With the resignation of rebel Congress and JD(S) legislators from the Karnataka Assembly, the Congress in the state is gearing up for bye-polls in these 17 constituencies. Earlier in August, ahead of the floods that hit Karnataka, the state Congress unit leaders had conducted a meeting and decided on strategies for the bye-elections.
Congress sources say that the partyâ€™s high command has told state leaders that losing in Belagavi is not an option. This, after former Gokak MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi led the rebellion in the Congress and resigned. He had openly stated that he would join the BJP. Ramesh Jarkiholi also convinced Athani MLA Mahesh Kumathalli and Kagwad MLA Srimanth Patil to rebel. After the Belagavi leaders openly rebelled against the Congress, several former MLAs from Bengaluru and the old Mysuru region also resigned and flew to Renaissance Hotel in Mumbai. The rebellion brought down the Congress-JD(S) coalition.
Insiders in the Congress say that the party is mulling over fielding Lakhan Jarkiholi from Gokak against his brother Ramesh. However, this proposal is facing opposition from a certain section of the Congress as the party does not want to give the ticket to a Jarkiholi brother. In 2008, one of the brothers Bhimshi Jarkiholi had contested against Ramesh in Gokak and lost. Hence, a section of Congress leaders wants a candidate who is not from the Jarkiholi family.
â€śThere are two options â€“ to field a strong party worker with local roots or to give the ticket to Lakhan. Ramesh Jarkiholi is very strong in Gokak. But the party leaders donâ€™t want to give tickets to businessmen and rich people. Look what happened with Ramesh Jarkiholi and others who quit, they tuned on the party. It's about time the Congress nurtures party workers. Ultimately, the high command has to decide what to do,â€ť the source said.
Sources say that the party is planning to field former MP Prakash Hukkeri from Kagwad against Srimanth Patil, and HP Manjunath against former JD(S) state President AH Vishwanath from Hunsur. Vishwanath had quit along with the rebels and had said that he was unhappy with Kumaraswamyâ€™s administration as CM.
The party is planning to field former Karnataka Speaker KB Koliwad from Ranebennur against R Shankar. Shankar, originally from Karnataka Pragnyavanta Janata Paksha, had merged his party with the Congress in 2018.
A senior Congress leader will be put in charge of each of these assembly constituencies, where the bye-polls are slated to take place, to oversee the election campaign. Party sources say that only Congress loyalists will be given tickets this time around and outsiders are not being considered as the party does not want any defections in the future.
â€śThe plan in Bengaluru is to give tickets to local party workers from KR Puram, Yeshwanthour, Shivajinagar, RR Nagar and Mahalakshmi Layout. We have many good candidates for this. Mostly, block Congress leaders and district level leaders who have worked in these segments extensively will get tickets,â€ť the source added.
17 rebels including Pratap Gouda Patil, BC Patil, Shivaram Hebbar, ST Someshekhar, Byrati Basavraj, Anand Singh, R Roshan Baig, Muniratna, K Sudhakar, MTB Nagaraj, Shrimant Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumatahalli and R Shankar from the Congress and JD(S) legislators AH Vishwanath, Gopalaiah and Narayana Gowda had tendered their resignations earlier in July. The motion for confidence moved by the then Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy resulted in the fall of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government. These 17 rebels were disqualified by the former Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar. The vacancies were notified by the Speakerâ€™s office in the end of July. This means that the bye-elections have to be held before January 2020.