Campaigning for December 5 bypolls in Karnataka ends

Bengaluru, Dec 3 (PTI): The high-octane campaign for the December 5 bypolls in Karnataka that will determine the future of the BJP government in the state ended on Tuesday, with leaders of political parties making a last bid to woo voters.

The byelections to 15 assembly constituencies saw BJP seeking votes for 'stability', while the Congress and JD(S) urged the electorate to defeat the disqualified legislators responsible for the collapse of their coalition government, who are now the ruling party candidates.

For the BJP, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa led from the front and went on a campaign blitz, while CLP leader Siddaramaiah spearheaded the Congress electioneering, though a sizable number of leaders stayed away, amid reports of disgruntlement within the grand old party.

JD(S)' campaign was led by former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, while his father and party patriarch H D Deve Gowda also campaigned in a few constituencies.

With BJP needing to win at least six seats in the bypolls for the survival of his government, Yediyurappa has made at least two visits to all 15 constituencies, while his ministers camped in the segments that they were made in-charge of.

Exuding confidence about BJP winning in all 15 constituencies, Yediyurappa on Tuesday said there would be a stable government in the state and he would present a 'pro farmer' budget in February.

'I have visited all the 15 constituencies twice; there is pro-BJP atmosphere everywhere, beyond our expectation. I have already said that we will win all 15 constituencies,' he said.

With the party fielding 13 disqualified legislators as candidates, BJP faced some dissidence within as aspirants expressed displeasure, but attempts were made to pacify them by making them heads of boards and corporations.

However, at Hoskote Sharath Bachegowda rebelled, leading to to his expulsion, while in Kagwad Raju Kage joined Congress and is now its candidate.

There was rebellion in Vijayanagara and Gokak too.

Siddaramaiah targeted disqualified legislators throughout the campaign, saying that defeating them was his main agenda.

Claiming that people were angry with the disqualified legislators as they were 'destroying' democracy, he said on Tuesday that they have sold themselves for money and had insulted the voters.

Accusing the BJP of 'misusing' government machinery in the run-up to the bypolls, he said people have decided to vote for the Congress in all the 15 constituencies.

Among 15 constituencies going to the bypolls, 12 were held by Congress and three by JD(S),whose coalition government collapsed due to rebellion by the disqualified MLAs.

BJP has fielded 13 of the 16 disqualified legislators who joined the party as its candidates from their respective constituencies.

Siddaramaiah and KPCC President Dinesh Gundu Rao were the only two Congress' top leaders who dominated the party's campaign.

Sources said several senior leaders, disgruntled over their 'unilateral' style of functioning and selection of candidates, did not play an active role in the campaign.

However, leaders like D K Shivakumar, Mallikarjun Kharge and G Parameshwara, among others, joined in for campaigning during the last few days.

JD(S) mostly concentrated its campaign in constituencies that the party feels it can win, including K R Pete, Yeshwanthpura and Hunsur.

The regional party, that had fielded candidates in 14 constituencies and decided to support BJP rebel and independent candidate Sharath Bachegowda in Hoskote, faced a set back with its nominees in Athani and Hirekerur withdrawing candidature at the last moment.

However,speculation about the possible coming together of Congress and JD(S) once again to form a coalition government in case BJP failed to garner the required number of seats in the bypolls, after the political developments in Maharashtra, dominated the last few days of campaigning, with leaders of both parties indicating they were not averse to the idea.

JD(S) meanwhile backtracked from such possibilities with the Congress,with Gowda and Kumaraswamy sending mixed signals.

It had initially sent similar feelers to BJP too.

While most of the constituencies going for the by polls are facing a direct contest between Congress and BJP, in the southern parts of the state JD(S) comes into the picture, making it a triangular fight.

The 15 constituencies that will go to the bypolls are Athani, Kagwad, Gokak, Yellapur, Hirekerur, Ranibennur, Vijayanagar, Chikballapur, KR Puram, Yeshwanthpur, Mahalakshmi Layout, Shivajinagar, Hoskote, KR Pet and Hunsur.

The bypolls were necessitated after the resignation and absence during the trust vote of 17 Congress-JD(S) legislators, which led to the collapse of the H D Kumaraswamy headed coalition government and paved the way for BJP to come to power.

The 17 legislators were subsequently disqualified by the then Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar However, the Supreme Court that heard the MLA's petition challenging the disqualification, last month allowed them to contest the bypolls.

The bypolls were earlier slated for October 21 but the EC had deferred them to December 5 after the apex court decided to hear the petitions of the disqualified MLAs.PTI KSU RS APR APR APR