Bypolls becoming a regular feature in State politics

13 byelections held in 3 years costing Rs 30 lakh per constituency

Three more are scheduled to be held next month – for Channapatna, Jagalur and Bangarpet constituencies. Bypolls are likely to be held for 17 more constituencies in the coming days.

Of the 17 constituencies (Channapatna is facing bypoll for the second time), bypolls to 12 were necessitated due to ‘Operation Lotus’ (poaching MLAs of the Opposition parties) by the ruling BJP.

Bypolls to Ramanagar and Chittapur seats were held as MLAs H D Kumaraswamy and Mallikarjuna Kharge resigned, after their election to the Lok Sabha. Maddur, Kadur and Gulbarga South went to the bypolls after the death of the sitting MLAs.

The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka, spends an average of Rs 30 lakh to conduct the byelection to an Assembly constituency.

Chief Minister Yeddyurappa had the support of just 115 MLAs in the Assembly, including five independents, when he formed his government on May 30, 2008. He embarked on ‘Operation Lotus’ to woo MLAs of the Congress and JD(S) to bring stability to his government.

As a result, eight Assembly seats went to bypolls within four months of the formation of the government in 2008 (it also included Maddur, where sitting JD(S) MLA Siddaraju passed away). Despite winning five of the eight seats in the byelections, the BJP was far from satisfied. It went on poaching rival party MLAs.

Byelections were held for five more Assembly seats in 2009. While three were due to ‘Operation Lotus,’ two went to bypolls as the respective MLAs got elected to Parliament.

In 2010, two constituencies – Gulbarga South and Kadur – went to bypolls due to the death of the sitting MLAs.There was one more round of ‘Operation Lotus’ in 2010 when 16 MLAs, including 11 belonging to the BJP, raised the banner of revolt. All of them were disqualified by the Speaker.

Three MLAs, one from the JD(S) and three from the Congress, were made to resign to help Yeddyurappa sail through the two back-to-back trust votes.

Recently, another JD(S) MLA, Sanganna Karadi, resigned from his membership and joined the BJP.

Presently, cases pertaining to 16 disqualified MLAs are pending before the Supreme Court. If the SC upholds the Speaker’s order, byelections will have to be held for these constituencies also.

Dubious record

Shuttling between the State Assembly and Parliament, Kumaraswamy has necessitated a byelection and might give rise to another if he sticks to his decision to contest from Channaptna.

After being elected to the Assembly from Ramanagar in 2008, he resigned the seat the next year when he won the Bangalore rural Lok Sabha constituency.

If he resigns as MP, a byelection to his Lok Sabha constituency will have to be held within six months. The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka, spends an average of Rs 2.4 crore to conduct a byelection to a parliamentary constituency, which normally covers seven to eight Assembly constituencies.

Constituencies which went to bypolls

Arabhavi, Devadurga, Hukkeri, Karwar, Doddaballapur, Madhugiri, Govindarajanagar,  Channapatna, Kollegal, Bangarpet, Jagalur (all due to Operation Lotus), Maddur, Gulbarga South, Kadur (due to death of sitting MLAs), Chittapur, Ramanagar (due to MLAs becoming MPs).

(Note: Channapatna is facing bypoll for the second time)

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