Benglauru: By-election to three Lok Sabha seats and two assembly seats seems to be latest development threatening the existence of the JDS-Congress coalition government in Karnataka.
The Election Commission on Saturday stunned the ruling coalition by declaring bypolls to Shimoga, Bellary and Mandya Lok Sabha seats on November 3, along with bypolls to two Assembly seats Jamakhandi and Ramanagara.
Since the Lok Sabha election is due early next year, the three major players - Congress, JDS and BJP - were not expecting the EC to declare bypolls to these seats that were vacated by BS Yeddyurappa, B Srimaluru and CS Puttaraju of BJP and JDS respectively after they got elected to the Assembly in last May.
The death of a Congress MLA Siddu Nyamagouda and the resignation of chief minister Kumaraswamy from Ramanagara Assembly seat after he won from two seats have necessitated the bypoll to Assembly polls.
The JDS-Congress combine is more or less confident of retaining these two Assembly seats. But the bypoll to Lok Sabha, which will have just four months tenure, has led to both confusion and disappointment.
Leaders of all three parties admit that they are being forced to contest in this election and there was no need for a bypoll for such a short term. However, the BJP which held two LS seats, has already declared its candidate for Shimoga.
Former MP BY Raghavendra, who is also the son of Yeddyurappa, will contest from Shimoga. The party has asked B Sriramulu to pick a candidate of his choice from Bellary. Even though it has no base in Mandya, the BJP is planning to exploit the differences between JDS and Congress workers there.
Since the seat was held by the JDS, the Gowdas are asking the Congress to give it to them. But a section in the Congress is opposing it, claiming that Congress’ sitting MP Ramya Divyaspandana lost to JDS by a mere 5,000 votes in 2014.
“If we field a candidate from Mandya against JDS, the coalition government will collapse. If we don’t field, some of our leaders may defect to the BJP, which has no presence there. The BJP is keenly watching the developments and will surely try to fish in troubled waters,” said a senior leader of the state Congress.
“If we back JDS in Mandya, our party will be finished there. We are quite strong there. It has now become a hot potato for us,” the leader said.
Congress leader from Mandya, Cheluvarayaswamy, has openly opposed any tie-up with the JDS in his district. There are even reports of him being wooed by the BJP.
The local Congress leaders are also opposing the support to JDS in Ramanagara Assembly seat vacated by Kumaraswamy. His wife and former MLA Anitha Kumaraswamy will contest from there.
Senior Congress leader and MLC CM Lingappa said that the party polled over 60,000 votes in the recent elections and they should field a candidate against the JDS.
The Congress is still looking for candidates in Shimoga and Bellary LS seats. These two are BJP seats and the coalition has to field strong candidates to put up a big fight. But no big leader is showing interest in fighting for a very short tenure of less than six months.
“The BJP will fight keeping the next Lok Sabha elections in mind. But we are confused. Who will spend big money for just six months? If we don’t fight well, it will have an adverse effect on us in the general elections,” said a Congress leader.
The JDS and Congress though are not facing any issues in Jamakhandi Assembly seat. The JDS polled less than a thousand votes there in the last election and the Congress has decided to field Anand Nyamagouda, the son of deceased MLA Siddu Nyamagouda from there.
JDS supremo H D Deve Gowda and state Congress president Dinesh Gundurao maintain that all issues will be resolved in a day or two and they will jointly put up a big fight in all five seats.