Chief minister B S Yedyurappa and the Opposition parties are heaving a sign of relief now as campaigning for the three bypolls in Karnataka has come to an end .

The bye-elections which are being held this Saturday for two Assembly seats in Maski and Basvakalayan and one for the Belagavi Lok Sabha constituency, assume importance for the BJP leader, in particular.

In fact, even though the party is striving hard to win all the three seats, it is the campaign for Belagavi which seems to stand out more, as it has retained the constituency since 2004.

The political campaign saw the ruling BJP and Congress battling out in all three constituencies, while JD(S) limited itself to Basavakalyan, as the regional party has not fielded any candidate in Maski and Belgaum.

The importance of the seat apart, the Belagavi bypoll assumes importance as the Congress has pitted its heavyweight, Satish Jarkiholi, against BJP’s Mangala Angadi, widow of Union minister of state for railways, Suresh Angadi.

Satish is the brother of Ramesh Jarkiholi, former water resources minister in Yedyurappa’s government, who was forced to resign this February following the release of a sex tape, allegedly involving him.

More importantly, the BJP even got Balachandra Jarkiholi, another brother of Satish, to campaign for the party. Both the brothers, however, are quick to admit they are working for their respective parties and have their own vote bank.

Till the time of writing though, Ramesh Jarkiholi was not seen in the campaign ; perhaps he is keeping a low profile for now. Interestingly, the Jarkiholis have sought to keep out the sex tape issue from this bypoll so far.

The BJP, meanwhile, has tried to work on the sympathy factor in Belagavi while capitalising on the goodwill that Suresh Angadi had generated in the belt, thanks to his work here. Not surprising, therefore, to see Yeddy repeatedly asserting that the BJP would win by over four lakh votes, giving the much-needed boost to its candidate.

That the seat remains extremely important for Yeddy is also evident from the road shows that he held in the constituency in the last twothree days, despite the demand on his time in tackling the virus surge in the state.

For him the Belagavi bypoll also comes as a challenge: first to brush off his critics in the party, including bete noire B Yatnal, and state minister K Eshwarappa.

Equally relevant for the CM is the need to put one over his critics in the party’s central leadership, with many gunning for him. More so, as at 78, he is beyond the 75 year age cap the party has imposed for its chief ministers.

Accordingly,while the Assembly seats of Maski and Basvakalayan have their own relevance, it is crucial for Yedyurappa to retain the Belagavi seat, if only to keep the critics off his back.

The BJP that sought votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and work done by governments both at the Centre and the state is looking forward to keeping the winning momentum on, as it has won most of the bypolls after coming to power in the state.

JD(S) leader and former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy who has been camping in Basavakalyana for party candidate, cancelled the roadshow and mega rally today citing increasing Covid cases as the reason.

Bypolls to Belgaum Lok Sabha and Basavakalyan Assembly seats are necessitated following the death of Union minister Suresh Angadi and MLA B Narayan Rao, respectively due to Covid-19 in September last year.

Maski seat fell vacant after the disqualification of MLA Prathapagouda Patil, who had won in 2018 from Congress and is now with the BJP.

For the smooth conduct of polls that will be held by following Covid guidelines, a total of 6 CoYs of CRPF have been deployed for security, 4 CoYs for Belgaum and one each for Basavakalyan and Maski segments, poll officials said.

~With inputs from PTI~