Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who has been under pressure within the party, won a fresh lease of life Monday with the Congress winning two of three assembly seats that went to bypolls.
The performance brought a smile to his face after a Narendra Modi wave in the Lok Sabha polls three months ago had dampened the Congress euphoria over its 2013 poll victory and raised questions over Siddaramaiah’s leadership. “The results show that the BJP is not a force to reckon with. A united secular front can defeat the BJP as reflected in the Bihar bypoll results,” he said.
The results, which are expected to give Siddaramaiah more authority in party affairs, came a day ahead of a state co-ordination committee meeting under the leadership of Digvijaya Singh. “I will talk less and work more,” Siddaramaiah said in reference to criticism from within his party, including from speaker Kagodu Thimappa.
The chief minister is particularly under pressure to help create a post of deputy chief minister to accommodate state party president G Parameshwar in the cabinet. Siddaramaiah is opposed to the move, apparently for fear that it will create a parallel power centre in the Congress, which already has a deep fracture line dividing later recruits such as Siddaramaiah from old hands.
The Congress made a comeback in Bellary Rural after six years, wresting it with a margin of 33,104 votes from the BJP’s B Sreeramulu, a flag-bearer of the Bellary Reddy group.
The Congress also retained Chikkodi-Sadalga, winning by 31,820 votes, but narrowly lost (by 6,430 votes) the battle against former BJP chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s son B Y Raghavendra in the Yeddyurappa family borough of Shikharipura. BSY has represented the seat for nearly two decades.
The bypolls were necessitated after the previous MLAs of the three seats were elected MPs.
The Congress victory was partly aided by the JD(S) not fielding candidates in the three constituencies and the tradition of ruling parties not losing state byelections. “It is not a great achievement for a ruling party to win seats,” said the government’s newest critic, speaker Thimappa.