Political parties considering Karnataka bypolls as a mini 'general election'

The bypolls will be a do-or-die battle for BJP and Congress as the saffron party looks at crossing the simple majority mark and the latter wants to save its face.
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

BENGALURU: The December 5 bypolls are unlike any in the past. With over 6 per cent like a mini-general elections in which the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress are fighting a do-or-die battle.

The results, which will be out on December 9, will have a direct bearing on the stability of the BJP government that came to power in July with the support of rebel Congress-JDS legislators. The outcome will also impact Congress’ hopes of reviving the party in the state.


BJP, with 105 members in the Assembly, will be looking to take its numbers well past 113 to have a simple majority in the 225-member house. It hopes to romp home to victory in at least 12 of the 15 seats by synergising strength of its cadre and support base of its candidates who had won on Congress tickets in the 2018 Assembly polls.

However, given the complex local dynamics at the Assembly segment level, the task ahead of the BJP leadership is not that easy, though ruling parties generally have an advantage in bypolls. Ensuring complete cohesion between its workers, local leaders and the candidates and their supporters will be a Herculean task, and that was evident from signs of dissent in many constituencies.

In Hoskote, the party is up against its own MP’s son and 2018 candidate Sharath Bache Gowda, who is contesting as an Independent supported by JDS. Also, local BJP leaders have expressed reservations over working for disqualified legislators in many seats.

According to political analyst Mohan Ram, local BJP units may not easily accept "outsiders" as their leaders and the task of convincing them has actually become more difficult after CM BS Yediyurappa referred to the disqualified MLAs as future ministers. "BJP workers, especially leaders in those constituencies and even in neighbouring seats will certainly not like to see others taking over their space within the party. Local leaders may not work wholeheartedly and people too may not accept turncoats," he says.

BJP is well aware of the complexities, and its strategy, too, is focused more on achieving that cohesion. In the last few days, the CM held talks with several senior leaders, including DCM Laxman Savadi, disqualified MLA R Shankar and party leaders from Bengaluru, who were miffed over being denied tickets.

For now, the CM seems to have doused the "rebellion". The BJP’s State election-in-charge and MLA Aravind Limbavali, however, is confident of winning all the seats. "People have realised the need for a stable, single party government and also the good work done by our governments at the State and Centre will ensure that we win all 15 seats," he said.


In 2018, Congress had won 13 of the 15 seats that are going to bypolls and 3 were held by JDS. BJP was in the second position in 10 seats, and in remaining, it was pushed to third and in some seats like Hunsur and Chikkaballapur, even to the fourth spot.

On its part, Congress hopes to benefit from its support base in those constituencies. "Only the disqualified legislators have joined the BJP and the party workers are with us. We are confident of winning around 10-12 seats," said KPCC President Eshwar Khandre.

According to him, the party will also benefit from the anger among BJP cadre and the voters’ tendency to reject turncoats. "Who will vote for them? BJP cadre are angry with their party decision to field disqualified legislators, and our supporters, who had worked for them (disqualified legislators) in last elections are with us," he adds.

While BJP will make a stable government and the CM’s image and achievements of state and Central governments as its poll planks, Congress will highlight what it terms as the BJP government’s failure on the economic front, job loss, failure to help flood victims in the state and encouraging defections from other parties. Khandre may sound confident, but the Congress leadership has so far failed to put up a united front and the fault lines are visible.


For former CM Siddaramaiah, the bypolls are crucial to reassert his leadership within the party, especially after a poor show in 2018 Assembly and 2019 LS polls under his leadership. In 2019 LS polls, the party won just one seat — Bangalore Rural — and Siddaramaiah hardly had any role in DK Suresh’s win in the Vokkaliga-dominated seat.

Many leaders were upset over the party decision to reward him with the Opposition Leader’s post. Now, the challenge for him will be to take all seniors into confidence to avoid another debacle as the poor show in bypolls will damage the party to a great extent. It will be difficult for Congress to prevent further defections and will also lead to a power struggle.


In the fight between the two national parties, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda’s JDS
will be more concerned about protecting its base in Old Mysore. Like Congress, JDS too will be more worried about the post-election scenario wherein it may find it tough to retain its legislators.

Gowda’s recent remarks on coming to the BJP government’s rescue post-elections too are seen as an attempt to protect his party. “That was only meant to ensure that his party legislators won’t leave JDS. If he is really concerned about the stability of the government, he should not have fielded the candidates and supported BJP,” said a senior BJP leader, who also hinted at further political polarisation after December 9 when more leaders from other parties could join BJP.

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