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Siddaramaiah-led bypoll wins boost Congress morale in Karnataka

LiveMint logoLiveMint 20-04-2017 Sharan Poovanna

Bengaluru: Karnataka’s Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah pulled through one of the most challenging battles of his term with flying colours, leading his party to a win in both Nanjangud and Gundlupet assembly by-elections held on 9 April, and driving rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the margins.

The wins vindicated Siddaramaiah’s ability to deliver victory, appeal to various caste groups and micromanage election strategy. Analysts said the victory also gave new confidence to Congress leaders ahead of assembly polls due next year.

Siddaramaiah attributed the victory to the government’s “progressive and pro-people” schemes like the Anna Bhagya and Ksheera Bhagya.

Kalale Keshavamurthy of the Congress defeated the BJP candidate V. Srinivas Prasad, a former minister, in Nanjangud, while Geetha Mahadev Prasad, wife of former minister H.S.Mahadev Prasad, beat the BJP’s C.S.Niranjan Kumar in Gundlupet.

Siddaramaiah had to fight two separate battles, one was with Srinivas Prasad in Nanjangud, which is the neighbouring seat to Varuna, the chief minister’s home constituency. The other was against Yeddyurappa, the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate who seemed confident of retaining his reputation as one of the biggest leaders of the Lingayat community—believed to be the single biggest caste group in the state as well as in Nanjangud and Gundlupet.

In the event, Srinivas Prasad was beaten by a massive 21,334 votes. “This is a vote against Srinivas Prasad and not a vote for schemes,” said Harish Ramaswamy, political analyst and professor at the Karnataka university, Dharwad. The chief minister’s personal touch and rigorous campaign over nearly 10 days was a bigger factor, he added.

During his campaign, Siddaramaiah made it a point to remind voters that Nanjangud was forced into elections at a time when the state was facing its worst drought. Districts in south Karnataka, including the constituencies of Nanjangud (Mysore) and Gundlupet (Chamrajnagar), have been some of the worst hit by drought this year.

Srinivas Prasad has been a member of Parliament, Union minister and assembly member from the region, and known as a leader who ended the decade-long violence between landowning Lingayats and working class Dalits in the region.

Srinivas Prasad won on a Congress ticket in 2013.

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