Deal-making spree in bypoll time

Bangalore, Aug 10 (IANS) With five bypolls this month in Karnataka - two for the Lok Sabha and three for the legislative council - it is deal-striking time for political parties to ensure the victory of their candidates.

The two Lok Sabha byelections will take place Aug 21 for the Bangalore Rural and Mandya seats. Mandya is about 80 km from Bangalore. Results will be known Aug 24.

The bypolls to legislative council seats from Mysore, Dharwad in north Karnataka and Chitradurga in central Karnataka are on Aug 22, with the vote count on Aug 26.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has taken the cake in the deal race as it has tied-up with its sworn political rivals, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) for the Lok Sabha seats and the struggling Karnataka Janata Party led by its former leader B.S. Yeddyurappa for the council seats.

The BJP has withdrawn its nominees from the Lok Sabha contests. In return, the JD-S is not fighting the council elections.

The BJP will contest for council seats from Dharwad and Chitradurga, leaving Mysore for the KJP.

These arrangements have ostensibly been agreed upon by the three parties to avoid a split in anti-Congress votes.

The Congress, which swept back to power in the May 5 assembly elections defeating the BJP, is also not taking any chances over the two Lok Sabha bypolls.

It has struck a deal with the little known Karnataka Sarvodaya Party and is also seeking the support of the Samajwadi Party, both of which have only one member each in the assembly.

Karnataka Sarvodaya Party president and lone legislator K. S. Puttannaiah has announced that his party's candidate has withdrawn from the Mandya Lok Sabha bypoll and extended support to the Congress.

The lone Samajwadi Party legislator, C. P. Yogeshwar, who was once in the Congress, represents Channapatna, which is part of thr Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha constituency.

Though the winners of the two Lok Sabha bypolls will have less than a year's term as general elections are due early next year, the Congress wants to win them as these are the first by-elections it is fighting on returning to power in the state.

Also, the two constituencies are considered JD-S strongholds and inflicting a defeat on its homeground will be a huge morale booster for the Congress ahead of the general elections.

The JD-S wants to retain the two seats as a loss will not only be demoralizing for the party but a massive personal blow for the party's first family led by party president and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

The Bangalore Rural seat was held by Gowda's son and former chief minister and JD-S state president H. D. Kumaraswamy.

Now Kumaraswamy's wife Anita is the JD-S candidate for the bypoll and is taking on D. K. Suresh, brother of Congress legislator and former minister D.K. Shivakumar.

In Mandya, the JD-S nominee is former party legislator C.S. Puttaraju. The Congress has fielded popular Kannada actress Ramya against him.

The Mandya seat was held by N. Cheluvarayaswamy of the JD-S.

The bypolls are being held as Kumaraswamy and Cheluvarayaswamy quit the Lok Sabha after they won the May 5 assembly elections.

There is a sub-plot to the arrangement between the BJP and the JD-S.

The BJP wants to officially tom-tom it but cannot as Deve Gowda remains publicly against any "understanding or tie-up" with "communal" forces.

His son Kumaraswamy has however been dismissive of talk of secularism/communalism and asserts that the main object is to defeat the Congress.

This arrangement suits both the father and the son, though the Congress is crying hoarse that it has "exposed the duplicity of Deve Gowda".

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at vs.karnic@ians.in)

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