The Opposition Congress has deployed its leaders in big numbers and is carrying out a focused campaign in the two Legislative Assembly constituencies of Basavakalyan and Maski rather than in the Parliamentary constituency of Belagavi, which are headed for byelections.
With a week left for campaigning, all top leaders, including KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar, Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah, and KPCC working presidents Eshwar Khandre and R. Dhruvanarayan, have been campaigning in these two constituencies for the past few days in an effort to retain both the seats the party had won in 2018.
In Basavakalyan, Congress smells an advantage since BJP votes are likely to split following the presence of its rebel candidate and former MLA Mallikarjun Khuba. Sharanu Salagar is the official candidate of the BJP.
The Congress is expecting sympathy factor to work in favour of its candidate, Mallamma, wife of the former MLA late Narayanrao. The Congress defeated the BJP by a margin of 17,000 votes in 2018.
The JD(S) has fielded Syed Yasrab Ali Quadri and it is interesting to watch how the minority community votes here in this election.
In the reserved constituency of Maski, the Congress sees an opportunity because of a perceived anti-incumbency against the BJP candidate and disqualified MLA Pratapgouda Patil. Three-time MLA Mr. Patil, one of the 17 MLAs who defected and helped the BJP to come to power in 2019, is facing the Congress candidate, Basanagouda Turvihal. Mr. Turvihal had contested on the BJP ticket and lost to Mr. Patil by a slender margin of 213 votes in 2018. The BJP has deployed B.Y. Vijayendra, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurapp’s son, here.
A positive outcome in both these constituencies is crucial for the Congress to lift the spirit of its cadre. These polls are vital also for Congress leaders to regain the lost support for the party among the masses, particularly in north Karnataka.
The State Congress is yet to register a poll victory under the leadership of Mr. Shivakumar who assumed office as KPCC president last year. The party fought bypolls in Sira and Rajarajeshwarinagar under his leadership but lost both the seats.
Bypolls have been held in 19 Assembly constituencies since the 2018 polls. While the Congress won three seats — Kundagol, Shivajinagar, and Hunsur, the ruling BJP won 15 seats and an Independent won in Hoskote.