Karnataka is in election mode again after the dates for bypolls to 15 assembly segments were announced on Saturday. Immediately after the schedule was announced, all three parties got cracking, even as uncertainty looms large over the political future of rebel Congress and JDS legislators who had played a key role in propping up the BJP government.
The 15 assembly segments will go to polls on October 21 and counting of votes will be held on October 24. Seven of these are in North Karnataka. The Model Code of Conduct came into force in 11 districts with immediate effect.
The Election Commission has, however, has exempted flood relief and other emergency works from the purview of the poll code.
Bypolls to two assembly constituencies — Maski in Raichur district and RR Nagar in Bengaluru — have not been announced as cases related to the 2018 election are pending in the Karnataka High Court.
The ensuing bypolls are crucial for the stability of the BJP government. The party has 104 MLAs (excluding the Speaker) in the 207-member assembly and it has to win at least ten seats to take its tally to 114, the simple majority mark in a full House of 224 members. What could make the task not so easy is the fact that the Congress and the JDS too will be making all-out efforts to retain their ground, especially in the constituencies that were represented by them before their MLAs turned rebels.
On Saturday, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa was huddled in a meeting with the rebel MLAs at a government guest house at Malleswaram in Bengaluru.
ALSO READ | Our future is at stake: Rebel MLA K Sudhakar
After the marathon meeting, the CM, accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister Laxan Savadi, rushed to New Delhi to hold talks with the party bosses about the election strategy as well as the future of the rebels. Sources in BJP said the party is well aware of their importance in the bypolls.
During the meeting, the rebels are said to have expressed displeasure over not getting “good response’ from the BJP though the party had assured them time and again about accommodating them in the ministry once they get relief from the Supreme Court.
Now that the election process has been set in motion, time is running out for the 17 former MLAs, who helped BJP defeat the trust motion moved by H D Kumaraswamy who headed the coalition government. The rebels are also consulting legal experts in New Delhi on seeking the Apex Court’s intervention to allow them to contest the bypolls even while their petition challenging the Speaker’s order disqualifying them is pending before it.
“We will discuss all issues with Yediyurappa on Sunday,” said rebel Congress leader Bhyrati Basavaraj, who is camping in New Delhi. Dr Sudhakar, who resigned as chairman of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board on Saturday, also met the CM and seemed disappointed with the turn of events.
Meanwhile, the Congress too hit the ground running. Around the time when the EC was announcing the election schedule, the party’s senior leaders including Siddaramaiah and KPCC chief Dinesh Gundu Rao launched the bypoll campaign from Hosakote. Addressing a ‘Swaabhimaana Samavesha’’ (convention for self-respect), the first such rally after dates were announced, Congress leaders took a dig at the rebels who ditched the party for political and personal gains.
Former CM H D Kumaraswamy too took part in a JDS workers’ meeting in Mysuru where he stressed that their party will contest from all 15 assembly constituencies in the bypolls.
“Voters will teach them (BJP) a lesson for the backdoor entry,’’ Kumaraswamy declared.
The Congress and JDS leaders are, however, clear that they do not want to contest jointly this time. Both parties are likely to make the government’s response to floods and cutting grants to various programmes announced during Congress and coalition rule, a major issue.
On its part, the BJP plans to highlight its government’s achievements in the last 50 days.