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High stakes for Congress in Karnataka by-elections

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Congress

Bengaluru, Nov 18 : The beleaguered opposition Congress in Karnataka faces an uphill task in retaining its Assembly seats in the December 5 by-elections, as it faces an upbeat ruling BJP and an estranged Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) ally at the hustings.

“The task is cut out for the Congress to retain 12 of the 15 poll-bound Assembly seats in the state that fell vacant, as it faces 11 of its former rebels as BJP candidates in their strongholds in triangular contests where secular votes will get divided between the two former allies,” a political analyst told IANS ahead of the crucial by-elections.

The JD-S is also bracing to retain the three Assembly seats from where its rebel lawmakers resigned and joined the BJP to contest and win to maintain their hold in the constituencies, including two in the old Mysuru region and one in Bengaluru.

Though the Supreme Court on November 13 upheld the former speaker’s order disqualifying all the 17 legislators, including 14 from Congress and three from JD-S, it allowed them to contest in the by-polls, much to the chagrin of the two opposition parties, which was hoping to retain them without facing the powerful defectors.

“The apex court’s decision to allow the defectors to contest in the by-elections by quashing the speaker’s order of preventing them from contesting till the 5-year Assembly term ended in 2023 has upset the Congress more than the JD-S, as it may not be able to retain many of the seats in the absence of strong candidates who can take on the defectors and the ruling party’s enviable poll machinery,” asserted the analyst.

Unhappy with the floundering 14-month-old JD-S-Congress coalition government and giving up hopes of becoming ministers or sharing the spoils, the defectors resigned from their Assembly seats in mid-July and stayed away from the House on the crucial day when former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy lost the trust-vote on July 23 and resigned on the same night.

“A fractured verdict in the May 2018 Assembly elections forced us to tie-up with the JD-S and form the coalition government solely to keep the BJP out of power, as it fell short of 8-9 seats in the 225-member house for simple majority, with 113 as the halfway mark. The resignations of the 17 former lawmakers enabled the BJP to wrest power from us with only 105 legislators,” Congress leader V.S. Ugrappa lamented.

The Congress had won 80 and the JD-S 37 in the Assembly polls last year, with the remaining one each by an independent, a regional outfit (KPJP) and one nominated.

The humiliating defeat of the former coalition allies in the recent Lok Sabha elections in which they retained only one seat each while the BJP won a record 25 of the 28 parliamentary constituencies emboldened the former Congress and JD-S rebels to quit their Assembly seats and caused the fall of the coalition government, as they did not find prospects of becoming ministers or getting adequate funds for the development of their Assembly constituencies.

“The disastrous Lok Sabha results have proved that the pre-poll alliance between the former ruling allies and fielding of joint candidates to avoid division of votes backfired and benefitted the BJP instead,” admitted Ugrappa.

With the BJP going all out to win 8-10 of the 15 seats to have a simple majority by fielding 13 defectors in the fray, the Congress worked overtime in selecting 8 candidates on October 31, 6 on November 16 and one (P. Nagaraj) on Sunday night for the Yeshwanthapura Assembly segment.

“As the apex court upheld the disqualification of the defectors for defying the party whip and betraying the electorate for voting them in the May 2018 assembly elections, we are asking the voters to punish them for disrespecting their mandate,” asserted Ugrappa.

The Congress candidates are G.B. Mangasuli (Athani), B.A. Kage (Kagwad), Lakhan Jarkiholi (Gokak), Venkatrao Ghorpade (Vijayanagara), Rizwan Arshad (Shivajinagara) and K.B. Chandrashekar (K.R. Pet)., Bhimmanna Naik (Yellapur), B.H. Bannikod (Hirekerur), K.B. Koliwad (Rannebennur), M. Anjanappa (Chikkaballapur), M. Narayanswamy (K.R. Pura), M. Shivaraj (Mahalakshmi Layout), Padmavathi Suresh (Hoskote) and H.P. Manjunath (Hunsur).

