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Away from the media’s eye and glitter, two prestige battles are being fought in Rajasthan and Karnataka where the Congress and the BJP have locked horns in a direct contest in assembly by-elections. In Rajasthan, while the prestige of the ruling Congress is at stake, in Karnataka, it’s the ruling BJP that is looking for a face-saver.
The bypolls in the three assembly segments in Rajasthan are being held following the demise of the sitting MLAs. The Sujangarh assembly seat fell vacant after the death of the former minister and sitting Congress legislator Master Bhanwarlal Meghwal. The Congress has fielded his son, Manoj Meghwal from the seat while BJP has fielded former minister Khemaram Meghwal. The Sahara assembly seat fell vacant after sitting MLA Kailash Trivedi’s death due to COVID-19. The Congress has fielded Trivedi’s wife, Gayatri Devi while the former MLA Ratanlal Jat is contesting on the BJP ticket from the seat. The Rajsamand assembly by-poll was necessitated after the death of sitting MLA Kiran Maheshwari due to COVID-19. The Congress has nominated social worker Tansukh Bohara against Maheshwari’s daughter and BJP candidate Deepti Maheshwari from the seat. As many as 27 candidates are in the fray from these three seats. According to the Election Commission, 7,43,802 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in April 17 polls for which counting will be held on May 2.
The BJP which conceded power to Congress in the 2018 assembly elections is looking to get a boost by winning the three seats. A win on all three seats will be an indication of anti-incumbency against the ruling Congress and a ray of hope for the BJP which is facing heat over rising fuel prices and farmers’ protest. A win for the BJP will also signal that the saffron party is regaining lost ground in the state.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has said that the Congress victory in the Rajasthan Assembly bypolls will be a lesson for conspirators sitting in Delhi. He said that those sitting in Delhi will come to know that the public is supreme in a democracy and will not tolerate any attempt to topple an elected government referring to a political turmoil in the state last year when the BJP was accused of attempts to dislodge the Congress government. Meanwhile, the BJP has released a black paper accusing Congress of betraying the people of Rajasthan by not fulfilling the promises made during the 2018 polls.
On the other hand, in Karnataka, Belgaum Lok Sabha constituency, Maski and Basavakalyan assembly segments are going to polls. The saffron party which had wrestled power back from the Congress-JD(S) alliance, is looking to further consolidate its presence. On the other hand, the Congress is looking to win the three seats to gain some prestige in a ground that it lost in 2019 after the coalition government led by the Congress fell to prove its majority.
Though the outcome of these bypolls will in no way have its impact on the stability of the government, it is in a way crucial for BS Yediyurappa to consolidate his position, amid growing resentment against his leadership within the party. The Congress that has been targeting the ruling party on a number of issues, including impropriety following the sex scandal involving its former Minister, is hoping to make a mark by winning all the seats. It is aiming to at least retain Basavakalyan and Maski seats, which it had won in 2018.
By-polls to Belgaum Lok Sabha and Basavakalyan Assembly seats are being held following the death of Union Minister Suresh Angadi and MLA B Narayan Rao due to COVID-19. Maski seat fell vacant following the disqualification of MLA Prathapagouda Patil, who had won in 2018 from Congress and is now with the BJP. The bypolls for which the counting will take place on May 2, has a total of 30 candidates in the fray. The ruling BJP has fielded Mangala Suresh Angadi, wife of late Suresh Angadi, from Belgaum Lok Sabha seat. Pratapagouda Patil is the BJP candidate in Maski assembly segment while youth leader Sharanu Salagar has been fielded from Basavakalyan. BJP rebel and former MLA Mallikarjun Khuba is in the fray as an independent candidate from Basavakalyan. The opposition Congress has fielded its state working president Satish Jarkiholi, who is sitting MLA of Yamkanmaradi assembly seat, as its candidate from Belgaum. Mallamma, the wife of late legislator B Narayan Rao is the Congress candidate from Basavakalyan seat, while Basanagouda Turvihal, who recently joined the party has been fielded in the Maski seat. JD(S) is only contesting from Basavakalyan and has named Syed Yasrab Ali Quadri as its candidate. A total of 22,68,038 voters are eligible to cast their votes on April 17 at 3,197 polling stations in the three constituencies.
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