Janata Dal-Secular-Congress jolt to BJP in Karnataka

Bengaluru: In a stunning blow to the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the JD-S-Congress coalition on Tuesday beat the saffron party 4-1 in the Karnataka by-elections, winning two Lok Sabha and two Assembly constituencies, while conceding only the Shimoga parliamentary seat.

In what was considered the semi-final ahead of the next year’s general elections, it was a resounding victory for the ruling coalition in just six months after the May 12 assembly elections, which had returned a hung verdict, forcing the Congress and Janata Dal-Secular to come together to form a coalition government on May 23.

Hailing the victory, Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy called for opposition parties to unite under the leadership of Congress President Rahul Gandhi to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party in the next year’s Lok Sabha elections, as people were looking for an alternative.

While the JD-S and the Congress won the Mandya and Bellary (ST) Lok Sabha seats, they also bagged the Ramanagaram and Jamkhandi Assembly seats.

The Congress scored a major victory wresting the BJP’s citadel in Bellary (reserved) Lok Sabha seat, where its candidate V.S. Ugrappa defeated BJP’s J. Shantha by a margin of 243,161 votes.

Ugrappa polled 628,365 votes against 385,204 secured by Shantha, sister of BJP leader B. Sriramulu, a close associate of the controversial mining Reddy brothers.

The by-election was held in the Lok Sabha constituency, which was a BJP bastion since 2004, after Sriramulu resigned following his election to the state Assembly from Molakalmuru (reserved) seat in the adjacent Chitradurga district in May.

Bellary in the southern state’s northwest region shot into national fame when then Congress president Sonia Gandhi won in the 1999 mid-term Lok Sabha elections, defeating BJP’s Sushma Swaraj.

Sonia, however, resigned from Bellary within weeks to retain the Rai Bareily Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh as she had contested from both the constituencies.

The BJP had pulled all stops during the campaigning to ensure a victory for Shantha, who represented the constituency from 2009-14.

In the JD-S stronghold of Mandya Lok Sabha constituency, its candidate L. Shivarame Gowda won by a huge margin of 324,943 votes over BJP’s Siddaramaiah. Gowda polled 569,347 votes against 244,404 by the latter.

The vacancy was caused by JD-S C. Puttaraju, who resigned on being elected to the assembly from Melukote in Mandya district in the May 12 state polls.

The BJP, however, managed to win the Shimoga Lok Sabha seat where its former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s son B.Y. Raghavendra defeated JD-S nominee Madhu Bangarappa, son of former chief minister late S. Bangarappa, by 52,148 votes majority. Raghavendra polled 5,43,306 votes against 4,91,158 by Madhu.

Yeddyaruappa resigned from Shimoga on getting elected to the assembly from the Shikaripura segment in the same district in the Malnad region, causing the vacancy.

In the two assembly by-polls, the ruling alliance scored a resounding victory.

The prestigious Ramnagaram seat went to Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha, who won on the JD-S ticket by a huge margin of 109,137 votes.

The 55-year-old Anitha defeated BJP’s L. Chandrashekar, who quit the party and rejoined the Congress on November 1. His nomination, however, remained since the final date of withdrawal was October 20.

In the Jamkhandi assembly constituency, Congress candidate Anand Siddu Nyamagouda, son of former Union Minister Siddu Nyamagouda, defeated BJP’s Shrikant Kulkarni by 39,480 votes.

The seat had fallen vacant following the death of Nyamagouda senior in a road accident on May 28 in the state’s northwest Bagalkote district.

With Tuesday’s victory, the strength of the ruling coalition in the 224-member legislative assembly goes up to 120.

Workers and supporters of the ruling alliance who contested the by-elections together, broke into celebrations across the party’s offices in Ramanagaram and Jamkhandi as well as in Bengaluru.

Around 66 per cent of the 5.45-million electorate had voted in the five by-polls on Saturday.


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