STATE TIMES NEWS Bengaluru: The ruling BJP on Monday swept the Assembly by-polls in Karnataka winning 12 of the 15 seats to help the four-month-old Yediyurappa government retain majority, in a morale booster for the saffron party after its recent setback in Maharashtra. The BJP sweep had an immediate fallout in the opposition Congress with its Legislature Party leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah and State Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao quitting their posts. The Congress’ poor showing winning only two seats, as against the 12 it held of the 15 which went to the by-polls, threw the state unit into a turmoil. The by-polls were held on December 5. Citing “unsatisfactory results”, the two leaders tendered their resignations to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and took moral responsibility for the party’s drubbing. The by-polls were considered a litmus test for the BJP government as it needed to win at least six of the 15 seats at stake to remain in majority in the 225-member assembly. Congress ally JD(S) drew a blank.
The BJP’s tally goes up from 105 (including an independent) to 117, which is well ahead of the halfway mark of 111 in the 223-member Assembly (two seats– Maski and R R Nagar– are vacant due to pending litigation in the High Court).
Turncoats had a field day as 11 of the 13 in the fray after joining the BJP emerged victorious, as the ruling party’s gamble to field the defectors from the Congress and the JD(S) who helped them come to power paid off. The BJP’s emphatic win also echoed in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s poll rallies in Jharkhand where he accused the Congress and its allies of “stealing and subverting” people’s mandate in Karnataka last year.
“The Congress and its allies subverted the mandate in Karnataka, stabbed it in the back…The Congress stole the mandate through the back door, and now people have punished it and taught it a lesson,” Modi said.
Modi called the by-polls in Karnataka “extraordinary”, one which would decide whether the BJP government would stay or go.
“There are three messages for Jharkhand and other states in the by-poll outcome. The first is that people want a stable government. Second, people feel insulted by subversion of their mandate and teach those guilty a lesson. Third, they trust only BJP can give a government that can deliver,” he said.
“Public anger over betrayal of mandate exploded today. It is a victory of public mandate…a victory for democracy,” he said.
Modi, who devoted a large part of his speeches in both Barhi and Bokaro on Karnataka bypoll outcome, said another reason for the Congress-JD(S) defeat was that its government never cared for people’s welfare.
He alleged that the two disparate parties had come together and formed the government for self-interest.
“They spent whole one year squabbling. Congress held the chief minister at gun-point and the poor CM would go to people crying. They (Congress) made the condition of the CM of Karnataka worse than somebody who has been kidnapped,” he said.
The Congress managed to win only Hunsur and Shivajinagar seats, while independent candidate Sharath Bachegowda, who was earlier expelled from the BJP for anti-party activities after he contested the bypoll as a rebel, won in Hoskote.
Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda-led JD(S) that had won three seats in the previous elections–K R Pete, Mahalakshmi Layout and Hunsur– drew a blank.
The by-polls were held to fill the vacancies caused by the disqualification of 17 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs, whose revolt led to the collapse of the 14-month-old H D Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in July and paved the way for the BJP to come to power.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa won the confidence motion on July 29 after the effective strength of the 225-member assembly (including the Speaker who has a casting vote) came down to 208 and the majority mark to 105, equivalent of BJP’s current strength, following the disqualifications.
BJP fielded 13 of the 16 disqualified legislators, who joined the party after the Supreme Court allowed them to contest the bypolls, as its candidates from their respective constituencies from where they had won in the 2018 assembly elections on Congress and JD(S) tickets. Eleven of them have won the bypolls.
The 12 BJP candidates who won are: Arabail Shivaram Hebbar (Yellapura), Narayana Gowda (K R Pete), B C Patil (Hirekerur), Shrimant Patil (Kagwad), Mahesh Kumthalli (Athani), K Sudhakar (Chikkaballapura), K Gopalaiah (Mahalakshmi Layout), Anand Singh (Vijayanagara), Ramesh Jarkiholi (Gokak), Arun Kumar Guttur (Ranebennur), S T Somashekar (Yeshwanthpura) and Byrathi Basavaraj (K R Puram).
Congress candidates who have won are Rizwan Arshad (Shivajinagar) and H P Manjunath (Hunsur).
During the campaign, BJP had asked for votes in the name of stability and development, while the Congress and JD(S) were optimistic that the defectors, who had been disqualified and were ruling party candidates, would be rejected by the electorate.
Jubilant after the BJP’s stellar performance, Yediyurappa asserted he would give a stable and pro-development government for the next three-and-half years — the remainder of his term.
He also made it clear there was no question of backtracking from the assurance given to disqualified legislators that they would be made ministers.
Yediyurappa is likely to go in for a cabinet expansion soon, which will not be an easy task, as he will have to strike a balance by accommodating the victorious disqualified legislators in his ministry, as promised by him, and also make place for old guards, who have been upset over being “neglected” in the first round.
Including the Chief Minister, currently there are 18 ministers in the cabinet, whose sanctioned strength is 34.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper