With the Election Commission (EC) announcing enforcement of the model code of conduct from Monday in 15 Legislative Assembly constituencies where byelections are scheduled on December 5, all eyes are now on the Supreme Court, which is expected to pronounce its verdict on petitions of 17 disqualified MLAs of the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) on Wednesday.
Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar told presspersons on Sunday that the model code of conduct would come into effect from Monday only in constituencies where byelections are scheduled and not in the entire district.
The process for filing nominations would commence from Monday. Last day for filing nominations is November 18.
The EC had postponed the bypolls, which were earlier scheduled on October 21, in view of the pending petitions filed by the disqualified legislators. Before the postponement of elections, 29 nominations had been received. All the nominations remained valid, Mr. Kumar said.
Though the electoral notification had been issued by the EC on September 27, enforcement of the model code of conduct was suspended till November 10 since it would adversely impact development programmes of the government, particularly the poor, the CEO said.
The Congress has taken strong objection to suspension of the code of conduct after the issue of the electoral notification. It has also decided to oppose the plea made before the court by disqualified legislators seeking postponement of the Assembly bypolls.
Elections to two of the 17 constituencies Maski in Raichur district and R.R. Nagar in Bengaluru have been withheld as separate election cases related to them are pending in the High Court of Karnataka.
The constituencies going to polls are: Athani, Kagwad, Gokak (all in Belagavi district); Yellapur (Uttara Karnataka); Hirekerur, Ranebennur (both in Haveri district); Vijayanagar (Ballari); Chickballapur; K.R. Puram, Yeshwantpur, Mahalakshmi Layout, Shivajinagar (all in Bengaluru city); Hoskote (Bengaluru Rural); K.R. Pet (Mandya), and Hunsur (Mysuru).
It was the resignations of 17 MLAs that brought down the 14-month JD(S)-Congress government. They were disqualified in July 2019 by the then Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar till the expiry of the Assembly term.
Results of the byelections will play a crucial role in stabilising or destabilising the BJP government. The BJP has to win at least eight constituencies to reach the magic figure of 113 in the 225-member Lower House to ensure a simple majority.
Of the 15 constituencies, the Congress had won in 11 and the JD(S) in three, and the Karnataka Pragnyavanta Janata Paksha won one seat in 2018. Currently, the BJP has 105 MLAs and support of an Independent. After 17 MLAs were disqualified, the Assembly strength reduced to 208, including an Independent.
The Congress and JD(S), which fought the 2019 general elections together, have decided to contest independently after the bitter verbal duel among their leaders following the fall of the coalition arrangement.