it snatched a Lok Sabha seat in Karnataka — taking its strength in the Lower House up to 207 — and an Assembly seat in Gujarat, both of which have been held by its principal national rival, the BJP, for the last 15 years.
The Congress won two morale-boosting victories in a string of bypolls, results for which came in on Wednesday: it snatched a Lok Sabha seat in Karnataka — taking its strength in the Lower House up to 207 — and an Assembly seat in Gujarat, both of which have been held by its principal national rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party, for the last 15 years. For the BJP, which is in power in both States, these two defeats don't augur well , especially as Assembly elections are due in Gujarat later this year and in Karnataka in 2013. But the Congress' celebrations in these two States, as well as the victory of the Kerala Congress (Jacob), its partner in the UDF government in Kerala, were offset by the ill-wind that blew in from Andhra Pradesh. Thanks to its shoddy handling of the Telangana issue, the party failed to win even one of the seven seats that went to the polls in a State in which it is in power.
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In Karnataka, the Congress won the Udupi Chikmagalur Lok Sabha seat by a comfortable margin of 45,724 votes, dislodging the BJP, which had controlled the seat since 1998; it also took the Mansa Assembly seat in Gujarat, which has been a BJP stronghold since 1995. For the BJP, its loss in Karnataka is a direct outcome of the dissidence in its State unit, admit party leaders, especially as the seat was held by Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda, who resigned from here after he took over the reins of the State last year. This is also the second defeat for the BJP in a byelection in Karnataka in recent months: last November, BJP rebel candidate B. Sreeramulu won the Bellary Assembly seat pushing the ruling party to third place. In Gujarat, the BJP's defeat is a setback for the Narendra Modi regime as Mansa is an Assembly segment in Gandhinagar, the seat of the State government. Indeed, for Mr. Modi, this is the second warning from Gandhinagar: in April 2011, the Congress won the maiden elections to the Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation.
In Andhra Pradesh, it was a total rout for the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party in all seven Assembly constituencies. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) demonstrated its clout in the embattled Telangana region, winning four seats — Adilabad, Station Ghanpur, Kollapur and Kamareddy — and helping an Independent (a Telugu Desam Party rebel) grab the fifth, Nagarkurnool, while the BJP won the fiercely contested Mahabubnagar seat. This takes the TRS' strength in the AP Assembly to 16. Meanwhile, adding to the Congress' woes, the YSR Congress, headed by the former Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy's son, Jaganmohan Reddy, won the Kovur seat in coastal Andhra Pradesh. The only comfort that the Congress could draw from these elections was that it came second in four of the six Telangana segments, whereas the TDP came in third in four seats.
In the other by-elections, results for which came in on Wednesday, the ruling AIADMK retained the Sankarankoil Assembly seat in Tamil Nadu; the Biju Janata Dal the Athgarh seat in Odisha; and in the Piravom Assembly seat in Kerala, a UDF constituent, the Kerala Congress (Jacob) defeated the LDF by 12,070 votes.