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Coalition clean sweep in Karnataka?

BENGALURU: The Congress-JD (S) coalition’s dry run ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha elections could prove a runaway success with exit polls pointing to a 4-1 verdict in its favor in bypolls held for three Lok Sabha and two Assembly constituencies on Saturday.

The exit polls indicate that the Congress could wrest Ballari from the BJP after a gap of 14 years with V S Ugrappa, MLC, inching ahead of BJP’s J. Shantha in the constituency which recorded 63.85 per cent voting. Former minister B Sreeramulu, who vacated the seat to contest Assembly elections in May this year, led the campaign to drum up support for his sister but two factors could dampen the prospects of Ms Shantha: internal bickering in the state unit between camps led by Mr Sreeramulu and state unit president B S Yeddyurappa, resulting in a spilt in the party’s support base of Lingayats and Nayaks. Second, leaders of Congress and Dal not only portrayed a picture of unity but also channeled adequate resources for Mr Ugrappa, who managed to appeal to voters of his community, despite being an outsider.  In contrast, the once cash rich former MP from Bellari is relying completely on his positioning and draw as a Nayaka leader.

Mandya, the other key Lok Sabha seat, recorded a modest voter turnout of 53.93 per cent but this is unlikely to be a cause for concern for Dal (S) in the Vokkaliga heartland with its strong footprint in all Assembly segments in the parliamentary constituency and Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s additional efforts to ensure a smooth sail for his party’s nominee L. R Shivaramegowda over the BJP’s Dr Siddaramaiah.

In Ramanagara, the contest was over even before the first vote was cast following the BJP candidate L Chandrashekar’s decision to quit the party and return to his parent party, the Congress, thus facilitating a walkover for Mrs Anitha Kumaraswamy.

BJP leaders, however, are confident of retaining Shivamogga Lok Sabha constituency notwithstanding a moderate 61. 05 per cent turnout of voters as Mr Yeddyurappa’s son Mr Raghavendra is expected to ride on his father’s popularity to pip late the much loved former chief minister S Bangarappa’s son Madhu Bangarappa of Dal (S), who is also hoping to win on his father’s credentials.

In Jamkhandi, a record turnout of voters indicate that the sympathy factor would favour Congress candidate, Anand Nyamgouda, with Lingayats, Kurubas and minorities supporting him despite efforts by BJP leaders to wean away voters from the numerically significant community.