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Congress First off Blocks in Karnataka Assembly Bypolls

File photo of Karnataka Congress Chief D K Shivakumar.

File photo of Karnataka Congress Chief D K Shivakumar.

The party on Sunday held meetings of leaders from both the constituencies in the presence of Shivakumar, recently appointed Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, and legislature party leader Siddaramaiah to strategise for the campaign and win in both the seats.

Bengaluru: Congress in Karnataka has stolen a march over its rivals BJP and JDS in gearing up for the coming byelections to two assembly constituencies with the contests seen as a litmus test for state party chief D K Shivakumar. With the erstwhile allies contesting on their own the November 3 elections to Sira and Rajarajarajeshwari Nagar constituencies, a multi-cornered battle is on cards.

While the JD(S) has announced its nominee for Sira, the ruling BJP is yet to name candidates for both the seats for which the process of filing nominations is underway. After announcing its candidates for both the seats, the Congress has hit the ground, holding meetings of party workers and senior leaders visiting the constituencies, besides taking up other campaign related activities.

The party on Sunday held meetings of leaders from both the constituencies in the presence of Shivakumar, recently appointed Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, and legislature party leader Siddaramaiah to strategise for the campaign and win in both the seats. "We have appointed a legislator (MLA/MLC) and senior leaders for every panchayat or ward in the two constituencies, they will take the complete responsibility, booth-level work has been divided among workers and they will perform their duty," Shivakumar told reporters after the meeting.

Congress on Wednesday had fielded former Minister T B Jayachandra from Sira in Tumakuru district, while putting up afresh face - Kusuma H, an assistant professor at an engineering college and wife of IAS officer D K Ravi, who died in March, 2015, from Rajarajeshwari Nagar (R R Nagar) here. The byelections had been necessitated in Sira following the death of JD(S) legislator B Sathyanarayana in August, while the R R Nagar seat fell vacant following the disqualification of Congress MLA N Munirathna under the anti-defection law last year.

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Apparently with an eye on sympathy votes, JDS has fielded Sathyanarayana's wife Ammajamma as its candidate in Sira. Though speculations are rife in the BJP circles that radiologist Dr C M Rajesh Gowda, who recently joined the party, is likely to be its candidate, there are reports of resentment within the local unit about giving tickets to a new entrant, sidelining the old loyal party workers.

In R R Nagar, JD(S) has shortlisted three probables -party city unit chief R Praksah, RR Nagar unit President Bettaswamy Gowda and a leader from the Jnananbharathi ward Krishnamurthy. Even though Munirathna was initially seen as a clear choice as the BJP candidate, there have been reports of strong resistance within the party against his candidature.

A section in the party is pitching for fielding Tulsi Muniraju Gowda, the party's defeated candidate in the 2018elections. Congress is making every effort to ensure victory in the polls after it witnessed a rout in the December 2019 bypolls.

This is the first electoral litmus test for Shivakumar after taking over as the KPCC chief. Much is at stake for Shivakumar, after the recent CBI raids against him, as he was looking at consolidating his position in the party and re-asserting himself as a strong Vokkaliga leader, the community that has considerable presence in both the segments.

Winning R R Nagar is even more crucial for him, as it comes under the Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha constituency represented by his brother D K Suresh, whose properties were also raided by the CBI last week in connection with a disproportionate assets case. In the Sira segment, a total of 2,15,693 voters -1,10,265 men and 1,05,418 women — are eligible to exercise their franchise at about 330 polling stations.

R R Nagar has an electorate of 4,60,401 for whom 678polling stations would be set up. Among the voters, while2,40,061 are men, 2,20,261 are women. Sira and R R Nagar have 4,109 and 3,092 voters in the age group of 18-19 respectively.

A total of 2,034 electronic voting machines with voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) systems will be deployed for the bypolls in two constituencies, officials have said.

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first published:October 11, 2020, 22:06 IST