BENGALURU: In two days, electors of 15 assembly seats in Karnataka will vote their representative, but are they electing an MLA or a minister directly, has become a fascinating question. With the BJP government led by Yediyurappa showing confidence that it will secure a thumping victory, many victorious candidates are sure to be inducted as ministers.
The JDS and Congress have come to realise that the prospect of having a minister to represent the constituency, instead of just an MLA, is playing on the minds of voters. With campaigns also heading in that direction, political analysts have raised concerns over the electoral, legal and ethical implications of the scenario.
“This is an interesting aspect of this bypoll. I don’t think there is such a precedent. There have been cases when a bypoll to one crucial seat, perhaps, has elected a minister but bypolls to 15 seats where all of them could become ministers is something. One has to look into the electoral implications. Can such promises be made beforehand? It will certainly affect the voting pattern.
People feel there is a BJP government at the Centre and in the state too, and if their MLA is going to become a minister, the constituency stands to benefit. Doesn’t this amount to some kind of violation of electoral code of conduct?” asked Prof A Narayana, political analyst and researcher.
His doubts are not unfounded. If the BJP’s gameplan is anything to go by, then the party is pushing its voters to elect representatives who will get direct entry into the existing cabinet. Karnataka can have up to 34 ministers, but Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has chosen to fill up only 18 berths. Sources in the party have, time and again, insisted that berths have been kept vacant to accommodate disqualified MLAs of the Congress and JDS, who are now candidates for the BJP in the bypolls -- as gratitude for toppling the coalition.
‘Minister factor’ leaves Congress, JDS worried
The party, as well as its candidates, have also been appealing to voters, urging them to elect a minister. This ‘minister factor’ has left the Congress and JDS worried. While the JDS is prepping itself to offer ‘outside support’ to the BJP, the Congress has started discussing the possibility of its return to power, thus countering the BJP’s ‘minister’ narrative. Leader of Opposition in the legislative assembly Siddaramaiah is talking of the return of the Congress government after the by-elections, hoping to stop voters from buying into the BJP’s story.
“The biggest advantage the disqualified MLAs have is that ‘their’ government is in power in Karnataka. They have been pointing out to electors that cabinet berths have been kept vacant for them. It is natural that electors feel inclined to vote for the candidate who can make a larger difference. It becomes more complicated in constituencies where candidates are appealing to their community to elect one among them to be a minister,” said a senior leader of the Congress.
Pointing out that these bypolls are unlike any other, Prof Narayana said, “In regular elections, the thought is that a leader would become a minister if his party comes to power, but in this scenario, there is already a government in place and you are voting for the candidate to become a minister.”