Friday, Oct 03, 2003
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By S.K. Ramoo
The impressive margin by which both the All-India Progressive Janata Dal (AIPJD) and Congress candidates triumphed came as a surprise. Very few expected Krishna Byre Gowda, son of late C. Byre Gowda, to win by a huge margin of over 11,000 votes. He has vastly improved upon the performance of his father in the last Assembly poll, and it is a credit-worthy performance for a political greenhorn.
From day one, the Congress leadership in the State and the party rank and file exuded tremendous confidence that the party would win the Vemgal seat. Now its leaders are masking their bitter disappointment by maintaining in public that their candidate's performance was impressive despite the defeat. The KPCC President, B. Janardhana Poojary, the Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, and a host of senior Ministers campaigned intensely, but they never expected the party nominee's defeat by a large margin at the hands of a political novice. The Congress hoped its candidate, Venkatamuniyappa, who was defeated twice in previous Assembly elections, would also benefit from a sympathy wave.
The large margin of victory of the widow of the former Minister, S.R. Kashappanavar, Gowramma, also came as a surprise. She bettered the performance of her late husband in the last Assembly election.
Significantly, the humiliating defeat of the JD(S) nominee in the Hungund constituency, who lost his deposit, seems to have dealt a blow to the image and prestige of the former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, and a host of other senior leaders of the party who campaigned with enthusiasm. Mr. Gowda campaigned for about 10 days. Mr. Gowda now has the onus of proving, in the next Assembly elections, that he has not lost the voters' confidence. It is said that some of the public utterances of Mr. Gowda in the recent past, a few of which were controversial, might have contributed to the defeat of the JD(S) nominee. The squabbling among the leaders of the Janata Parivar also seems to have perturbed the voters.
The impressive performance of the BJP candidate in Hungund, who came second, was totally unexpected. It appears to have surprised even the State BJP leadership. Local factors are said to have had a bearing on the party's performance. For both Mr. Poojary and the President of the BJP State unit, H.N. Ananth Kumar, the Assembly byelections were a test of their leadership.
Byelections in the State normally throw up surprises, and this time it was no different. Notwithstanding the outcome of the byelection in Vemgal, the Congress continues to be in a commanding position in the State not primarily because of its Government's performance. It is mainly because the Opposition parties have lost stature. The Janata Parivar is in disarray and has emerged as four distinct factions, whose leaders are constantly pointing accusing fingers at one another. The Vijay Mallya-led Janata Party has yet to prove its credibility with voters, and it will have to forge a poll alliance with the AIPJD on the eve of the next Assembly elections to be in the reckoning.
Numerous political factors favour the Congress in the next Assembly elections. Even in the event of the Janata factions coming together, which is unlikely, it is difficult for them to win back public confidence.
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