Its testing time for the four-month-old BJP government headed by Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Thursday, with 15 Karnataka Legislative Assembly constituencies going to bypolls. This is also the first test of the political mood of the State after the Lok Sabha elections in April this year.
Elections are equally significant for the Opposition the Congress and the JD(S) not only to regain their hold in the constituencies and but also to teach a lesson to disqualified legislators, who defected to the BJP with the ambition of becoming Ministers in the BJP government.
The political landscape of the State would drastically change in case the ruling BJP is unable to win in at least six of the 15 constituencies. Though former allies Congress and JD(S) have parted ways in the byelections, accusing each other for the collapse of the coalition government headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy, the possibility of political realignment of two parties is not being ruled out in case they secure double-digit seats.
In case the BJP secures less than six seats, the JD(S) will once again emerge as kingmaker in the fractured House. The JD(S) has kept its options wide open, though Mr. Kumaraswamy and his father and party supremo H.D. Deve Gowda had issued contradictory statements on forming an alliance with the Congress. The Congress leaders are divided on striking an alliance with the JD(S).
With elections to two constituencies of disqualified MLAs not being announced following pending electoral malpractices petitions in the High Court of Kranataka, the Assembly strength would, post polls, go up to 223, including a nominated MLA, after the declaration of bypolls results on December 9. The total strength of the House is 225.
The ruling BJP has 106 members, including one Independent Minister H. Nagesh, in the present House. After disqualification of 17 legislators, the Congress strength in the House reduced to 66 (including one independent attached to the Congress) and JDS) 34. The BSP has one member.
Many new faces
Out of 17 disqualified legislators, 13 are testing their electoral luck for the first time on BJP ticket. Thursdays election is a maiden contest for several Congress and JD(S) candidates. As the disqualified legislators of the Congress and JD(S) defected to the BJP, Opposition parties have fielded fresh candidates.
During the two-week-long campaign, leaders of three major parties criss-crossed southern and northern regions amidst rains. While Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa sought votes for party candidates for ensuring stability of the government and development, former Chief Ministers Siddaramaiah (Congress) and Mr. Kumaraswamy (JD-S) asked voters to defeat BJP candidates who betrayed their parties and forced the byelections.
A total of 165 candidates, including 126 Independents and nine women are in the fray for the 15 Assembly seats. The BJP and the Opposition Congress are contesting in all 15 Assembly seats, while the JD(S) has fielded candidates in 12 segments.