New Delhi: Three Lok Sabha and two assembly seats in Karnataka are voting today in a crucial set of by-elections that will test the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition in the state. The two alliance partners have fielded joint candidates in all the seats. The JD(S) is contesting the Mandya and Shivamogga Lok Sabha seats and the Ramanagara assembly constituency. The Congress has put up candidates in the Ballari Lok Sabha seat and Jamkhandi assembly seat. About six per cent turnout was recorded in the first three hours of voting.
In Ramanagara, JD(S) nominee Anitha Kumaraswamy, the wife of Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, has been given a virtual walkover with BJP candidate L Chandrashekhar quitting the party to join the Congress two days before polling. The by-election was necessitated because chief minister Kumaraswamy contested on two seats – Channapatna and Ramanagara – in the assembly elections earlier this year and decided to resign from the latter.
The Shivamogga Lok Sabha seat, which fell vacant after former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa resigned in order to contest the assembly election from Shikaripura, is witnessing a fascinating contest between the sons of three former chief ministers of Karnataka.
While BJP has fielded Mr Yeddyurappa’s son BY Raghavendra, the JD(S) has nominated Madhu Bangarappa, the son of former chief minister S Bangarappa. BJP’s ally in Bihar, Janata Dal (United) also jumped in the fray by fielding Mahima Patel, son of former chief minister JH Patel.
All three former chief ministers have represented Shivamogga in the past. JH Patel won the seat over half a century ago in 1967 as a Samyukta Socialist Party candidate. S Bangarappa won the seat in 1996 and 1999 as a Congress candidate, in 2004 on a BJP ticket and in a 2005 by-election as a Samajwadi Party candidate. Mr Yeddyurappa of the BJP won the seat in 2014. His son, who is now in the fray, had won Shivamogga in 2009.
The seat is a known bastion of the BJP, particularly Mr Yeddyurappa, but the combined vote share of the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) in the eight assembly segments falling within Shivamogga, was more than that of the BJP in the assembly elections this year. The alliance will be tested in this seat as a defeat would mean that partners didn’t transfer votes effectively.
Like Shivamogga, another BJP bastion to vote today is Ballari where Shantha, the sister of BJP leader B Sreeramulu, is in the fray. The seat, which is reserved for Scheduled Tribes, fell vacant following the resignation of Mr Sreeramulu, who won from the Molakalmuru seat in Chitradurga district in the Assembly elections earlier this year.
A close aide of the controversial Reddy brothers, he had also contested against then chief minister Siddaramaiah in Badami and lost by a narrow margin of 1696 votes.
Ms Shantha’s main opponent is VS Ugrappa of the Congress. He was recently caught in a controversy after a woman accused him of covering up a three year old sexual assault case involving her minor daughter. The Congress fancies its chances of breaching the BJP stronghold as in this year’s assembly elections it won six out of eight segments that fall under the Ballari Lok Sabha constituency. Its campaign is reportedly being run by its key troubleshooter DK Shivakumar.
The Mandya Lok Sabha seat fell vacant following the resignation of JD(S) lawmaker CS Puttaraju, who was elected to the Melukote constituency in the assembly elections and became a minister in the coalition government. The party has fielded LR Shivarame Gowda. He will be up against BJP candidate Siddaramaiah, who is said to be a newcomer.
In Jamkhandi, the Congress has fielded Anand Nyamagouda, son of senior leader Siddu Nyamagouda, whose sudden death in a road accident on May 28 necessitated the by-election. The BJP has fielded Srikant Kulkarni.
The results for the five seats will be declared on November 6.
The terms for the Ballari, Shivamogga and Mandya seats will be extremely short with the Lok Sabha elections due next year. But the outcome of the by-elections is expected to have a bearing on the alliance between Congress and JD(S) for the 2019 polls.