Bengaluru: The political developments in Maharashtra have raised hopes of the opposition Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka with bypolls for 15 assembly seats to take place on December 5, even as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has expressed confidence of retaining power.
It’s a decisive battle for the BS Yediyurappa-led government, as the BJP effectively needs to win at least seven seats to hold on to power. In the 224-member assembly, the party has 105 MLAs, with 113 the majority mark. One independent legislator is also backing the BJP.
For the Congress and JD(S), who lost 17 of their MLAs to the-then opposition BJP in mass defection or alleged horse-trading in July, it is an opportunity to get back at the ruling party.
Even though there are 17 vacant assembly seats, voting is taking place for 15 because of pending election petitions in courts for the remaining two.
The BJP has fielded all but two of the defectors, Roshan Baig and R Shankar, in the bypolls, giving the opposition ammunition to attack the saffron party with the ‘horse- trading’ charges.
However, the 14-month ruling allies Congress and JD(S) appear alienated, as they are contesting separately and striking out at each other.
Former chief minister and current leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah and state Congress president Dinesh Gundurao are leading the party campaign. Not surprisingly, most of the other Congress leaders are keeping away, in a bid to express their displeasure over Siddaramaiah’s style of functioning.
The JD(S) is focusing on five seats. The tone and tenor of the Congress and JD(S) has changed over the past week. Both are predicting the collapse of the Yediyurappa government on December 9, the counting day.
Siddaramaiah has said the Congress will once again come to power in Karnataka after the bypoll results. Party general secretary and veteran leader M Mallikarjuna Kharge is more vocal about the possibility of a reunion with the JD(S).
Speaking to the media he said, “After bypoll results the Congress and JD(S) will form the government. We will give you a sweet news on December 9.”
JD(S) leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy has not spoken about any possible patch-up with the Congress. He has been sending mixed signals, claiming that his party will be the kingmaker once again.
Kumaraswamy’s father and state JD(S) president HD Deve Gowda is offering some hope to the BJP, dismissing reports that his party will once again ally with Congress.
To save his government, Yediyurappa has been campaigning relentlessly in all 15 constituencies. He is playing an emotional card, telling voters from his caste – the powerful Lingayats – that they will suffer if he loses power. Analysts say the unsatisfactory flood-relief work of the state government has dented his image, and the Congress is using it to tell the voters that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is against Yediyurappa and that's why there has been no help from the Centre.
Yediyurappa has expressed confidence that the BJP will sweep the bypolls and he will remain in his chair till the end of the current assembly term.