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Karnataka state election offers foretaste of Congress party’s fate in 2019
As India’s general elections loom, individual states are emerging as crucial electoral battlefields. Today’s by-election in the the southern state of Karnataka, is as crucial as they get, as it provides a political weather vane ahead of the 2019 general election.

While no date has yet been set for the national election, it must take place before the current parliamentary term expires on May 19 next year.

Just months ago, in May this year, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, emerged as the single-largest party in the state in the state elections. But the ruling Congress Party, which did not have the numbers, displayed great alacrity in setting up an alliance with the regional party, the Janta Dal-Secular, or JD-S.

That edged the BJP out of power in Karnataka and returned the Congress – albeit, in an alliance with the JD-S. Naturally, the Congress agreed to play second fiddle to JD-S to keep the BJP dis-empowered.

A political weather vane ahead of 2019

However, Karnataka today holds by-elections for seats that were vacated. Three seats for the federal Parliament and two for the state assembly are up for grabs. The by-elections for the parliamentary seats have been necessitated by the death of one sitting member, and by several seats being vacated by the incumbent law makers.

The five candidates fielded by the three principal parties are all next of kin of political heavyweights in Karnataka. As such, they provide textbook cases in nepotism.

Current chief minister HD Kumaraswamy’s wife Anitha contests from Ramanagara, on a JD-S ticket. The state assembly’s designated opposition leader from the BJP, BS Yeddyurappa’s son BY Raghavendra, is the candidate from Shivamogga. Senior BJP leader B Sriramulu’s sister J Shanta has been fielded in Ballari. After Jamkhandi MLA Siddu Nyamagouda of the Congress died in a car accident, the ticket was passed on to his son Anand Nyamagouda while former Karnataka chief minister S Bangarappa’s son Madhu Bangarappa is the JD-S candidate against Yeddyurappa’s son.

All this means Saturday’s contest provide a political weather vane ahead of the crucial 2019 general election.