Mandya's strange tryst with bypolls continues

Mandya's strange tryst with bypolls continues
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The voters of Mandya Lok Sabha constituency in Karnataka must feel they are unique. They are being asked to elect a Lok Sabha member, who will not be there for even six months. They had done the same five years ago. That time the winner had lasted for eight months. However, this time a rule-minded decision of the Election Commission has also brought about elections to Shimoga and Bellary in Karnataka. In all the three constituencies the winner will be declared on December 11 and will last till the Lok Sabha elections due in May next year.

The hope for the winner this time in Mandya would be that the winning spree would continue. The winner in 2013 was Kannada film actress Ramya who defeated C S Puttaraju of the Janata Dal (Secular) by 60,000 votes. But nine months later, Puttaraju narrowly defeated Ramya by 6,000 votes. Now the by-election has been necessitated because the same Puttaraju has resigned from Lok Sabha, after being elected to the state assembly in May and has become a minister in the Kumaraswamy government.

In 2013, it was another JD(S) MLA Cheluvarayaswamy, who won to the assembly and resigned, causing the rise of Ramya. Though she lost in 2014, Ramya, who uses her other name Divya Spandana these days has become a national political figure as the head of the social media department of the Congress and is a close aide of party president Rahul Gandhi.

Ramya's bold tweets attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ministers have made her secondly only among Congress leaders in popularity after Rahul. She is also facing criminal cases in Uttar Pradesh and other states for her strongly worded social media messages against Modi.

Ramya has shown no interest in contesting the bypoll. Interestingly Cheluvarayaswamy, who defected to support the previous Congress government of Siddaramaiah, lost the 2013 elections as a Congress candidate, and is now pitching for Mandya ticket. But as per the Congress-JD(S) coalition terms the seat would go to JD(S) as it had last won the seat and also swept the assembly elections in Mandya district.

Ramya is not the only person to become famous after winning a by election in Mandya, which is now having the fourth by-election to the lower house of parliament in the last 50 years. In 1968, after the death of four-time election winner M K Shivananjappa of the Congress, a US-returned Socialist candidate won the by election. It was S M Krishna, who later went onto become a minister at the state and centre, the Karnataka chief minister and governor of Maharashtra. Interestingly, the second by-election was caused in 1972 when Krishna resigned from Lok Sabha to become the industries minister of Karnataka. Mandya was also represented thrice by Kannada actor Ambareesh, known as the rebel star for his acting and mannerism.

There are famous constituencies like Raebareli, Phulpur and Baramati which have seen three by-elections.

In Raebareli, made famous by Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, both mother-in-law and daughter-in-law resigned causing bypolls. Indira resigned in 1980, after winning Medak along with Raebareli. Her nephew Arun Nehru won the by-election. In 2006 when she was caught in the office-of-profit controversy, an emotional Sonia resigned from Lok Sabha, even though she was the UPA chairperson. She won the by election by a huge margin vindicating her stand. The death of Indira's husband Feroze Gandhi in 1960 caused the first by-election in Raebareli which was won by R P Singh. Indira claimed her husband's constituency in 1967, winning three times and losing once.

Another Nehru family bastion which has seen three by elections is Phulpur, whose voters caused a sensation earlier this year defeating the BJP in a seat earlier held by K P Maurya, the Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister. In 1964 after the death of its representative Jawaharlal Nehru, his sister Vijayalakshmi Pandit was elected from Phulpur. But in 1969 when Congress split, Pandit protested against her niece Indira Gandhi and resigned the seat, and the opposition candidate Jnaneshwar Mishra wrested the seat.

Baramati in Maharashtra, the stronghold of Sharad Pawar has seen three bypolls, the last one was to elect Pawar in 1991 as he had become defence minister in the Narasimha Rao government. A Lok Sabha constituency which saw two by-elections in the same Lok Sabha term was Jalna, also in Maharashtra. It saw the first bypoll in 1958 due to death of the sitting MP. But in 1960, the winner of the by-election Venkat Rao lost the election petition and there was a bypoll which saw R Narayana Rao winning.

The elections in the three Karnataka constituencies has become necessary as the election law says by-elections can be held six months before expiry of the term of the Lok Sabha. But interestingly the Commission has not ordered an election in Kashmir's Anantnag constituency won in 2014 by PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti and vacated by her in 2016 after becoming the state chief minister. The by-election has not been held since 2016 due to disturbed conditions in the Kashmir Valley.

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