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Teaser For The Battle For Karnataka: Congress Wins 2 Seats in By-elections

So BJP losing both the seats became a bigger story than Congress' win. “We accept the verdict of the people, but the Congress had certainly spent crores in these two elections. But we still have sights set on Mission 150 for BJP in 2018 elections. We will work harder for that,” said Yeddyurappa, trying to put up a brave face.

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18deepab18

Updated:April 13, 2017, 9:07 PM IST
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Teaser For The Battle For Karnataka: Congress Wins 2 Seats in By-elections
A file photo of Congress rally.
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Chennai: In what is perhaps the final battle before the 2018 Assembly elections in Karnataka, the Congress retained its muscle power, winning both seats in the bypolls by a comfortable margin on Thursday.

Considered Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s bastion, the by-elections in the constituencies of Nanjangud and Gundlupet in the old Mysore region became hotly-contested this time with state BJP president B S Yeddyurappa taking it up as a personal challenge.

Yeddyurappa, who has been projected as the BJP’s CM face for 2018, thought he could use the dominant Lingayat pockets in these areas as a way to show the masters in Delhi who is the boss. He had campaigned for nearly a month, even giving up on the Parliament session to push for a BJP victory. He had even cajoled former Congress veteran S M Krishna, who had shifted loyalties barely a week ago, to campaign for the saffron party.

So BJP losing both the seats became a bigger story than Congress' win. “We accept the verdict of the people, but the Congress had certainly spent crores in these two elections. But we still have sights set on Mission 150 for BJP in 2018 elections. We will work harder for that,” said Yeddyurappa, trying to put up a brave face.

A humbled R Ashok , BJP MLA and former deputy chief minister, said his party would need to look at how it needs to re-strategise for 2018.

Amid Congress’ taunts of how Yeddyurappa would be the Opposition leader in 2018, the BJP argued that this election was restricted to issues and candidates of the two localities and not reflective of issues in the rest of the state.

Of course, if the BJP had won even one of the two seats, it would have boosted the appeal of Yeddyurappa as a mass leader.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah too had taken it on as a personal challenge—he threw the might of the Cabinet into the campaign , deploying 20 ministers in the two Assembly segments. The ministers were allowed to stay away from the crucial budget session of the Assembly to focus on winning these seats.

At stake was the battle against V Srinivasa Prasad – a Revenue Minister who was in Siddaramaiah’s cabinet until last year. Miffed at being dropped from the cabinet, he had shifted loyalties to the BJP. The last week before polling saw Siddaramaiah on ground, beckoning people to vote for the Congress.

Karnataka Congress President and Home Minister G Parameshwara said it is a “vote for development.” He too shied away from calling it either a semifinal or a referendum for 2018, though many jubilant Congress spokespersons felt this by-poll result showed the ‘wave’ ahead of 2018. “The victory is for the party’s development. And people have voted us for the good work done by the party,” Parameshwara said.
Siddaramaiah felt the loss of the BJP showed how its strategy to make personal attacks against candidates failed.

“This is not UP, this is Karnataka. It is the most secular state, a cosmopolitan state, the state of Basavanna (the 13th century saint who worked for secular values). Yeddyurappa took voters for granted, he thought he was already chief minister – that was the way he held speeches. I stopped my car once to listen to his speech. People don’t buy all that,” Siddaramaiah said.

The personal attacks against the widow of former minister HS Mahadev Prasad who was the Congress candidate also had not gone down well with voters, he felt.

Of course, by the time the counting is done and dusted, not many can recall who the candidates were, it became a tie between Yeddyurappa and Siddaramaiah.

For the record, Congress’ Kalale Keshavmurthy and Geeta Mahadev Prasad won in Nanjangud and Gundlupet by a margin of over 21,000 votes and 10,000 votes respectively.

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| Edited by: Nakshab Khan
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