Karnataka Bypolls to be Fought on Personality, Not Performance

No floods, no anti-incumbency. The clout of each candidate will be the primary poll issue for the 5 December bypolls

3 min read

In the months between August and November, Karnataka was ravaged by floods, which caused large-scale devastation, serious loss of life and damaged property worth crores of rupees.

While the MLAs remained sequestered in a Mumbai hotel, their constituents back home were suffering.

It was a no-brainer for many, that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government's  ineffectiveness in dealing with the flood crisis in the state would cost these rebel MLAs, and by extension the BJP, very dearly in the crucial bypolls.

But a few weeks later, when the Supreme Court order actually paved the way for these rebels to contest the crucial by-elections, it soon became clear that all these issues were on their way out and ultimately the bypolls would be fought on the basis of the 'winnability' of these disqualified MLAs.

No floods, no anti-incumbency. The clout of each candidate will be the primary issue for the 5 December bypolls.

While public backlash over the flood crisis was expected against the MLAs who were missing in action, recent trends from the ground actually suggest that these bypolls will be fought on the basis of personality, not performance.


A classic example of this can be seen in Belagavi district’s Gokak. This north Karnataka district was one of the worst affected in the recent floods. The Congress party had planned an entire campaign about how their disqualified MLA was missing in action during this natural calamity.

However, once it became clear that Ramesh Jarkiholi, a popular leader from the area, was going to be contesting on a BJP ticket, the Congress dropped this plan and started convincing his younger brother, Lakhan to contest against him.

The Congress had realised that it was only someone from his Jarkiholi family that could counter Ramesh's popularity, and that an election campaign based just around the recent floods won’t do them any good.

With the bypolls less than a week away, the BJP is confident of winning six to seven seats.

In these seats, the disqualified MLAs fielded by the saffron party don’t have any good opponents, and they have enough clout to beat just about anyone.


Despite the fact that Athani in Belagavi district had been ravaged by this year's floods with scores of villages getting submerged, the MLA will no doubt be Mahesh Kumatahalli, the disqualified MLA from the same region.

The BJP is also putting all its weight behind Kumatahalli  with deputy CM Laxman Savadi being given the charge of ensuring a BJP victory from the seat.


Coming to Vijayanagar, BJP’s Anand Singh should again be undefeated. Nearly 15 years after he first won the seat in 2004. Winning on a BJP ticket in 2013, Singh later defected to Congress and won the seat for them in 2018. With no strong competitors either from the Congress or the JD(S) and a formidable winning streak, Singh is again expected to sail through to victory.

No Modi Wave

In another clear indication, PM Modi has chosen not to campaign for these elections. While the official stance of the party is that he doesn’t campaign for bypolls, sources in the BJP have said that this decision is rooted in the fact that the BJP understands that these bypolls will be on the basis of the personalities and public perception of these ‘poached’ MLAs – something that PM Modi does not want to associate with.

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