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Karnataka BJP bets on winning Assembly bypolls

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the ruling BJP in Karnataka is betting on winning the November 3 Assembly polls in RR Nagar in south Bengaluru and Sira in Tumukuru district, a senior party official said on Monday.

“We are confident of winning both the assembly by-elections in the state though both the segments are considered a bastion of the opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) for various factors,” newly appointed BJP national general secretary C.T. Ravi told IANS in an interview here.

Ravi, 53, a four-time legislator from Chikkamagaluru, submitted his resignation as Minister for Tourism and Kannada and Culture to Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa on Saturday in compliance with the ‘one man one post’ norm in the BJP.

BJP’s national president J.P. Nadda appointed Ravi as one of the five national general secretaries on September 26 as part of a major reshuffle in the party’s organizational posts.

“A ruling party has an advantage of winning by-elections because the people consider voting for its candidate beneficial in getting development funds for their constituency,” said Ravi.

The by-election in RR Nagar has been necessitated by the resignation of Congress MLA Munirathna, who jumped ship to the BJP in 2019. The bypoll in Sira has been necessitated by the death of JD-S legislator B. Satyanarayana on August 5 after a prolonged illness.

The twin bypolls will be notified on October 9, while the last date for submitting nominations is October 16, scrutiny on October 17, and withdrawal on October 19. The results will be on November 10.

Bypoll in RR Nagar could not be held on December 5, 2019, along with by-elections in 15 assembly segments across the state, as its result in the May 2018 assembly polls was challenged in the Karnataka High Court by its BJP runner-up Muniraju Gowda on alleged electoral malpractice by Munirathna.

With the court disposing of the case in favor of Munirathana in February, the poll panel has decided to conduct the by-election in RR Nagar along with Sira on November 3.

In the December 5 by-elections, of the 15 seats, the BJP won 12, the Congress 2, and one seat was won by an Independent candidate. The JD-S drew a blank in all the three seats it had won in the 2018 assembly elections.

“We have proved our popularity by winning a dozen seats in the December 5 by-elections from the constituencies, which were won by the Congress and the JD-S in the 2018 Assembly elections,” Ravi said.

The December 5 by-elections were necessitated by the resignation of 14 Congress and 3 JD-S rebels from their assembly segments in July 2019, which led to the fall of the 14-month-old JD-S-Congress coalition government on July 23, 2019, after it’s Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy lost the confidence motion he had moved in the Lower House.

“Of the 12 Assembly seats our party won in December, most of them have been the stronghold of the Congress and JD-S, especially in Chikkaballapur and K.R. Pete in Mandya district,” Ravi pointed out.

Though the next Assembly elections in the state are due in April-May 2023, the BJP is preparing in advance to get the majority rather than depending on Independents or other party legislators to form the next government, Ravi said.

The BJP came to power on its own for the first time in South India in the 2008 Assembly elections but struggled to get a simple majority as it fell 5 short-off the halfway mark (113) in the 225-member House, including one nominated.

Yediyurappa’s dramatic resignation in July 2011 after he was indicted by the anti-graft watchdog Lokayukta (Ombudsman) in the multi-crore mining scam and forming a regional outfit (Karnataka Janata Party) dealt a body blow to the BJP as it lost power in the May 2013 Assembly elections.

Even in the May 2018 Assembly polls, the party fell 9 short of the halfway mark for a simple majority, as it won 104 seats under Yediyurappa’s leadership.

As a result, he resigned on May 19, 2018, as the Chief Minister for the third time, 3 days after he formed the government.

In the 225-member Karnataka Assembly, two more seats are vacant — Muski in Raichur district and Basavakalyan in Bidar district.

As in case of RR Nagar, by-election in Muski could not be held on December 5, as its May 2018 Assembly poll results in favour of then Congress rebel Pratapgouda Patil was challenged by BJP runner-up Basanagouda Turvihal over the alleged electoral malpractices by the latter.

In November 2019, Patil resigned from the Assembly seat and joined the BJP along with 16 other defectors from the Congress and the JD-S.

The Basavakalyan seat fell vacant following the death of Congress legislator B. Narayan Rao, who succumbed to Covid-19 on September 24.

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