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Karnataka Assembly Bypolls Vote Counting Tomorrow, High Stakes for Cong as BJP Aims to Continue Winning Streak

For Representation. (Reuters/File photo)

For Representation. (Reuters/File photo)

Though the results will have no bearing on the stability of the B S Yediyurappa government, yet it would be seen in many quarters as a reflection on its performance, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stakes are high for the ruling BJP and opposition Congress and JDS in Karnataka as the outcome in the byelections to two assembly constituencies that witnessed weeks of spirited campaigning would be known on Tuesday. Though the results will have no bearing on the stability of the B S Yediyurappa government, yet it would be seen in many quarters as a reflection on its performance, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Votes polled in the November 3 bypolls to Sira in Tumakuru district and Rajarajeshwari Nagar (R R Nagar) would be taken up for counting on Tuesday at 8 AM and the results are expected to be by afternoon. While the Congress and JD(S) are keen to strike after facing a rout in December 2019 bypolls, the BJP would be aiming to keep its winning streak intact.

In the polls held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Sira and R R Nagar recorded voter turnout of 82.31 per cent and 45.24 per cent respectively. The bypoll has been necessitated in Sira following the death of JD(S) MLA B Sathyanarayana in August, while R R Nagar seat here fell vacant due to disqualification of the then Congress MLA N Munirathna last year under anti-defection law.

BJP that had never won the Sira seat fielded radiologist Dr C M Rajesh Gowda, son of former Congress MP C P Mudalagiriyappa, who had recently joined the party, while the Congress and JD(S), considered traditional rivals in the region, nominated former Minister T B Jayachandra and Ammajamma respectively. Ammajamma is the wife of late JD(S) MLA Sathyanarayana.

In R R Nagar, the Congress has fielded a fresh face -- Kusuma H, wife of late IAS officer D K Ravi. She was pitted against V Krishnamurthy of JD(S) and N Munirathna of the BJP. He had joined the party last year.

Elaborate security arrangements have been made for the counting. Also prohibitory and liquor ban orders are in place from 6 am to 12 midnight in the constituencies. Some exit polls have indicated that BJP will sweep RR Nagar and Sira bypolls, but the opposition parties have rejected the predictions.

Leader of the opposition in the state assembly Siddaramaiah of the Congress alleged the ruling party campaigned by distributing money but his party had gone to the people and hence was confident of winning both the seats. Chief Minister Yediyurappa has asserted that BJP would win both the seat with margins in excess of 20,000 votes.

He has already indicated that the much awaited expansion of his cabinet will take place at the earliest and he will talk to party high command in this regard, soon after the assembly bypoll results. With cabinet expansion on cards, lobbying has intensified and some aspirants like MLCs A H Vishwanth and R Shankar reportedly even reached New Delhi to meet the high command.

The cabinet expansion or reshuffle is expected to be a tightrope walk for Yediyurappa, considering that there are too many aspirants and there are seven berths vacant with a current strength of 27. Stakes are high for 77-year old Yediyurappa amid intense speculation that BJP high command is mulling leadership change considering his age.

For Congress and JDS, too, the bypolls are crucial as they are keen on retaining the RR and the Sira seats which they had won respectively in the 2018 assembly polls and will be focusing on gaining an additional seat. It is also equally significant for state Congress President D K Shivakumar and JDS leader and former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy to assert their command over the Vokkaliga vote bank in the old Mysuru region.

Vokkaligas have considerable presence in both the seats. Within the Congress too, winning both seats will be important for Shivakumar in consolidating his position, as this is the first election under his presidency.

RR Nagar is more crucial for him with personal stakes involved as it comes under the Bangalore Rural Parliamentary constituency, represented by his brother D K Suresh. After the bypolls, the 225-member assembly would still have two vacancies.

Currently, the BJP has 116 members, Congress 67, JDS 33, BSP one, nominated one and two independents besides the Speaker. Counting of votes will also be taken up on Tuesday in the Legislative Council biennial elections to four seats, for which voting took place on October 28.

BJP will have to win at least two of the four constituencies to emerge as the single largest party in the Council, the position currently held by Congress.


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