Three Karnataka Assembly seats vacated by MLAs elected to the Lok Sabha in the Parliament polls this year will witness by-elections on Thursday, in what is widely viewed as a test of the popularity of the 14-month-old Congress government and chief minister Siddaramaiah.
The Siddaramaiah-led Congress is hoping to put in a good show in the polls following a weak performance in the Lok Sabha polls.
Out of the three Assembly seats going to the polls, Chikkodi-Sadalga is held by the Congress while the other two – Shikharipur and Bellary – have been held by BJP strongman B S Yeddyurappa and popular scheduled tribe leader B Sreeramulu for several years.
The by-poll to Shikharipura has been necessitated because Yeddyurappa who was elected MLA from the constituency on a Karnataka Janata Party ticket in the 2013 Assembly polls re-joined the BJP subsequently and was elected to the Lok Sabha from Shimoga on a BJP ticket this year.
The BJP is fielding Yeddyurappa’s son B Y Raghavendra from the seat vacated by his father. Raghavendra was the BJP’s Shimoga MP between 2009-14 and is expected to retain his family’s home borough despite the JDS creating a straight fight between the BJP and the Congress in the constituency by not fielding its own candidate and backing the Congress instead.
The Congress has fielded a low-profile candidate H S Shantaveerappa Gowda against Yeddyurappa’s son but has put in serious effort to rally support for the party in the region.
The Bellary Rural seat vacated by B Sreeramulu, a close associate of the jailed Bellary mining baron Janardhan Reddy, is being contested by Sreeramulu’s close friend H Obalesh this time. The Congress has been desperate to make political gains in the Bellary region but has enjoyed only limited success in the past year despite the illegal mining taint against BJP leaders in the region.
In an effort to wrest the Bellary Rural seat from the vice-like grip of Sreeramulu the Congress deployed a strong contingent of its leaders lead by energy minister D K Shivakumar in the region in an effort to bring diverse factions of the party together. The Congress has fielded N Y Gopalakrishna the brother of the former Orissa high court chief justice N Y Hanumanthappa who unsuccessfully contested against Sreeramulu in the parliament polls this year.
The one seat where the Congress has good prospects of winning is the Chikkodi-Sadalga seat vacated by state sugar minister Prakash Hukkeri who was elected to parliament from the Chikkodi constituency. Hukkeri has fielded his son Ganesh for the assembly by poll in a contest against the BJP’s Mahantesh Kavatgimath. The JDS party of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda has not fielded candidates in any of the constituencies citing the lack of funds and candidates.