BJP-backed JD-S bows to Congress in Karnataka bastion

Bangalore, Aug 24 (IANS) The ruling Congress in Karnataka Saturday humbled the BJP-backed JD-S in its bastion in the state by wresting two Lok Sabha seats for which by-polls were held Aug 21.

D.K. Suresh of the Congress defeated Anita Kumaraswamy, daughter-in-law of Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, by over 137,000 votes in Bangalore Rural constituency. He is brother of Congress legislator and former minister D.K. Shiva Kumar.

In Mandya, about 80 km from here, popular Kannada actor Ramya of the Congress beat C.S. Puttaraju of the JD-S by more than 67,000 votes.

This was the first election Ramya fought and she will be the first Kannada actress to enter Lok Sabha. B. Jayashree, another female Kannada actor, is a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha.

The JD-S defeat in its strongholds, particularly in Bangalore Rural, is a double blow to Gowda family as the seat was won by his son H.D. Kumaraswamy in 2009 by around 130,000 votes. Anita is married to Kumaraswamy.

The bypolls were held as Kumaraswamy and his party colleague N. Cheluvarayaswamy, who represented Mandya, quit the seats on getting elected to the Karnataka assembly in the May 5 elections.

The convincing victory of Congress came in the face of the JD-S-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) plan of ensuring that the anti-Congress votes in the two constituencies were not split.

On this ground, the BJP withdrew its nominees from the fray and backed the JD-S. Senior BJP leader and former minister R. Ashoka had campaigned for Anita Kumaraswamy.

Shocked by the loss, Kumaraswamy announced he was resigning as state party chief and was also thinking of quitting as leader of opposition in the assembly.

Announcing the results, an election commission spokesperson said Suresh got over 578,608 votes to Anita's 441,601. The Bangalore Rural constituency has over two million voters, of whom nearly 52 percent exercised their franchise.

Ramya polled over 484,085 votes while Puttaraju received 416,474. The constituency has around 1.6 million voters and saw over 58 percent turnout.

There were eleven independents in Bangalore Rural and seven in Mandya but the battle was between the Congress and the JD-S.

Though the winners will have less than a year's tenure in the Lok Sabha as general elections are due next April-May, the Congress and the JD-S had turned the bypolls into battle of prestige.

The Congress wanted to win the seats as the bypolls were the first to be held after the party returned to power on its own in May after nine years.

The party was keen to defeat the JD-S in its strongholds hoping to demoralise that party ahead of the general elections.

The JD-S sought to retain the seats as a loss would be a big blow to the Gowda family which has the final say in party matters.

A beaming Chief Minister Siddaramaiah told reporters in Bangalore: "I had said earlier the Congress will win both the seats. This is not just the defeat of JD-S, but also of the BJP and the Karnataka Janata Party (led by former BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa)."

The KJP too did not field candidates in the two constituencies.

In New Delhi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi congratulated the party's state unit for the victory.

Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, incharge of the party in Karnataka, used the victory to take a dig at the media.

He told reporters that the results would not have any bearing on the general elections but they showed that the media had a "negative image" of the Congress and now that should be corrected.

Though the JD-S and BJP have 40 seats each in the 225-member assembly that includes one nominated member, the JD-S is recognised as the official opposition party as it polled more votes than BJP in the May assembly elections.

The Congress had won 122 seats. The remaining seats are held by smaller parties and independents.

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