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K'taka victory boosts BJP morale amid Jharkhand polls
New Delhi/Bengaluru, Dec 9 - At a time when the BJP is losing footprint in states, the recent being in Maharashtra, it has got a major boost with the thumping victory in Karnataka by-elections. The Karnataka result would not only determine whether Yeddyurappa stays in power. It would also nudge its cadre to renewed activism ahead of the third phase of Jharkhand elections due on December 12.
Seventeen Assembly constituencies spread across eight districts of Jharkhand will vote for the 81-member Assembly.
In Karnataka, the party has already won 12 of the fifteen seats that went to the polls. Party's Chief Minister Yeddyurappa required just 6 more seats for a majority in the 224-member Assembly in which the party had 105 MLAs already.
By-election results by their very nature are very limited in appeal and even more limited in consequence. But the Karnataka case is different. In UP's 2018 Gorakhpur Lok Sabha by-election, caused by Yogi Adityanath vacating the seat to become the Chief Minister, the BJP lost it to Samajwadi Party. This happened despite Yogi's firm grip over the area. The Gorakhpur seat had been with the BJP since 1989.
The party had also lost Phulpur Lok Sabha by-election in UP. At that time, the BJP termed the twin defeat as a "small matter", but it had far-reaching consequences. Three states were going to the polls in the next few months -- Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. All three BJP-ruled states were won by the Congress.
The Karnataka by-elections, too, will have ripple effect in the ongoing Jharkhand election, where surveys predict a hung Assembly, and in poll-bound Delhi. The Karnataka victory, thus, assumes significance, so much so that Congress leader D.K. Sivakumar had to reluctantly concede that Kernataka has chosen "defectors".
Just before the results, the leads showed widening gaps between the BJP candidates and their nearest rivals. By 1 p.m, BJP's Hirekerur candidate B.C. Patil started celebrating, as he was leading by more than 29,000 votes. Even seats like Krishnarajpet, where JD-S showed an early lead, slowly swung towards the BJP.
So confident was Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa that he was seen distributing sweets early in the day. As excitement mounted, he declared that the new MLAs -- 11 out of a dozen -- will be made ministers. He had a reason: seventeen Congress-JD(S) legislators had rebelled against the coalition government, which led to the Congress-JD-S government being toppled. Later, 14 Congress and three JD(S) rebels joined hands with the BJP which fielded 15 of them in the election.
The victory led Prime Minister Modi, who was on a campaign trail in Jharkhand, to say: "It is the triumph of democracy...The elections have ensured that Congress or JD-S can't betray their mandate. This is a message for all (political parties) across the country."
The BJP flag is now flying in the the south of the Vindhya, which the BJP considers as its gateway to other southern states.
Senior BJP leaders say the party has already started its work in the south for 2024 general election. "The BJP is keen on experimenting in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. In this backdrop, it's important for the party to have a government in at least one southern state," said a BJP leader.
The happiest man right now is Yeddyurappa, who would be travelling to Delhi this week to get endorsement from party chief Amit Shah for inducting 11 out of 12 MLAs into his ministry.
(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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