BANGALORE: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka is gearing up for a do or die battle in the by-election to 15 Assembly seats slated to be held on December 5.
The party needs to win six out of the 15 seats that fell vacant following the resignation of 17 Janata Dal (S)-Congress MLAs that led to the collapse of the government led by H D Kumaraswamy and the subsequent ascension of the saffron party to power.
The 15 constituencies which will go to polls are – Athani, Kagwad, Gokak, Yellapur, Hirekerur, Ranibennur, Vijayanagara, Chikkaballapur, KR Pura, Yeshvanthapura, Mahalakshmi, Shivajinagar, Hosakote, Krishnarajpet, and Hunsur.
The election to Maski and RR Nagar constituencies have been withheld as separate cases, which are pending before the High Court. Of the 15 constituencies, 12 were represented by Congress and three by JD(S). Earlier, the by-polls were scheduled to be held on 21 October but the date was later shifted to December 5 by the Election Commission (EC).
The BJP has given tickets to 13 of the 15 rebels, who were disqualified by then Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar till the end of the current term of the Assembly in 2023. However, the Supreme Court struck down the Speaker’s order disqualifying the rebels till the end of the current term even while upholding his decision to disqualify the MLAs.
Though this has paved the way for the rebels to contest the election they will have to fight the poll with the disqualified tag. The BJP has allotted the 13 rebels the same seat they represented. Earlier the BJP inducted 16 of the 17 rebels into its fold at a function chaired by Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa.
The lone exception was former Shivajinagar Congress MLA Roshan Baig who was not invited by the BJP to join the party. According to media reports, Baig was dropped following strong differences within the party against him. Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister KS Eshwarappa was among those who opposed Baig’s entry into the party.
While welcoming the rebel MLA's, the chief minister said "as the Chief Minister along with the party President I would like to assure you that, we will keep up the promise made to you word to word and won't betray you."
"We will hundred per cent win 15 out of 15 seats, let there be no doubt, I want to assure this to those joining the party...My greetings to former MLAs, who are also the future MLAs and Ministers," the chief minister added.
But the situation on the ground doesn’t look that easy as the chief minister believes. While the Congress and the JD (S) are gearing up to give the saffron price a run for its money, the dissent brewing in the BJP over the red carpet laid to the Congress-JDS rebels have made matters difficult for the ruling party.
The party’s decision to give tickets to the rebels has given rise to rebellion within the party as BJP leaders, who were hoping to get tickets to contest elections have raised a banner of revolt. Troubles have started brewing in several constituencies. It has come out in the open Athani, Kagwad and Ranibennur constituencies.
In Kagwad under Belgaum district, former MLA Raju Kage joined the Congress a day after the Supreme Court upheld the disqualification of 17 rebel Karnataka legislators. Three MLAs from the district who won the last election on the Congress ticket had left the party and embraced the BJP. Congress leaders hope that the entry of Kage into the Congress will boost their chances in all the three constituencies, which will be going to polls on December 5.
"All the three from Belgaum -- Srimanth Patil, Mahesh Kumtalli and Ramesh Jarakiholi are disqualified. They won from our party and left us. They have to face the election with the disqualified tag. Raju Kage has joined us and it will boost our strength in Belagavi. We welcome him," said former chief minister Siddaramaiah.
Kage, was a four-time legislator from kagwad, had lost the seat in the 2018 assembly elections to Srimanth Patil, who had contested the polls on a Congress ticket.
Though the Congress and JD (S) have called off their post-poll alliance, the Congress leaders are hopeful that the BJP decision to field the rebels will help them electorally. The party machinery is geared to put up a big fight against them by describing as betrayers. The party is not leaving any stone unturned as the defeat of the BJP in 10 of the 15 seats could lead to the end of the Yediyurappa government.
However, the BJP is hopeful that the three-way contest in the by-election following the parting of ways by the Congress and the JD (S) will help them. Apart from this the national mood in favour of the BJP following the Lok Sabha election has also boosted the confidence of the saffron party.
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