The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the civic polls in the capital of Congress-ruled Karnataka on Tuesday following an assembly election rout two years ago, as it bucked the trend of parties in power in the state taking the reins of the local body.
The BJP netted 100 of the 198 seats up for grabs, as Bengaluru that’s battling a barrage of civic problems re-elected an incumbent party to the city council for the first time in three decades.
This was the third straight win in municipal polls for the BJP following successes in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan this month, as a high-decibel Congress campaign to wrest control of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) while targeting its rival for five years of “misrule” came to naught.
“This mandate shows that the countdown has begun for (chief minister) Siddaramaiah and for the Congress,” said BJP leader and union minister Ananth Kumar, amid euphoric celebrations by party workers in the city.
Sources in the BJP’s election war room told HT that the strategy to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi the party’s face in these polls and channelling the voter discourse towards national issues worked remarkably well.
“Of course we talked about local civic issues but our focus was to make people see what the central government can do to make Bengaluru a global city,” said one of them. “This shows that the Modi wave is still alive.”
A clutch of civic issues in Bengaluru had created a buzz around the municipal elections with activists and citizens taking to the streets over traffic woes, patchy roads, unreliable garbage disposal and polluted lakes.
The Congress, which came a distant second with just 76 seats despite holding power in Karnataka, seemed a divided house as the results came in.
Chief minister Siddaramaiah’s rivals in the party wasted no time in calling this a referendum against his leadership. In fact, some leaders from the other faction even spread rumours around 1 pm that the CM had called for a press conference to announce his resignation, sources said.
Siddaramaiah did hold a media briefing, but far from quitting he rubbished claims that the results reflected public anger against his government.
Though he announced that he took “full responsibility as the chief minister” for the defeat, he added that the results were not a major setback.
“Was the Delhi election result a referendum against the (Narendra) Modi government," he shot back when asked to react to Ananth Kumar’s comment.
Infighting has plagued the Congress since Siddaramaiah was hoisted to the CM’s chair by the party high command and it was on full display in the run up to these civic polls. But sources say he is expected to retain his post.
“This is the only major state in the country that is ruled by the Congress. The high command is unlikely to meddle with the government here,” said a source close to senior leaders in Delhi. “If Siddaramaiah is replaced, he will surely split the party.”