In a massive boost for Karnataka’s ruling coalition, the Congress took an insurmountable lead in BJP’s fort Ballari as votes cast in bypolls in three parliamentary and two assembly seats were counted this morning.
Congress candidate VS Ugrappa is ahead of his nearest rival, the BJP’s V Shantha, in the Ballari Lok Sabha seat, which has voted BJP since 2004 and is the stronghold of the mining barons, the Reddy brothers.
V Shantha, a former parliamentarian, is the sister of BJP leader B Sriramulu, who vacated the constituency to contest the assembly elections in May.
Karnataka by-elections results: B Sriramulu’s sister V Shantha is the BJP candidate in Ballari.
The ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) alliance campaigned hard in this constituency in north Karnataka, encouraged by its performance in the assembly elections; it won six of the eight assembly segments in Ballari. VS Ugrappa is considered an outsider but was strongly backed by Congress leaders Siddaramaiah as well as DK Shivakumar.
The fight in Ballari is also a test for DK Shivakumar, who played a key role in the party’s alliance with Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s JD(S) and in ensuring that the BJP could not form the government in Karnataka despite winning the most number of seats. Mr Shivakumar oversaw the campaign for the Congress candidate.
In 1999, Ballari famously hosted the electoral contest between Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, now Union Minister. Sonia Gandhi won that round in what had been a Congress stronghold since Independence.
The BJP won the seat in the next election and never looked back.
Over the years, Ballari stayed firmly in the grip of Janardhana Reddy and his brothers and their closest aide Sriramulu, the BJP’s key man in Karnataka.
Ahead of the 2019 national election, the bypoll results are seen as a test for the Janata Dal Secular-Congress alliance.
The terms for the Ballari, Shivamogga and Mandya seats will be extremely short with the Lok Sabha elections due early next year.