Bypolls to 15 assembly constituencies in Karnataka recorded a total of 66.49% turnout till 6pm on Thursday, according to state election authorities.
From allegations of distributing money to intimidation and other electoral malpractice, all sides have traded charges in a high-stakes contest that will not just determine the fate of the B.S.Yediyurappa-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government but is also likely to have an impact on Siddaramaiah’s role in the Congress and that of H.D.Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S).
Hosakote, with its high-profile three-way contest between disqualified legislator N. Nagaraju (M.T.B), who defected to the BJP, independent Sharath Kumar Bache Gowda and Padmavathi Suresh of the Congress, recorded the highest polling of 90.44% at 6pm, according to state chief electoral officer.
Apart from Hosakote, Chikkaballapura recorded 86.4% while Vijayanagara in Ballari district recorded 64.95% till 6pm as the highest and lowest polling among constituencies outside Bengaluru.
Turnout in Bengaluru was poor compared to other parts with its four constituencies—K.R. Pura, Yeshwanthapura, Mahalakshmi Layout and Shivajinagar—polling 43.25%, 54.33%, 50.92% and 44.6% respectively.
Even though the government requires only six victories in the bypolls to stay afloat, political analysts and leaders said anything below 10 could put Yediyurappa in trouble.
“Whether Yediyurappa continues or anyone else takes over, for the time being there is no end to uncertainty," A. Narayana, political analyst and faculty at Azim Premji University.
Yediyurappa’s waning influence among his partymen has only added to the uncertainty in the calamity-prone state begging to get the attention of the government to help it recover from one of the worst floods in over a century.
Ironically, the BJP campaigned on the platform of a stable government even though it was the same disqualified legislators who had brought down the 14-month-old Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in July after prolonged political uncertainty.
After the BJP’s failed attempt to capture power in neighbouring Maharashtra, all eyes have turned to the politically volatile state of Karnataka that has now become synonymous with Operation Kamala—a term coined in 2008 after the BJP allegedly devised ways to get Opposition legislators to defect.
Reports that BJP leaders continue to be in touch with Opposition legislators as a contingency plan if the bypolls don’t go as planned are being viewed as a sign of dipping confidence among ruling party ranks.
The possible uncertainty expected to follow the bypolls has already fuelled reports of an impending patch-up between the Congress and its erstwhile ally the JD(S).
The bypoll results will be announced on 9 December.