Siddaramaiah vs Sriramulu
Siddaramaiah vs Sriramulu in Badami.Siddaramaiah/Sriramulu

By-elections to three Lok Sabha constituencies in Karnataka were something nobody wanted, to begin with. With less than six months left in the term of the current Parliament, this was an election thrust on all, political parties and people alike. There was nothing aspirational for any party and none had hoped the elections would greatly advance their cause.

Now, most of the results are on the predicted lines. The Congress-JD (S) combine has registered a thumping win. The ruling coalition squarely defeated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in four out of five seats where elections were held. BJP has retained the Shimoga Lok Sabha seat.

The Congress win in Ballari is a straw in the wind. It's just another victory for the winning side, but for the losing side, it's portentous. Now, it wouldn't be an overstatement if anyone says the Ballari loss is the beginning of the end of the current leadership in the state unit of BJP.

Ballari has been a BJP bastion for 14 years. It's the bedrock of power for party strongman and electoral strategist B. Sriramulu. Ballari is also the stronghold of the Reddy brothers, the mining barons whose financial prowess had a mighty big role in the party's great run in the last decade or so.

The biting loss in Ballari is a heavy blow to the Reddy-Sriramulu-Yeddyurappa axis in state BJP. There isn't probably another chance for veteran leader Yeddyurappa to prove his might in the state. He has leaned so heavily on Sriramulu and the Reddys in the past and it now looks like there's no more leverage left.

Looming power shift

But this doesn't mean the results spell doom for state BJP. Probably this will pave the way for a power shift and a generation change in the leadership. Of course Yeddyurappa's rivals in the party have been waiting for another slip-up from the strongman.

Daggers were unsheathed when the party's candidate in Ramanagara assembly constituency defected to Congress barely two days before the elections. The defection of L Chandrashekhar to Congress, his father's party, was a rude shock to Yeddyurappa. Senior BJP leaders in the state, including TC Ravi, had openly questioned the logic behind fielding a defector as the party candidate in Ramanagara.

It was clear then that Yeddyurappa would be held responsible for the disgraceful turn of events. With the heavy loss in Ballari, there will be louder calls for Yeddyurappa's scalp. The fact that his son BY Raghavendra has won from the family fiefdom of Shimoga will be poor consolation for the veteran leader.

Ballari was last won by Congress when former AICC president Sonia Gandhi defeated Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in 1999 in an election watched nationally. The Congress lost the seat in 2004. The by-election in the constituency was necessitated after Sriramulu resigned as MP after his election to the state assembly earlier this year from Molakalmuru.

Sriramulu fielded his own sister J Shantha with an eye on retaining the important seat within the family. She had won the 2009 elections. However, Congress gave the reigns of Ballari election to strongman DK Shivakumar, a constant thorn on BJP's side. He brought in Ugrappa from Mysore, in a move that had raised eyebrows initially.

Though Ugrappa is from the Valmiki community to which Sriramulu also belongs, he was seen as an outsider. His victory will raise DKS' graph further in the party. By extension, former chief minister Siddaramaiah also gets the credits as he has won another bout with Sriramulu, after narrowly defeating the local stalwart in Badami in the last assembly constituency.

Among all those who are on the losing side in the unwelcome elections, it's BS Yeddyurappa who will lick the wounds longer.