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Bengaluru: The ruling coalition in Karnataka between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), decimated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by winning four of the five bypolls in the state, the results of which were announced on Tuesday.

The loss was compounded as the BJP lost the bypoll to the Lok Sabha seat in the mineral-rich district of Ballari, which is considered their stronghold.

The BJP had believed that the keenly contested elections would create a divide between the coalition partners and give it a chance to improve on its 2014 Lok Sabha tally when general elections are held next year.

However, the results told a different story. The Congress-JD(S) coalition won in Ballari and Mandya Lok Sabha seats, as well as the Ramanagaram and Jamkhandi assembly constituencies. The BJP was left with a bitter-sweet victory in Shivamogga where it conceded a significant chunk of its support base, reducing its margin from about 357,000 for B.S. Yeddyurappa in the 2014 general elections to 52,148 for his son, B.Y. Raghavendra, this time.

The biggest upset for the BJP was in Ballari, where J. Shantha, sister of party leader B. Sriramulu, lost by a margin of more than 243,000 votes to V.S. Ugrappa of the Congress. Sriramulu, a close aide of the Reddy brothers of Ballari, who had vacated the seat, had won with a margin of 80,000 votes in 2014.

Anitha Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) won with a margin of more than 100,000 votes in Ramanagaram where the BJP candidate had pulled out of the race two days before polling, giving room for one more family member of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, the JD(S) president, to re-enter electoral politics.

The BJP, which lost the Jamkhandi assembly constituency with a margin of less than 3,000 votes in May, saw the difference widen to 40,000 votes in the bypolls.

“Time for our cadre based Organisation-Party to re-invent itself to get ready for the Major Exam," Sureshkumar, a senior BJP legislator wrote on Twitter, adding it is “time for genuine introspection".

The bypoll victories also highlight how the Congress has been banking on regional outfits to take on the BJP and also thus help it regain ground in the national arena.

Former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said that the coalition will win at least 20 seats in 2019 while his successor, H.D. Kumaraswamy, said that the two parties will sweep all 28 parliamentary seats in the state. All three parties believe that the bypoll results are likely to have an impact on the forthcoming state elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. The Congress-JD(S) spared no opportunity to point out how the victories were an indication of the waning “Modi wave" as the BJP had used the centre’s performance as its main poll plank this time.

The results now take the JD(S)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) tally to 38 and the Congress tally to 82, making it harder for the BJP to topple the Karnataka government.

The BJP got about 15,000 votes in Ramanagaram and analysts and Congress leaders say these are an indication that unhappy Congress workers were willing to vote for a rival rather than the coalition, as the alliance partners have had a turbulent relationship in south Karnataka.

The decision of the coalition that JD(S) would contest the Vokkaliga-dominated regions of Ramanagaram and Mandya is likely to be felt by the Congress when the two parties discuss seat-sharing.

“By winning a byelection, sometimes parties tend to lose out on an election," said A. Narayana, political analyst and faculty at the Azim Premji University. Voters tend to have a sympathetic view of the loser in subsequent elections, he said, pointing out to the April 2017 bypoll victories in Nanjangud and Gundlupet in Karnataka. Though the Congress decimated the BJP in the two bypolls, the BJP emerged as the single-largest party a year later with 104 out of the 224 seats.

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