Even as the Bihar elections were too close for the BJP-led NDA, down south the saffron party made dents to prospects of several leaders and parties as it defeated formidable opponents in Karnataka and Telangana in by-elections to three constituencies—RR Nagar, Sira and Dubbaka.
In Karnataka, the BJP’s victory has come as a shot in the arm for Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa who is staring at a political sunset. Both the constituencies were held by the Congress and the JDS and it is welcome addition to the BJP’s tally of 119 seats.
In Rajarajeshwari Nagar assembly segment, N. Munirathna scored a hat-trick winning by a margin of over 58,100 votes; while in Sira it was history of sorts for the BJP as it recorded its first ever victory there with its candidate Dr C.M. Rajesh Gowda securing the seat by a margin of over 13,400 votes.
The voting percentage in RR nagar was a paltry 42% as against last elections where the percentage was 54. BJP’s Munirathana won by securing 1,25,990 votes, followed by Congress’ Kusuma H with 67,877 votes. JD(S) ended up distant third with party candidate V. Krishtramurthy securing 10,269 votes and even losing deposit. This is the third consecutive victory for Munirathna, and his first as the BJP candidate. He had won the seat in 2013 and 2018 Assembly polls on the Congress’ ticket by a margin of over 18,800 votes and 5,400 votes respectively. This time around, if anything to by margin, the brutal frontal attack by Siddaramaiah and D.K. Shivkumar has come as a blowback as Muniratna had worked extensively in the constituency during pandemic. The voters too have given mandate to him as is expected to become minister thereby taking developmental projects to logical conclusion. This is also the bastion of D.K. Suresh, who is MP from Ramanagaram where this Assembly segments falls.
In Sira BJP’s Rajesh Gowda secured 76,564 votes, while his opponent Congress leader T.B. Jayachandra (71), a six-time MLA and former Minister, got 63,150 votes. JD(S) that had won the seat in the 2018 Assembly elections has been relegated to the third place with the party candidate Ammajamma B (wife of late party MLA Sathyanarayana) securing 36,783 votes.
Defeat in the bypolls has put Shivakumar and JDS leader H.D. Kumaraswamy on the back foot as it has in a way dampened their ambition to assert command over the Vokkaliga vote bank in the old Mysuru region. Vokkaligas have considerable presence in both the seats. Winning Sira is a major gain for BJP. With its negligible presence in constituency where Congress and JD(S) are traditional rivals, the party had not polled more than 24,000 votes there in the past.
CM’s son and state BJP Vice President B.Y. Vijayendra is being credited in part for the party’s victory in Sira. After K.R. Pet win in 2019, Sira win is another feather to Vijayendra’s cap, with him being seen as Yediyurappa’s political heir apparent.
In Telangana’s Dubbaka, the BJP handed a shocking defeat to ruling TRS in by-elections effected after sitting TRS MLA Solipeta Ramalinga Reddy due to Covid 19.
BJP’s candidate Raghunandan Rao won the seat with narrow margin of just a little over one thousand votes against Sujatha, wife of the deceased MLA as the party couldn’t garner sympathy votes as expected.
While Raghunandan Rao secured 63,352 votes, Sujatha got 62,273 and Congress candidate Srinivasa reddy came a distant third with 22,196 votes.
While the first rounds clearly went in favor of BJP, the TRS narrowed the gap by gaining momentum in the last rounds from 13th to 17th. Till the final results were announced, anxiety gripped both the TRS and the BJP camps as the voting could have tilted either way. At one point, the votes polled via postal ballot showed TRS ahead of the BJP. However, the BJP took the lead in the last four rounds. In the photo finish, the BJP candidate M. Raghunandan Rao defeated TRS candidate Ramalinga Reddy’s wife Solipeta Sujatha.
This is the second big upset for the TRS in the hands of BJP. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, BJP’s D. Arvind had defeated KCR’s daughter Kavitha in the Nizamabad constituency causing a huge embarrassment to the TRS. With the defeat of TRS in Dubbaka, the BJP seems to be slowly emerging as the principal opposition in Telangana to TRS as the congress has flattened out no big names or challengers.