The ruling BJP on Monday retained a majority in the Karnataka Assembly when it bagged six seats in the byelections in which it was also leading in an equal number in other segments where counting is underway.
The BJP’s good show in 12 seats comes as a morale booster for the saffron party after it’s a setback in Maharashtra. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing a poll meeting in Jharkhand, hailed the BJP’s performance and accused the Congress of stealing the people’s mandate in Karnataka through the back door, contending it has been taught a lesson in the just-concluded by-polls.
The Congress, which won 12 of those 15 seats in the 2018 assembly polls, was leading only in two segments — Hunsur and Shivajinagar, while its former ally the JD(S) trailed in all the 12 seats it contested.
Independent candidate Sharath Bachegowda, who was earlier expelled from BJP for anti-party activities after he contested the by-poll as a rebel, was heading for a win in Hoskote.
The six BJP candidates who won are Arabail Shivaram Hebbar (Yellapura), Narayana Gowda (K R Pete), BC Patil (Hirekerur), Shrimant Patil (Kagwad), Mahesh Kumthalli (Athani) and K Sudhakar (Chikkaballapura).
The by-polls 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.
The BJP needed to win at least six of the 15 seats to remain in a majority in the 225-member assembly (including the Speaker, who has a casting vote), which would still have two vacant seats — Maski and R R Nagar.
In the assembly with the current strength of 208 after the disqualifications, the BJP has 105 MLAs (including an independent), the Congress 66 and the JD(S) has 34 MLAs. There is also one BSP member, a nominated member, and the Speaker. If BJP wins in the other six constituencies it is leading in, the party’s numbers will go up from 105 to 117, which is well ahead of the halfway mark of 111 in a 223-member Assembly (two seats are vacant due to pending litigation in the High Court).
BJP candidates who are leading are Anand Singh (Vijayanagara), Ramesh Jarkiholi (Gokak), Arun Kumar Guttur (Ranebennur), Gopalaiah (Mahalakshmi Layout), S T Somashekar (Yeshwanthpura) and Byrathi Basavaraj (K R Puram). Yediyurappa had won the confidence motion on July 29 after the effective strength of the 225-member assembly came down to 208 and the majority mark to 105, equivalent of BJP’s current strength, following the disqualifications.