Bypolls are being held in 15 assembly constituencies across Karnataka today with the ruling BJP government hoping to win at least six to remain in power. Polling began at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm. As many as 37.78 lakh people are expected to cast their votes.
The by-elections are being held to fill the vacancies caused due to the disqualification of 17 rebel Congress and Janata Dal Secular MLAs, whose rebellion led to the collapse of the HD Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in July and paved the way for the BJP to take over in its stead.
The BJP needs to win at least six seats to retain its majority in the 225-member assembly, which would still have two vacant ones in Maski and RR Nagar. The BJP currently has 105 MLAs (including an independent) while the Congress and the Janata Dal Secular have 66 and 34 respectively. There is also a Bahujan Samaj Party member, a nominated member and the Speaker.
The rebel MLAs joined the BJP last month, after the Supreme Court allowed them to contest the bypolls, and 13 got party tickets. Of the 15 constituencies going to the polls, 12 were held by the Congress and three by the Janata Dal Secular.
The constituencies where bypolls are set to be held are Athani, Kagwad, Gokak, Yellapur, Hirekerur, Ranibennur, Vijayanagar, Chikballapur, KR Puram, Yeshwanthpur, Mahalakshmi Layout, Shivajinagar, Hoskote, KR Pet and Hunsur. The Janata Dal Secular and the Congress are contesting the polls separately, their alliance lying in tatters after its collapse on the floor of the house. While the BJP and the Congress have fielded candidates on all 15 seats, the Janata Dal Secular is contesting from 12.
Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has urged voters to come out in large numbers. "There can be meaning to democracy only if 80-85 per cent voters come out to vote. As 15 of the constituencies going to the polls have a holiday on Thursday, I request people to come out and vote," he said.