Bengaluru: With the December 5 bypolls fast approaching, the state is feeling the Maharashtra effect. Both the Congress and BJP's national leaders are now concentrating on Karnataka, where survival of the Yediyurappa government depends on the outcome of the byelections.
While the Congress has brought in its senior leader, M Mallikarjun Kharge to mend fences with the JD(S), the BJP has reached out to former CM H.D. Kumaraswamy, in case the election results don't go its way. And JD(S) supremo H.D Deve Gowda has said the future depends on Congress president Sonia Gandhi, leaving all options open. Soon after the new government sans the saffron party took charge in neighbouring Maharashtra, Congress leaders of Karnataka like Veerappa Moily, B.K. Hariprasad, K.H. Muniyappa and H.K. Patil came up with idea of isolating the BJP in the state too. The party high command then deputed Mr Kharge to explore the possibility of bridging differences with the JD(S) as the Gowda family has clearly no love for former CM Siddaramaiah and his associates.
Mr Kharge has opened a channel of discussion with Mr Gowda, who has promised to consider the offer if Mr Siddaramaiah is kept out of the process as well as the government.
Under pressure, the CLP leader is now doing everything he can to ensure that his Kuruba community rallies behind the Congress in NK, where the BJP has a strong support base among the Lingayats. Meanwhile, in South Karnataka, former minister D.K. Shivakumar has taken centre-stage in the Congress' strategy to win its constituencies.
Meanwhile, BJP leadership, is working hard on retaining Karnataka after the debacle in Maharashtra. While it had left Karnataka affairs to CM B.S. Yediyurappa, it has now reached out to Mr Kumaraswamy, who seems open to any option to bring back the party back to power to contain the resignations of its MLAs. Given the circumstances, Mr Gowda and Mr Kumaraswamy have issued conflicting statements with the former PM keeping everyone guessing with his assertion that he will not try to bring down BJP government. Despite its strong-arm tactics, the JD(S), it appears, is not sure if the Congress can really keep Mr Siddaramaiah out of state politics on its insistence.
The Maharashtra results appear to have made the BJP realistic in its assessment of its performance these bypolls. With both the Congress and JD(S) stepping up their campaign, the party has lowered its expectations of winning over 10 seats to between eight and 10. Going by its calculations, the BJP expected to win six seats in NK, being uncertain of only Kagwad. But now the party is doubtful of winning Hirekerur and Ranebennur and is sure of only Athani, Gokak, Yellapura and Vijayanagar. However, whether its calculations will pay off remains to be as Athani and Gokak too could be dicey for the party. In Gokak, the people are not convinced that the Jarkiholi brothers are really fighting each other. If Mr Sathish Jarkiholi of the Congress puts his weight behind his party candidate and brother Lakhan against their other brother Ramesh fielded by BJP, it could turn out to be a closely contested bypoll in the constituency, where Muslims are the second largest community. Moroever, BJP rebel, Ashok Poojari is emerging as a strong candidate in Gokak, although he lacks proper networking in rural areas of the constituency.
In South Karnataka, the BJP was confident of winning six of eight seats. But now it has begun realising that its chances may not be high in Hoskote, K R Pete and Hunsur.
Although it had high hopes in Shivajinagar, over the last two days, trends have been fast changing with Congress candidate Rizwan Arshad emerging stronger. Worse, the JD(S) is inching closer to BJP candidates in Yeshwanthpur and Chikkaballapura as well, making it a close finish in these constituencies. Given the situation , the BJP appears certain only of KR Puram and Mahalakshmi Layout.