Of the 15 seats, 7 are in the state’s northwest and central regions, 5 in Bengaluru, 2 in old Mysuru region and one in Chikkaballapur.

The party has also fielded one woman — Padamavathy from Hoskote against three-time legislator and former minister M.T.B. Nagaraj of the BJP, the richest candidate in the state, with a whopping Rs 1,223 crore worth assets declared in his nomination affidavit.

Besides Nagaraj, the Congress also faces strong BJP contenders such as T. Sudhakar (Chikkaballapur), Ramesh Jorkiholi (Gokak), Anand Singh (Vijayanagara), Shivaram Hebbar (Yellapur) and B.C. Patil (Hirekeruru).

The 14 disqualified rebels expelled from the Congress are: Mahesh Kumatahalli, Srimanth B. Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Pratap Gouda Patil, Shivaram Hebbar, B.C. Patil, R. Shankar, Anand Singh, K. Sudhakar, B.A. Basavaraj, S.T. Somashekar, Munirathna, R. Roshan Baig and M.T.B. Nagaraj.

The 3 disqualified rebels expelled from the JD-S are A.H. Vishwanath, K.C. Naryana Gowda and K. Gopalaiah.

The bye-elections will be held in Athani, Kagwad, Gokak, Yellapura, Hirekerur, Ranibennur, Vijaynagara, Chickballapura, K.R. Pura, Yeshwanthpura, Mahalakshmi Layout, Shivajinagara, Hosakote, K.R. Pete and Hunsur.

By-polls inAMuski (Raichur district) and R.R. Nagar (Bengaluru southwest) have been withheld due to litigation in the Karnataka High Court over their results in the May 2018 assembly elections.

The vote count is on December 9.

After the by-polls, in the 223-member assembly, the BJP will require the halfway mark of 112 for a simple majority, which is 7 more than 105 it has, including speaker to survive the trial of strength.Eom/930 words.

(Fakir Balaji can be contacted at [email protected])

Election

Like 2018, Kamal Nath starts MP poll campaign from Ujjain

Asked about the “Tiger zinda hai” comment from Scindia and Chouhan, Kamal Nath said the public will soon hand its verdict on who is a tiger or a cat or a mouse, as it knows everything.

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Kamal Nath INC

Ujjain/Badnawar/Bhopal, July 8 : Blowing the traditional conch before the war cry and whispering “earnest wishes” for public welfare in the ears of Lord Shiva’s vehicle Nandi, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath tried to reach out to devout Hindus as he on Tuesday launched the campaign for the mini-midterm elections involving 24 assembly seats.

In Badnawar, Kamal Nath, who is also the state Congress chief, visited the Baijnath Temple before addressing the first Loktantra Bachao rally.

Barbs and counter-barbs between the Congress and the BJP have gone on for quite some time in Madhya Pradesh. By picking on Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the BJP’s recent acquisition Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kamal Nath seems to have focussed on voter’s sympathy for a “wronged party.”

The BJP’s quick reaction through virtual rallies intensified the battle. Leader after leader from the BJP kept blaming the Congress of spreading lies and indulging in corruption.

About the BJP’s allegations of corruption, Kamal Nath said his party would welcome a thorough investigations into the 15-month rule of his government. “We have the public as our witness. The farmers will decide if our government was true to the promise or not.”

Asked about the “Tiger zinda hai” comment from Scindia and Chouhan, Kamal Nath said the public will soon hand its verdict on who is a tiger or a cat or a mouse, as it knows everything. He said people of Madhya Pradesh are straightforward and sensible. They know who the betrayer is and where the state is headed under the new government which earned the power under a deal and is still haggling with the wheelers and dealers.

There are striking similarities between his present campaign and the one he led in 2018 to bring the Congress back into power after 15 years. Kamal Nath had started the campaign with a pooja at Ujjain. The key difference of course is the absence of Scindia, who blindsided him and his departure with a big chunk of the party caused the current campaign. Scindia was the campaign convenor then.

