Karnataka bypoll results: The fate of the four-month-old BS Yediyurappa led-BJP government in Karnataka will be determined on Monday when the results of the bypolls to 15 Assembly constituencies in the state is set to be announced.
The bye-elections held across nine districts, necessitated after 17 rebel MLAs from the Congress and JD(S) parties defected to the BJP, recorded 66.25 per cent voting, according to the Election Commission of India. Of the 15 constituencies where polling has been held, 12 were held by the Congress and three by the JD(S) after the 2018 elections.
While the highest turnout was recorded in Hoskote (86.77 per cent), situated 30 kilometres off Bengaluru city, all four constituencies in the capital Bengaluru witnessed a poor turnout.
The 15 seats that went to polls on Thursday (December 5) were Yellapur, Ranebennur, Vijayanagara, Yeshwantpur, Mahalakshmi Layout, Chikkaballapura, KR Puram, Shivajinagar, KR Pete, Hunsur, Athani, Kagwad, Gokak, Hirekerur, and Hoskote.
However, elections to two seats — Rajarajeshwari Nagar and Maski — were not held as separate election petitions challenging the results of the 2018 elections are still pending in the Karnataka High Court.
What is at stake for BJP?
Yediyurappa currently has the support of 106 MLAs in the Assembly, including one Independent, while the Opposition combine of the Congress and JD-S has 101. The BJP government will have to win a minimum of six out of the 15 seats, along with seven out of the 17 vacant seats of the Assembly, to keep its majority.
The Assembly has 224 seats, with 17 vacancies. Thirteen of the disqualified MLAs are fighting the byelections on BJP tickets from the same constituencies from where they had won in 2018 as candidates of the Congress/JD-S.
Congress, BJP accuses each other of code violation
The two political rivals — the BJP and the Congress party — accused each other of violating the Model Code of Conduct even on election day.
The Congress wrote to the Election Commission (EC) demanding action against BJP leaders and associates for allegedly distributing cash to voters in three constituencies – Yellapur, KR Puram, and Yeshwantpur.
“We also urge to find out the BJP leaders and workers who distributed cash… and take action against them to uphold the laws of the land and in the interest of free and fair elections,” the letter addressed to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) read.
Meanwhile, the BJP wrote to the CEC seeking action against Jewargi Congress MLA Ajay Jewargi for allegedly campaigning in Shivajinagar for Congress candidate Rizwan Arshad on polling day.
Why were bye-elections held?
The bye-elections were a result of a slew of events that began after the results of 2018 Assembly elections in the state came out. The BJP won 104 seats, the Congress 80, and the JD-S 37 seats in the 224-member House. Three seats were won by others.
After the BJP failed to muster a majority after three days of BS Yediyurappa being Chief Minister, the Congress and JD(S), whose leaders had forged an alliance soon after the results, formed the government with H D Kumaraswamy as CM.
In July 2019, 14 MLAs from the Congress and three from the JD(S) quit the Assembly. The resignations were seen as linked to an attempt by the BJP to topple the state government.
As the 17 rebels stayed away from the Assembly, the Congress-JD-S government collapsed during a trust vote on July 23. The BJP staked claim to form a new government under Yediyurappa on July 26.
In the interim, however, on July 25 and 28, then Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar issued two separate orders under the anti-defection law, disqualifying the 17 MLAs from the House and barring them from contesting elections during the tenure of the current Assembly (which is until 2023).
The MLAs moved the Supreme Court asking that the Speaker’s orders be quashed. The Congress and JD-S too approached the court, seeking enforcement of the disqualifications.
On September 27, the Election Commission announced by-elections to 15 of the 17 vacant seats. On November 13, the Supreme Court passed an order upholding the disqualification of the 17 rebel MLAs by then Speaker Ramesh Kumar but allowed them to contest the byelections.