- Anitha Kumaraswamy contesting bypolls from Ramanagara
- L Chandrashekhar, who joined BJP, has returned to Congress
- With her rival gone, Ms Kumaraswamy's supporters feel she will win
With a Karnataka politician's super-fast return to his party Congress just a month after he joined the BJP, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy's wife has caught an unexpected break two days before by-elections. Anitha Kumaraswamy, contesting bypolls on Saturday as the Janata Dal Secular candidate from Ramanagara, now has no strong BJP rival after L Chandrashekhar's return to the Congress.
It's a twist worthy of Ramanagara, better known as the setting of 1970s blockbuster Sholay.
L Chandrashekhar announced today, flanked by Congress leaders, that there was no unity in the BJP and no real support for him in that party - so he decided to go back to his original party. "I have come back to my mother party, I am happy," he said.
Before his dizzying party-hop, Mr Chandrashekhar, the son of a Congress leader, had told NDTV on the campaign trail: "I may have just joined the BJP but I have been in touch with the people for 22 years... People here are hurt that they elected Kumaraswamy and then he resigned." The 48-year-old was referring to Mr Kumaraswamy quitting the Ramanagara assembly seat and retaining the other seat he had won, Channapatna, in the state election in March.
It is unlikely to have any impact on numbers but for both the BJP and Congress, the Ramanagara contest had become a prestige battle; some went as far as to call it a referendum of sorts on the Chief Minister.
Anitha Kumaraswamy has been a lawmaker before from Madhugiri. She lost in her next bid from Channapatna, which neighbours Ramanagara.
Like her husband, she produces films and television shows.
Speaking to NDTV while campaigning for the by-election, Ms Kumaswaswamy had dismissed criticism of her selection. "I am also a party worker. I have worked for the people in this district. So people opted for me (patch) Not only JDS. It is there in every party. Even Congress and BJP. So people have accepted," she said.
Her father-in-law, former Prime Minister, HD Deve Gowda, has told NDTV in Ballari that this was a test for her and that issues of nepotism were just "media-created issues".
Bypolls will be held on Saturday in three parliamentary and two assembly seats.
Ramanagara is situated in a Janata Dal Secular stronghold in south Karnataka. The party's coalition partner in the state government, the Congress, is supporting Ms Kumaraswamy in the by-polls. With her only other rival now on their side, her supporters feel this one is in the bag.