The victory of the Congress in two of the three seats for which by-elections were held recently is expected to improve the sagging image of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who has been battered by intra-party differences in recent months, apart from constant blows from the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (Secular).
Incidentally, the two seats will add to the strength of the Congress in the Legislative Assembly although it would matter little to a party which enjoys a good majority on the floor of the Lower House. From 123 members (including the Speaker), the strength of the Congress has increased to 125, while that of the BJP is 44 and the Janata Dal (S) 40 in the 225-member Legislative Assembly, which comprises nine Independents and seven members of smaller political parties.
The immediate outcome of the by-elections, wherein the Chief Minister stands strengthened, will be witnessed at an all-important coordination committee meeting (Congress and government) scheduled for Tuesday.
The meeting has been primarily called to finalise on the expansion of the Council of Ministers, more so owing to the demand of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president G. Parameshwara that he be inducted into the Cabinet and accorded the status of a Deputy Chief Minister.
It is another matter that it is the Congress high command which will have a final say on the Cabinet expansion and the partymen to be inducted, including that of approving the Deputy Chief Minister status for the KPCC president.
Known for his opposition to the demand, Mr. Siddaramaiah is expected to have his way.
The BJP victory at Shikaripur in Shimoga drives home the point that the region continues to be under the hold of the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa akin to the grip that late Chief Minister S. Bangarappa enjoyed over a major part of the district for nearly three decades. B.Y. Raghavendra , elder of the two sons of Mr. Yedyurrappa who was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2008, has won the seat vacated by his father although by a margin of only around 6,000 votes. While the JD(S) refrained from fielding candidates in the by-elections, the BJP has been successful in retaining the Shimoga seat.
For the Chikkodi-Sadalga Assembly seat in the sprawling Belgaum district, former Minister Prakash B. Hukkeri has proved it right to the Congress that it is he who calls the shots in the area.
The victory of his son, Ganesh Hukkeri, is a pointer given the fact that Mr. Prakash Hukkeri, who was initially reluctant to shift to the Lok Sabha subsequently yielded only after his son was assured of Assembly ticket.
At Bellary (ST) segment, Obalesh of the BJP , a protégé of B. Sriramulu failed to make the grade, while N.Y. Gopalakrishna, a former Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, has enabled the Congress to gain in strength. Credit should go to Minister for Energy D.K. Shivakumar, who was in overall charge of the Congress campaign in Bellary.
It should be noted that the BJP was virtually routed in Bellary in the 2013 Assembly elections and the trend continues.