It is unprecedented in Karnataka. A strong BJP candidate, who was expected to cause an upset beating Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha in the Ramanagara bypoll, defected to the Congress and 'retired’ from the contest.
The ‘Ramanagara coup’ — as Thursday’s shocker is being referred to within Congress circles — has catapulted Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar’s status within his party. Shivakumar and his brother Suresh managed to independently pull off a political coup that has left BJP red-faced and helpless.
BJP candidate Chandrashekar’s press conference in the presence of D K Suresh declaring his return to the Congress was, according to many close to the brothers, a precision attack by Shivakumar to silence his detractors within the party, protect his bastion and convey to the BJP that he won’t cow down.
“Shivakumar is hurt by BJP’s attack on him using Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate. When you push a person to the wall, it is but natural that he will rebel. The Ramanagara coup is DK’s message to his rivals within and outside the party that he is a fighter,” a source close to Shivakumar said.
Shivakumar, sources say, had been hatching the coup for a week and by 2 am on Thursday, about 48 hours before voting was to begin, Chandrashekar had been convinced to quit the BJP.
Shivakumar has been in the centre of controversy with an indirect conflict with Siddaramaiah, growing closeness to JD(S) — Kumaraswamy in particular — and interference in districts like Belagavi.
But Thursday’s coup has helped Shivakumar reassert his position.
Shivakumar has also decimated the BJP’s attempt to venture into a Vokkaliga vote base. Political analysts say he is on a safer ground legally now and wants to give it back to the BJP. This incident has led the BJP to learn that it is not easy to enter into the Vokkaliga stronghold. They have been able to woo Lingayats, large sections of OBCs and SC/STs but their attempts are not yielding any results in the Vokkaliga belt.”
After its candidate decided to retire from the contest, a shell-shocked BJP urged the Election Commission (EC) to postpone the bypoll so that it can field another candidate.
The EC has, however, decided to go ahead with the polling.
Legal experts are of the view that candidate retiring from the contest after the last date of withdrawal of nominations is like making a mockery of election processes and there is a need for stringent provisions in the law to prevent such instances in future.
“It is a very sad state of affairs. You should make a law to punish such persons so that they will not be eligible for contesting elections for one or two terms,” says former Supreme Court Judge Justice Santosh Hegde.
“We need such a law as you cannot make a mockery of election procedure,” said Justice Hegde.
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