Karnataka bypolls: Cong wins Bellary, Chikkodi; BJP retains Shikaripura

Karnataka bypolls: Cong wins Bellary, Chikkodi; BJP retains Shikaripura

Karnataka bypolls: Cong wins Bellary, Chikkodi; BJP retains Shikaripura

In a shot in the arm for the ruling Congress in Karnataka, the party today won two seats, wresting the prestigious Bellary Rural from BJP which managed to retain one constituency in the fiercely fought August 21 by-polls.

In a blow to BJP, Congress' N Y Gopalakrishna trounced BJP's Obalesh by a margin of 33,104 votes in Bellary Rural, represented earlier by B Sriramulu, who vacated the seat after becoming a Lok Sabha member.

Sriramulu, once considered a trusted lieutenant of mining baron and former minister Janardhana Reddy, had won Bellary Rural in the 2013 Assembly polls as the candidate of his outfit BRS before rejoining BJP ahead of Lok Sabha elections.

In Shikaripura, BJP managed to retain the seat with B Y Raghavendra, son of party National Vice-President and former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, winning by a margin of 6,430 votes against Congress' H S Shantaveerappa Gowda in a closely fought battle.

Yeddyurappa had won the Shikaripura seat in the 2013 Assembly elections by a margin of over 24,000 votes as the candidate of Karnataka Janatha Paksha (KJP), his outfit which merged with BJP months before the Lok Sabha polls. He had represented Shikaripura seven times before making his debut as a Lok Sabha member from Shimoga in the last polls.

Congress retained its traditional stronghold of Chikkodi-Sadalga, where its candidate Ganesh Prakash Hukkeri defeated BJP's Mahantesh Kavatagimath by 31,820 votes.

The poll outcome has come as a big booster for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, as it is expected to put murmurs of discontent against his style of functioning within his party in a mute mode at least in the near future.

Congress had played for high stakes in the elections, the first test of popularity after the Lok Sabha polls which saw a resurgent BJP winning 17 of 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka.

The Congress, which put up a sterling performance in the 2013 Assembly polls unseating the BJP's first-ever government in the South, had won just nine Lok Sabha seats and JDS two.

Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda led JDS, now facing dissatisfaction among its MLAs over leadership's functioning, had not fielded candidates in all the three constituencies.

In his reaction to the poll verdict, Siddaramaiah said it showed that people have reposed faith in the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. It also showed BJP's victory in the Lok Sabha polls under Narendra Modi was only "a temporary phenomenon" and people had voted for a change in the country.

In Bellary Rural, he said, people came out of 'fear' of Sriramulu and the Reddy brothers, Janardhana and Karunakara, and voted for Congress based on its performance. "Our programmes have reached people. That is why we won two of three seats as expected. We hope to win next (Assembly) polls also."

KPCC President G Parameshwara said the people of Bellary had "freed themselves from the shackles of fear", apparently referring to the Reddy brothers' influence earlier in Bellary district.

Yeddyurappa said the entire state cabinet had taken up the by-polls as a challenge. "We had expected a huge margin in Shikaripura. But this time, it was a straight fight. JDS had tied up with Congress."

Raghavendra alleged that the government machinery was misused in the by-elections.

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