BJP won the Bengaluru municipal corporation, but Cong may get to run it
- The BJP won 100 seats in the BBMP polls, Cong won 75
- The debacle could have been bad for CM Siddaramaiah
Cong game plan
- Cong may still get to control the BBMP
- Six of eight independent corporators may back Cong
- Cong is also seeking support from JD (S), which has 14 corporators
Despite losing the election to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) by a convincing margin last week, the Congress is all set to capture power in the urban local body through the back door.
The BJP, having won in 100 of the city's 198 wards (against Congress's 76), was cock-a-hoop about returning to power in the BBMP.
That would have been a blow to the Siddaramaiah government -- for the first time in nearly three decades a ruling party had lost the civic polls in the Karnataka capital.
But the euphoric BJP leaders failed to realise that the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1964, provides voting right to even parliamentarians and members of the state legislature in council proceedings. And the number game can spell trouble for the party.
The BJP, four seats short of a simple majority, could have sealed the deal by roping in the eight independent candidates who won (two of them were BJP rebels anyway).
But complacency of the leaders is now likely to cost the BJP dearly.
The Congress gameplan
Soon after the BBMP election results were declared, Siddaramaiah conceded defeat and owned up moral responsibility for the debacle.
Knives were out within the party. Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G Parameshwara - a Siddaramaiah baiter - said the poll result showed that the Congress was losing its traditional backward-class and Muslim voters.
But the chief minister's key cabinet colleagues, R Ramalinga Reddy and KJ George, also under attack for failing to mobilise voters in the city, worked overtime behind the scenes, keeping faith in the adage - nothing was impossible in politics.
First, they devised a plan to lure the independents. Bairathi Basavaraj and Muniratna, two Congress MLAs close to the chief minister, rounded up six of the eight independent corporators.
They have been taken away to a private resort in Alleppy, Kerala, and are being kept in luxury for the past one week.
Meanwhile, Janata Dal (Secular) has been dispirited after winning a mere 14 seats. The party's state president and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy even berated the Bangalore voters for backing "corrupt" BJP and Congress candidates.
But, the moment Congress leaders approached Gowda for a tie-up to keep the "communal forces" at bay, the JD (S) sprung into action, sensing that it could share the spoils of power.
Zameer Ahmed Khan, Kumaraswamy's Man Friday, packed off the 14 corporators to another resort in Kerala for a "rejuvenation therapy". The party claimed the BJP was trying to poach its corporators to its side.
The JD (S) flip-flop
Caught completely off guard, BJP's former chief minister and Union minister Sadananda Gowda met Kumaraswamy's father HD Deve Gowda and offered to take the JD (S) on board in the BBMP council. But it was too little, too late.
The JD (S) is bitterly opposed to Siddaramaiah as he had walked out of the party in 2007. That was when Deve Gowda hoodwinked the Congress and joined hands with the BJP to make Kumaraswamy the chief minister, ignoring Siddaramaih's seniority.
Later, however, Gowda ditched the BJP and donned a secular avatar. But the electorate rejected his party.
Lending credence to the theory that the only ideology he believes is power, Gowda entered into an understanding with the BJP in the legislative council. He supported the BJP candidate for the chairman's post in return for deputy chairman being selected from the JD (S).
But at a time when the JD (S) is losing relevance, Gowda realises that his party's survival depends on hitching his bandwagon to the Congress in the next Assembly elections.
Many senior leaders in the Congress, including Parameshwara, have opposed letting in the "snake" again. They have warned the high command against joining hands with the JD (S).
They suspect that if the alliance is allowed now, Siddaramaiah could play the JD (S) card again, in case the party high command felt the need to replace the chief minister in the future.
The BBMP council secretariat, meanwhile, has released the list of the electoral college comprising 260 voters, including 62 non-corporators - MLAs, MLCs and MPs - who are registered as voters in Bangalore.
Among the non-corporators, the BJP and the Congress are evenly matched with 25 members each. Add the votes of the JD (S) and independents, and the balance can tilt in the Congress's favour by four to five votes.
Corporators vs others
The electoral college has led to controversy as some have questioned the inclusion of nominated members in it.
VS Ugrappa, a nominated Congress MLC (member of Legislative Council), voted in the Tumkur municipality only a few days ago. But he has changed his place of residence to Bangalore to be eligible to chose the Bangalore mayor.
Similarly, Raghu Achar, who was elected to the legislative council from Chitradurga's local body, has become a BBMP voter by giving his Bangalore address.
Industrialist Vijay Mallya, a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, is also an eligible voter. But nobody knows whether he will return from London to cast his vote.
Theatre person B Jayashree, nominated to the Rajya Sabha, is also a voter because her permanent address in Bangalore.
The BJP has approached the Karnataka High Court, demanding the scraping of the provision for voting rights to MLAs, MLCs and MPs.
Senior advocate Ashok Harnahalli, who argued on behalf of the party, said non-corporators should be barred from voting as they would distort the outcome of the mayoral election and take away the rights of directly elected members.
Advocate General Raviverma Kumar, however, contended that Article 243 of the Constitution made specific provision for MPs, MLAs and MLCs to have voting right in the local body as they too represented the people.
The BJP has approached HC that non-corporators should not be allowed to vote in BBMP polls
In practice, many states, including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Odisha, have restricted the civic body voting rights to corporators. Karnataka, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and a few other states have expanded the electoral college.
The high court has set 8 September as the date for the next hearing. The election of the mayor, the deputy mayor and the various standing committees is scheduled for 11 September.
If the BJP fails to get any relief from the court, its 100 corporators will have to sit in the Opposition, licking their wounds.