulkarni of the BJP.
In Shivamogga, state BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa's son BY Raghavendra is testing his fortunes against another former chief minister S Bangarappa's son Madhu Bangarappa of the JD(S).
In Ballari, senior BJP leader Sriramulu's sister J Shantha is fightingagainst V S Ugrappa of the Congress, considered anoutsider.
In the Vokkaliga bastion of Mandya, JD(S)'s Shivarame Gowda, is pitted against a fresh face in Dr Siddaramaiah, a retired Commercial Tax officer from the BJP.
BJP has lodged a complaint with the Election Commission about the developments in Ramanagara and requested it to "annul" the elections immediately.
During campaigning, open expression of displeasure by Congress workers came to the fore in Ramanagara and Mandya constituencies that come under old Mysuru region over the party's decision to support the JD(S) candidates.
Congress and JD(S) have fought bitterly against each other in the assembly polls, especially in the old Mysuru region.
The byelections have been necessitated after Yeddyurappa (Shivamogga) and Sriramalu (Ballari), and CS Puttaraju of JD(S) (Mandya) resigned as MPs on their election to the assembly in May this year.
Bypolls to Jamkhandi assembly seat was caused by the death of Congress MLA Siddu Nyamagouda, while Ramanagara fell vacant after Kumaraswamy gave up the seat preferring Chennapatna, the other constituency from where he had won.