Though Kamal Nath and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh were the senior leaders in the party, Scindia was presented as the youth face to draw the electorate. Digvijaya Singh was asked to bring about a patch up between various factions. Kamal Nath was thus the key campaigner. He retains that status.

Kamal Nath who drew good crowds in 2018 under Chouhan’s rule has made a striking start with Ujjain Congress leaders responding in large numbers despite the lockdown curbs. The temple town responded with hundreds of billboards greeting him.

Kamal Nath also held a one-on-one discussion with prospective candidates to set the selection process rolling. The party plans to have 24 call centres, one in each constituency that will witness the by-elections. The party workers will receive voters’ feedback and inputs for the prospective candidates and the agenda will be set on local issues.

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Election

BJP in MP sandwiched between Maharaj, Dissent, Shivraj: Shatrughan Sinha

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shatrughan-sinha

Bhopal, July 7 : Former Union minister and film actor Shatrughan Sinha has taken a dig at the politics in Madhya Pradesh. He says there are three camps in the BJP in Madhya Pradesh – “Maharaj, Dissent and Shivraj”. Sinha on Tuesday tweeted in his inimitable style on the state of politics in Madhya Pradesh.

The Congress government in the state fell after former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia left the Congress and joined the BJP.

The government was formed under the leadership of former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. It took more than three months to form the cabinet and now the party has to do a lot of thinking before distributing portfolios to ministers. Shatrughan Sinha’s tweet is being linked to the same.

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Election

Mahagathbandhan will discuss, decide Bihar CM candidate: Congress MP

The former Union minister denied there was any dispute in the Grand Alliance over the candidate for the chief minister’s post.

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Rajya Sabha MP Akhilesh Singh

Patna, July 7 : Ahead of the Bihar Assembly elections, state Congress Election Campaign Committee Chairman and Rajya Sabha MP Akhilesh Singh has said that the Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) comprising his party, RJD, HAM etc will decide its chief ministerial candidate through consultations.

However, he pointed out, the chief ministerial candidate will be from the largest party in the Mahagathbandhan.

On the formation of a coordination committee in the Grand Alliance, Singh said: “The panel must be set up to build a consensus among constituents of the alliance. The Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress have been together for many years. There is coordination, only then they have been able to work together.”

Speaking to IANS, he reiterated that no party had left the Mahagathbandhan on the issue of coordination committee. “Everyone involved in the alliance will fight the elections together, because the people of Bihar are looking for an alternative.”

The people of Bihar, Singh added, were unhappy with the JU-D-led government and were looking for an alternative.

The former Union minister denied there was any dispute in the Grand Alliance over the candidate for the chief minister’s post.

“Within the next one month, everything will be clear from seat distribution to the leader of the alliance. None of the ally parties is going anywhere,” Singh asserted.

As for Congress organisational structure in place for the coming elections, he admitted the fact that no new organisational committees had so far been formed even at the district level to strategise for the poll campaign.

Emphasising the need for change in the Congress, he said former party president Rahul Gandhi had recently held a virtual meeting with leaders of Bihar in order to revamp the party ahead of the Assembly polls.

Singh lamented that the Nitish Kumar’s government had talked about making Patna similar to Tokyo and Singapore but even two hours of rain causes waterlogging in the state capital.

The Congress leader alleged that not even a needle factory was set up in Bihar during the last 15 years.

Quoting NITI Aayog reports, he said Bihar lagged behind other states in terms of industrialization, health, and education.

The former Union minister claimed that all sugar mills in Bihar at present were closed or were on the verge of closure while during the Congress rule 27 per cent sugar produced in the country came from Bihar.

On June 24, leaders of the Grand Alliance partners in the state held a virtual meeting to discuss their poll preparation and pledged to fight the battle unitedly. Representatives of the Congress, RJD, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), Vikashsheel Insan Party (VIP), and Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) had participated.

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