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Karnataka by-election: Lingayat backlash cost BJP Ballari?

Ballari: It is after 14 long years that the Congress has won the prestigious Ballari Lok Sabha seat,  defeating the BJP’s J Shantha, sister of its last MP, B Sriramulu. In a big upset for the BJP, Congress candidate, V S Ugrappa defeated Ms Shantha on Tuesday by a massive margin of 2,41,656 votes in the crucial byelection seen as a litmus test for the state’s ruling Congress-JD(S) alliance.

The BJP had won from Ballari in the last three Lok Sabha elections since 2004, wresting the constituency from the Congress, which had won it 13 times earlier, since 1952.

The by-election was held after BJP MP, Sriramulu resigned from it after winning the May assembly poll from Molkalmuru in Chitradurga district. The Valmiki community strongman was involved in a proxy battle with district in-charge minister, D K Shivakumar of the Congress, who was put in charge of winning the constituency.

The BJP had banked on its local leaders to help it retain the seat while portraying  Mr Ugrappa as an outsider in the district. But the Congress-JD(S) alliance pulled out all stops and one-time rivals, former Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah and his mentor,  JD(S) supremo, HD Deve Gowda, united to defeat it.

Having won six of the eight assembly seats in the Lok Sabha constituency in the May poll, the Congress also relied on its MLAs to help it muster the votes it needed. The party went on to win the constituency, which saw a turnout of 63.85 per cent as against 70.29 per cent in the 2014 parliamentary poll.

The BJP's defeat is blamed on the  Muslims, Kurubas, and most of the Lingyats, Madigas and other backward castes voting for the Congress.

"The Lingayats seemed to have turned their backs on the BJP despite their community strongman, B S Yeddyurappa leading it to put Mr  Sriramulu in his place for hoping to become Chief Minister in his place, " said a BJP leader, adding, "Also, unlike the Congress, we failed to do  last minute election management at the booth level."

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