Karnataka bypolls: Advantage BJP, firepower to Cong

B S Yediyurappa. (DH Photo)

It is advantage BJP with the Supreme Court paving the way for disqualified rebel legislators to contest the December 5 bypolls.

With many of the rebels likely to be fielded on the BJP ticket, the saffron party now stands a chance to aim for victory in constituencies where it had tasted defeat in the May 2018 Assembly polls. 

For the Congress, too, the verdict has come as a shot in the arm as it will go to town saying its case against rebel legislators was vindicated. 

With a strength of 105 and the support of one Independent, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa needs to win at least seven out of the 15 constituencies going to bypolls on December 5.

Electorally, whatever number of seats the BJP manages to win in the bypolls will be gained. 

Of the 15 seats, the Congress had won 12 and the JD(S) three. By fielding the same legislators who had won, the BJP is hoping to cause a split in the Congress and JD(S) votes, while cashing in on its own support base. For that to happen, the BJP will need to ensure the disqualified rebel legislators still retain enough hold in their constituencies to get re-elected, swinging enough votes based on their personal charisma. 

In constituencies such as Chikballapur, Yeshwantpur, KR Pet and Hunsur, the BJP has little or no presence, according to polling data from the May 2018 election. 

Even if the BJP manages to win the required seven seats to secure a majority in the Assembly, it faces a long-term threat of having to deal with the newcomers — they need to be accommodated with ministerial berths — while also keeping native leaders happy. 

“The way I see it, the SC verdict is harmful to the rebels. They now have to face the people again under the BJP’s banner after all the rigmarole of having contested the Speaker’s declaration. They couldn’t become ministers as planned,” political analyst Harish Ramaswamy said. “Not all rebels may win. So, the BJP would rather look at investing on their own leaders instead of outsiders.”

The Supreme Court verdict gives the Congress, which is desperate for vengeance, the ammunition to directly attack the rebels. After all, the top court has upheld their disqualification, a taint the rebels will carry into the bypolls.

“We will tell people these are defectors who betrayed your mandate,” Congress’ Krishna Byre Gowda said. 

Only, Congress tried its best to ensure the rebels do not get to contest till 2023. But that was not to be.

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