Karnataka's ruling Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress alliance on Tuesday won a crucial endorsement trouncing the Bharatiya Janata Party 4-1 in by-elections for three Lok Sabha and two assembly seats with the victory in Ballari ending the saffron rival's 14-year vice-like grip on this parliamentary constituency.
The victories with huge margins came as a Diwali gift and a shot in the arm for the nearly six-month-old alliance ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls after facing frequent questions about its longevity.
The alliance led by JD-S leader and Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy won Ballari and Mandya Lok Sabha seats as well as both the assembly seats -- Ramanagara and Jamkhandi.
Kumaraswamy's wife Anitha won from Ramanagara, near Bengaluru.
Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and his wife Anitha Kumaraswamy will script history when they enter the state assembly as lawmakers.
"This is a rare occasion when a chief minister will be entering Vidhana Soudha (seat of state legislature) with his wife. Never ever have a chief minister and his wife become MLAs together," JD-S MLA K Gopalaiah said.
He, however, said the duo had earlier been members of the House together.
"While Kumaraswamy was Ramanagara MLA, Anitha represented Madhugiri assembly segment," Gopalaiah said.
JD-S supremo H D Deve Gowda and his son Kumaraswamy decided to field Anitha when the bypoll dates were announced.
Meanwhile, there have been instances of Jarkiholi and Reddy brothers entering the assembly together and later becoming ministers.
There are also examples of father-son duo of
M Krishnappa and Priyakrishna, and father-daughter duo of M Ramalinga Reddy and Sowmya Reddy entering the House.
This is, however, a rare occasion in the Karnataka assembly when a chief minister will be entering the House with his wife.
It was a sort for consolation win for the BJP when it managed to hold on to the Shivamogga Lok Sabha seat.
BJP had held the Shivamogga and Ballari Lok Sabha seats and JD-S Mandya while Congress won Jamkhandi and JD-S Ramanagara in the May 12 assembly polls.
The BJP suffered an embarrassing reverse in the mine-rich district of Ballari, a seat it had been winning since 2004 on the back of the clout enjoyed by the controversial Reddy brothers.
Buoyed by the victories in the bypolls which were seen as a barometer of the public mood, Kumaraswamy and Congress state president Dinesh Gundu Rao asserted they would contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls together against the BJP.
"We will contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections together. As we did this time, we will sit together to chalk out strategies to fight the polls in a coordinated manner," Kumaraswamy told a news conference.
Gundu Rao on his part said, "It (the electorate) has rejected the BJP, its divisive politics and dictatorial tendencies. We will contest the 2019 election together.
"Look at the margins... It's clear that people are fed up with the BJP. This anti-people, anti-farmer, anti-women government at the Centre must go."
Elated over the performance of the ruling alliance candidates, jubilant Congress workers distributed sweets and broke coconuts at various places.
"Today, the news from Karnataka is extremely encouraging...This is indicative of the changed mood in the country," Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told a press conference in Delhi.
A '4-1 result in Karnataka looks like a Test series win under Virat Kohli. Coalition has delivered', senior Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted.
Both the coalition partners had put up joint candidates in the bypolls, which was also considered a test of their ties.
In Ballari, the Congress stormed the BJP citadel when V S Ugrappa won the seat by more than 2.43 lakh votes over BJP's J Shantha, the sister of B Sriramulu, a key aide of the Reddy brothers and a former MP from there.
Sriramulu is considered a close confidante of Janardhana Reddy, but the BJP had distanced itself from the mining baron in the May assembly polls with party president Amit Shah making the party position clear.
The BJP's loss was attributed to factors including non-involvement of the Reddy brothers -- Janardhana Reddy is barred from entering Ballari district in an illegal mining case -- and the party depending solely on Sriramulu with its leaders apparently not taking a wholehearted plunge into the campaign.
The Congress invested much prestige and men and material into the fight. The result also reflects the assembly poll outcome trend with the Congress then having won six of the eight assembly segments in Ballari.
Ballari had been a Congress pocketborough till 2004 and elected Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls against BJP's Sushma Swaraj.
Since 2004, the influence of the powerful and mighty Reddy brothers was evident in what was infamously called 'Republic" of Bellary.
In Shivamogga, the traditional stronghold of Opposition leader and former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, his son B Y Raghavendra defeated his JD-S rival Madhu Bangarappa by 52,148 votes in a closely fought contest.
Madhu is the son of former Congress chief minister, the late S Bangarappa.
JD-S candidate L R Shivarame Gowda scored a huge victory in Mandya, defeating BJP's Siddaramaiah, a political green horn and a former civil servant by 3,24,943 votes.
Mandya is a stronghold of the Vokkaliga community to which JD-S supremo and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda belongs.
Kumaraswamy's wife Anitha bagged the Ramanagara assembly seat by a big margin of 1,09,137 votes against her nearest rival BJP's L Chandrashekar, who had pulled out of the contest, but still officially remains the party candidate.
Chandrashekhar, who had joined the BJP ahead of the polls returned to Congress weeks later, leaving the saffron party red-faced and the field open for a walkover for Anitha Kumaraswamy.
In Jamkhandi assembly segment, Congress candidate Anand Nyamgouda defeated BJP's Srikant Kulkarni by a margin of 39,480 votes, riding a sympathy wave following his father and sitting MLA Siddu Nyamagouda's death in a road accident.
Significantly, with the election of Anitha, the Assembly will see the husband-wife duo as members in the same House.
With Tuesday's victory, the Congress-JD(S) alliance's tally will go up to 120 seats in the 224-member assembly, where the BJP has 104 MLAs.
Apparently unhappy with the outcome, Yeddyurappa alleged, "The truth of the matter is that money and liquor had a bigger role in this election. Congress and JD-S won the election by misusing money and power."