Home India Politics BJP shocked, Congress retains Ullal seat in Karnataka

BJP shocked, Congress retains Ullal seat in Karnataka


Bangalore : The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which takes over chief ministership of Karnataka in October, suffered a rude shock Tuesday when the Congress mauled it in the battle for the Ullal assembly seat.

The Congress retained the coastal Karnataka seat by defeating the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by 8,032 votes in the by-election held Saturday.

According to the Election Commission, Congress' U.T. Khader polled 46,271 votes while his nearest rival, BJP's Chandrashekar Uchil, secured 38,239 votes.

Ruling Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) nominee Aboobacker Natekal and Communist Party of India-Marxist's (CPI-M) Balakrishna Shetty forfeited their deposits by securing 6,217 and 4,803 votes respectively in an electorate of 155,200.

The JD-S, which had entered the minority-dominated Ullal contest belatedly to make a dent into the Congress stronghold, failed to help its coalition partner BJP in wresting the seat.

The lone independent candidate in the fray, Bharathraj Shetty, polled 1,796 votes.

The by-election was necessitated by the death of Khader's father and Congress legislator U.T. Farheed in February.

Although Uchil was ahead of Khader in the first five rounds of counting, the latter surged ahead from the sixth round onwards to maintain the lead and emerge victorious by the end of the 14th round.

This is the second time that Uchil lost to the Congress in Ullal. In the 2004 election, he lost to Fareed by about 7,000 votes.

The outcome stunned the BJP, which was desperate to win the election ahead of taking charge of Karnataka from its ally, Janata Dal-Secular.

BJP state unit president D.V. Sadananda Gowda and Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa had vested too much importance on winning the minority-dominated, communally sensitive seat.

Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy led the Janata Dal-Secular's campaign for its candidate Aboobacker Natekal, in a desperate bid to undercut the Congress and thus help the BJP, but failed to make a dent.

There have already been murmurs that a section in the BJP is behind a campaign by a section of JD-S ministers and legislators to retain Kumaraswamy as chief minister even after October this year.

That is the month when Kumaraswamy is to hand over the chief minister's post to BJP under an agreement the two parties reached while forming the coalition.

JD-S Labour minister Iqbal Ansari has been going round claiming that around 30 of the 80-odd BJP legislators in the 224-strong assembly favour Kumaraswamy continuing as chief minister.

Another JD-S minister, D.T. Jayakumar, who holds the housing portfolio, has been openly saying for the last few days that the BJP is a communal party and power should not be handed over to it.

The Ullal result is only expected to strengthen the hands of such hardliners in the uneasy coalition.