Bengaluru: It’s a litmus test for BS Yediyurappa’s government and the disqualified MLAs as by-polls are being held in 15 assembly constituencies across Karnataka. The ruling BJP government hopes to win at least eight seats to remain in power. Voting began at 7 am and will conclude at 6 pm. As many as 37.78 lakh people are expected to cast their votes.

The by-polls are being held after 17 MLAs from both Congress and JD(S) tendered their resignations which led to the collapse of HD Kumaraswamy led coalition government in July. 

BJP needs to win at least eight seats to retain its majority in the 225-member assembly, which would still have two vacant ones in Maski and RR Nagar. The BJP currently has 105 MLAs (including an independent) while the Congress and the Janata Dal Secular have 66 and 34 respectively. There is also a Bahujan Samaj Party member, a nominated member and the Speaker.

The rebel MLAs who were disqualified and refrained from contesting polls, joined the BJP last month, after the Supreme Court allowed them to contest the by-polls on BJP ticket. Of the 15 constituencies going to polls, 12 were held by the Congress and three by the Janata Dal Secular.

The constituencies where bypolls are being held are Athani, Kagwad, Gokak, Yellapur, Hirekerur, Ranebennur, Vijayanagar, Chikkaballapur, KR Puram, Yeshwanthpur, Mahalakshmi Layout, Shivajinagar, Hoskote, KR Pet and Hunsur. The JD(S) and the Congress are contesting the polls separately, their alliance lying in tatters after its collapse on the floor of the house. While the BJP and the Congress have fielded candidates in all 15 seats, the JD(S) is contesting from only from 12.

Chief minister BS Yediyurappa has urged voters to come out in large numbers. "There can be meaning to democracy only if 80-85 per cent voters come out to vote.

As 15 of the constituencies going to the polls have a holiday on Thursday, I request people to come out and vote," he said on Wednesday.