Congress candidate Sowmya Reddy narrowly won the Jayanagar election in Bengaluru, Karnataka on June 13, the last seat to send its MLA to the new Karnataka legislative assembly. The election to the Jayanagar seat was postponed following the death of the BJP candidate and sitting MLA BN Vijaya Kumar on May 4. Reddy (54,045 votes) defeated Vijaya Kumar’s brother BN Prahlad (50,270 votes), who had been fielded by the BJP, by 3,775 votes.
Reddy led over Prahlad from the very first round. Prahlad threatened to close the gap in round five, reducing it to about 1,500 votes. However, in the sixth round Reddy again increased her lead to 3,500 votes and then to over 7,000 and 10,000 in the next two rounds. Prahlad reportedly left the counting centre after the 10th round, by which point Reddy had secure a lead of over 15,000 votes. However, in the last few rounds, BJP staged a fightback, greatly reducing Congress’ winning margin.
The Janata Dal (Secular), which rules Karnataka in alliance with the Congress, on June 5 had withdrawn its candidate from the Jayanagar seat in favour of the Congress. The alliance partners, who have announced they will fight the next Lok Sabha polls together in a pre-poll alliance, have emerged victorious in their first electoral test in Jayanagar, bagging a seat won twice in a row by BJP.
Arithmetic, incumbency, legacy and changing voter preference in Bengaluru favoured Sowmya Reddy
Late BN Vijaya Kumar had won the Jayanagar seat for the BJP in the past two assembly elections. Though Vijaya Kumar was a popular MLA, the arithmetic in Jayanagar was unfavourable for him. In the previous assembly election in 2013, Congress and JD(S) votes combined were just ahead of BN Vijaya Kumar in Jayanagar. Reddy’s victory however was not purely mathematics. Congress has steadily been replacing BJP as the biggest party in the urban seats of state capital Bengaluru. In the new Karnataka assembly, Congress now holds 15, BJP 11 and JD(S) 2 of Bengaluru’s 28 assembly seats.
Reddy also had the advantage of being the candidate of a newly-elected government, where incumbency is a positive. Her father Ramalinga Reddy, a heavyweight Congress leader and previously Home Minister of Karnataka in the last Siddaramaiah government, had previously won the Jayanagar assembly seat four times. BJP could win here only after Ramalinga Reddy shifted his seat to BTM Layout in Bengaluru. Sowmya Reddy won despite a nasty campaign by her opponents which saw morphed images of her circulating on social media.
Congress now has 80 MLAs, JD(S) 36, BJP 104 and others 4 in the 225-member Karnataka Vidhana Soudha. The JD(S)-Congress coalition government has 119 MLAs. The Jamkhandi seat is vacant after the death of newly-elected Congress MLA Siddu Nyama Gowda, in a road accident on May 28.
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