The 17 April bypolls, including one in Belagavi for the Lok Sabha seat and one each in Maski and Basavakalayan, respectively, for Assembly, will prove crucial for four political heavyweights of the state.

These include chief minister B S Yeddiyurappa, BJP, and two Congress leaders in former chief minister Siddaramiah and the state unit head of the party D K Shivakumar. Even H D Kumaraswamy of the JD-S, another former chief minister, has put everything at stake in the Basvakalayan Assembly seat from where his candidate is contesting.

The elections will test the credibility and strength of these leaders in their respective parties. In case of Yeddyurappa though, it could be a question of survival itself as the chief minister.

The Congress and JD-S leaders, on their part, are seeking to re-establish their authority in these polls, particularly in Maski and Basavakalayan Assembly seats, considering that the two parties’ coalition collapsed in 2019 after over 15 MLAs switched sides to join the BJP.

The subsequent Assembly bypolls saw them fairing poorly, giving the much-needed edge to the BJP under Yeddyurappa government, which bagged 12 of the 15 seats.

The Belagavi election is equally crucial as the Congress seeks to wrest the Lok Sabha seat from the BJP which has been holding it since 2004.

Accordingly, the three polls have given leaders of the Congress and JD-S another chance to prove their mettle and clout. For the JD-S though, its interest is limited to Basavakalayan Assembly seat only though not without facing allegations that the party has gone soft on Yeddyurappa government.

The BJP, under Yeddyurappa, is not taking any chances with the bypolls. This is largely because recent developments allegedly involving its former water resources minister, Ramesh Jarkiholi, have put the party in a bit of a problem. Ramesh hit the headlines a month ago, following the release of a sex tape involving a woman who claimed she had come to seek the help of the then minister in getting a job. The minister had to resign from his post even as the matter is being investigated. That embarrassed the BJP government.

Another problem for the BJP, however, has come from the growing factionalism in the party. The latest is in the form of senior minister K Eshwarappa, rural development and panchayat raj minister, after he shot off a letter last week to the state governor, alleging that Yeddyurappa was interfering in his work.

Predictably, the “letter bomb” embarrassed the CM no end even though many of his ministers were quick to come to his rescue, arguing that Yeddy had his right as the head of the government. And “ that these matters could be discussed within the government.” While Eshwarrappa did try to dilute his stand subsequently, the damage had been done with the Opposition pouncing on the opportunity.

That the matter is significant for the minister is evident from the fact that he also wrote about “the serious lapses” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah. His grouse: The CM was violating rules.

The letter has had its impact going by the fact that another critic of Yeddyurappa, Basanagoud Yatnal, also a former Union minister, has raised the ante against the CM. First, he joined the crucial Panchamshali Lingayats’ rally last month against the Yeddyurappa government even as he kept up with his tirade against the chief minister. The sub sect of the Lingayats was seeking better reservation facilities under the caste category, putting the BJP government in a fix.

This morning, Yatnal has once again unleashed another salvo against Yeddyurappa saying “the CM will be replaced anytime after 2 May.” The reference being to the results of Assembly elections in West Bengal, Kerala,Tamil Nadu, Assam and Puducherry and the bypolls in Karnataka,that will be announced that day.

Yatnal claimed the CM’s time was up, especially because he is above 75, the age set by the party’s leadership to quit responsible positions for one so senior. The rebel MLA claimed the new CM could also be from north Karnataka. Importantly, he said the very ministers who had been supporting Yeddyurappa till now, would join the chorus to ensure his exit.

To that extent, the Belagavi Lok Sabha and Maski and Basvakalyan bye-elections, have, become extremely significant for the BJP leader in particular, especially as he seeks to reclaim his clout, now under threat.

Already, he seems to have ruffled several feathers,particularly of the aspirants, by nominating Mangala Angadi, wife of the late BJP MP from Belagavi , Suresh Angadi, for the Lok Sabha bypoll. Not surprisingly, it has put up Ramesh Jarkiholi’s brother, Satish Jarkiholi, as its candidate for the Belagavi constituency.

A beleaguered Yeddyurappa, on his part, would seek to reiterate that for the BJP, he alone can bring the muchneeded votes for the party. In the event the party does well in the bypolls, he would have proved his point while putting his critics in place . Any failure, however, could well confirm what his detractors have been echoing.