The byelections to the Mandya and Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha constituencies have virtually turned into a trial by fire (agni parikshe) for the ruling Congress and the Opposition Janata Dal (Secular).

Although the results are not going to significantly alter the arithmetic in the Lok Sabha, what is at stake are the prestige and image of several stalwarts from both the parties, including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Kanakapura legislator D.K. Shivakumar, the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his son H.D. Kumaraswamy.

Leadership issue

It is a coincidence that the byelections are being held on the 100th day since the Siddaramaiah Government assumed office, and Congress sources said that the results would have an impact on Mr. Siddaramaiah’s leadership.

“If the Congress wins, Mr. Siddaramaiah’s leadership will get further patronage from party leaders. But if the party loses, it will dent his image. There are chances that dissident sections within the party will become vociferous,” the sources said.

This apart, the byelections also mean a lot to Mr. Shivakumar who is waiting to be inducted into the Cabinet. The contest has turned out to be a battle between the families of Mr. Shivakumar and Mr. Deve Gowda.

Party insiders said that if Mr. Shivakumar’s brother D.K. Suresh (who is contesting from Bangalore Rural) wins, the image of the Kanakapura MLA is likely get a boost. The party high command, which had so far not permitted the induction of Mr. Shivakumar into the Cabinet in view of the various charges against him, may change its mind, the sources said.

This could be because the two Lok Sabha constituencies have in the recent years been the stronghold of the Janata Dal(S). “If the Congress manages to capture the Janata Dal(S) vote bank in these constituencies, it would more or less succeed in preparing a base for the 2014 general elections. Moreover, with at least five MPs from Karnataka being made Union Ministers holding plum portfolios, the expectations of the party high command are high,” the sources said.

Strategic experiment

The BJP, which has nothing to gain or lose, has entered into a pact with the Janata Dal(S).

This is probably in preparation for the 2014 general elections. “The party is working on a strategic experiment. The idea is to consolidate anti-Congress votes. Whatever the outcome, the process of non-Congress parties getting organised to fight the Congress in the 2014 elections has begun,” the sources said.

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