Ahead of bypolls, optimism missing from Cong camp
As the month-long campaign ended for the December 5 byelections ended Wednesday evening, there wasn’t much optimism among Congress leaders here that the party would see a repeat in Karnataka of the Maharashtra Assembly elections or Gujarat bypolls, where a majority of its defectors were defeated.
Said a senior party leader, “The very premise of our election strategy was wrong here as more than the BJP , it was the Congress, which succeeded in convincing the people that most of the defectors were loyalists of its legislature party leader, Siddaramaiah. Although he tried his best to fight the elections single-handedly, he may not succeed as people may not buy his ‘defeat turncoats’ slogan seriously.”
In his view, harping on the same old issue of a Dalit Chief Minister and talking of reviving the coalition with the JD(S) could backfire on the Congress. “Sensing that a Dalit CM could become an electoral issue, the BJP cleverly appointed a prominent Dalit party leader, Govind Karjol as Deputy Chief Minister. So the issue of a Dalit CM will not cut the ice with Dalit voters, especially as Mr Karjol is a Madiga and Dalit leaders of the Congress, Dr G Parameshwar and Mallikarjuna Kharge, who could be in the race for the CM’s post, are from the Chalavadi community. As the Madigas and Chalavadis don’t see eye to eye, the Congress has only succeeded in dividing its votebank by raising the Dalit CM issue for the byelections,” he argued.
The Congress leader also noted that unlike the BJP, which deployed its Dalit leaders for campaigning, most Dalit leaders of the Congress did not actively participate due to Mr Siddaramaiah’s highhandedness. “Even most of the Muslim leaders like former minister, C. M. Ibrahim, who attracts huge crowds, were not visible. Although it is presumed that Muslims will eventually vote for the Congress, the party campaign did not reach out to them,” he regretted.
According to the Congress leader, the party could retain Gokak, Kagwad and Ranebennur constituencies, but could have a hard time in Chikkaballpur, Hunsur, K. R. Pete, Athani, Hirekerur and Shivajinagar. “In seats like Vijayanagara, Yeshwantpura, K. R. Puram. Mahalakashmi Layout, Hosakote and Yellapura the party’s fortunes aren’t that bright either,” he maintained.
Will win 10 of 15 seats, says confident BJP
On the eve of the December 5 bypolls, the BJP appeared unruffled by the Congress speaking of reviving of its alliance with the JD(S) post the results on December 10 to form the government once again in Karnataka. BJP leaders claimed they were confident the party would win over 10 of the 15 seats to which byelections are being held and have the numbers to survive in government for the rest of its term.
Chief Minister B.S.Yediyurappa , BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel and other senior leaders exuded confidence that the party would get a majority in the assembly following the bypolls, that are crucial for the survival of their government.
At present the BJP has a strength of 106 in the House with the support of one independent MLA. To cross the half- way mark of 113 seats, it needs seven more seats. Its leaders have taken heart from an internal survey of the party which has given it over 10 of the 15 Assembly seats going to the polls.
While former Chief Minister H.D.Kumaraswamy and JD(S) supremo, H.D.Devegowda have declared their party will not destabilise the government and given enough indication that the JD(S) will stand with it should the need arise, Mr. Yediyurappa has categorically said he will not need their support.
He has also denied the party will try to poach more Congress and JD(S) legislators should it fall short of numbers in the bypolls.
Speaking to reporters, senior BJP senior leader and its byelections in- charge, Aravinda Limbavali said there was no question of any such poaching as the party was confident of winning over 10 seats these byelections.
Leaving nothing to chance, however, the Chief Minister worked hard to win more seats in the byelections in the final leg of campaigning by focusing more on constituencies where the BJP has a tough fight on its hands like Hoskote, Yeshwantapura and Ranebennuru, where the party is believed to have a 50:50 chance of winning.
The party’s national leadership too is focusing more on Karnataka now following its debacle in neighbouring Maharashtra.
JD(S) looks to win Gokak, Chikkaballapur too
The scales have evidently tilted in favour of JD (S) ahead of Thursday’s crucial Assembly bypolls, stirring hopes of a better-than-anticipated show by its candidates, despite the party’s inability to enter the fray in all 15 constituencies. When bypolls were announced, JD (S) leaders were keen to retain constituencies such as K R Pet, Mahalakshmi layout and Hunsur as legislators elected from these seats defected to the BJP. Today, party leaders expressed confidence of pulling off a couple of surprise victories owing to local factors and behind-the-scenes work of workers of JD (S) and Congress.
Sources in JD (S) said the first positive development came in the form of a rebellion by Mr Sharath Bache Gowda, son of BJP Member of Parliament Mr B N Bache Gowda in Hosakote. Party patriarch H D Deve Gowda and former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy decided to extend support to Mr Sharath Bache Gowda though the candidates was keen to contest on a JD (S) ticket. Ditto in Gokak with Mr Ashok Pujari likely to be the beneficiary in the contest between Jarkiholi brothers.
Sources said it is no secret that Congress and JD(S) workers have arrived at an understanding in four of the seven seats in Old Mysuru region. While Congress extended support to JD (S) candidate at Yeshwanthpur, the understanding being JD(S) would reciprocate by supporting Congress candidates in Chikkaballapur, K R Pet and Hunsur. As electioneering gathered steam, JD(S) candidates evidently edged past Congress nominees in Chikkaballapur and K R Pet....