BENGALURU: The ruling BJP swept the by-elections winning 12 of the total 15 seats, helping the four-month-old B S Yediyurappa-led Karnataka government to retain majority in the Assembly.
Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah and State Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao quit their posts after the party posted a poor show, winning only two seats, as against the 12 it had held of the 15 which went to the bypolls on December 5.
Both tendered their resignations to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, “citing unsatisfactory results.”
The Congress managed to win only Hunasuru and Shivajinagar seats, while independent candidate Sharath Bachegowda, who was earlier expelled from the BJP for anti-party activities after he contested the bypoll as a rebel, won in Hoskote.
Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda-led JD(S) that had won three seats in the previous election- K R Pete, Mahalakshmi Layout and Hunsur- drew a blank.
The bypolls were held to fill the vacancies caused by the disqualification of 17 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs, whose revolt led to the collapse of the 14-month-old H D Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in July and paved the way for BJP to come to power.
With BJP winning 12 of the 15 assembly constituencies, the party’s numbers will go up from 105 (including an independent) to 117, which is well ahead of the halfway mark of 111 in a 223-member Assembly (two seats– Maski and R R Nagar– are vacant due to pending litigation in the High Court).
The BJP needed to win at least six of the 15 seats to remain in a majority.
Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had won the confidence motion on July 29 after the effective strength of the 225- member assembly (including the Speaker who has a casting vote) came down to 208 and the majority mark to 105, equivalent of BJP’s current strength, following the disqualifications.
As of now, the BJP has 105 MLAs (including an independent), the Congress 66 and the JD(S) 34. Besides, there is one BSP member, a nominated MLA and the Speaker.
The 12 BJP candidates who won are: Arabail Shivaram Hebbar (Yellapura), Narayana Gowda (K R Pete), B C Patil (Hirekerur), Shrimant Patil (Kagwad), Mahesh Kumthalli (Athani), K Sudhakar (Chikkaballapura), K Gopalaiah (Mahalakshmi Layout), Anand Singh (Vijayanagara), Ramesh Jarkiholi (Gokak), Arun Kumar Guttur (Ranebennur), S T Somashekar (Yeshwanthpura) and Byrathi Basavaraj (K R Puram).
Congress candidates who have won are Rizwan Arshad (Shivajinagar) and H P Manjunath (Hunasureu).
The results were in line with exit poll predictions by local news channels and agencies that had indicated a clear majority for BJP by winning 9-12 of the 15 seats.
During the campaign, BJP had asked for votes in the name of stability and development, while the Congress and JD (S) were optimistic that the defectors, who had been disqualified and were ruling party candidates, would be rejected by the electorate.
BJP had fielded 13 of the 16 disqualified legislators, who joined the party after the Supreme Court allowed them to contest the bypolls, as its candidates from their respective constituencies from where they had won in the 2018 assembly elections on Congress and JD(S) tickets.
Eleven of them have won the bypolls.
Jubilant after the BJP’s stellar performance in the by-elections, Yediyurappa asserted on Monday he would give a stable and pro-development government for the next three-and-half years — the remainder of his term.
He also made it clear that there was no question of backtracking from the assurance given to disqualified legislators that they would be made ministers.
Yediyurappa is likely to go in for a cabinet expansion soon, which will not be an easy task, as he will have to strike a balance by accommodating the victorious disqualified legislators in his ministry, as promised by him, and also make place for old guards, who have been upset over being “neglected” in the first round.
Including the Chief Minister, currently there are 18 ministers in the cabinet, whose sanctioned strength is 34.
The Congress was mulling over joining hands with former alliance partner JD(S) to form a coalition government, in case the BJP fails to get majority in the bypoll.
They were also predicting mid-term polls in the state.