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Friday, Oct 18, 2019

BJP set to benefit from Cong-JD(S) schism to takeover Bengaluru mayor post

The development is significant because the BJP had been stopped from occupying the mayoral position since 2015 by a coalition of the Congress and JD(S), even though the BJP had won a simple majority of councillor seats in the 2015 elections.

bengaluru Updated: Sep 17, 2019 10:19 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda with Congress leader Siddaramaiah
Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda with Congress leader Siddaramaiah(PTI File )
         

The Bharatiya Janata Party is set to benefit from the collapse of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance and elect the Bengaluru mayor for the first time in four years, when elections will be held for the post on September 27.

The development is significant because the BJP had been stopped from occupying the mayoral position since 2015 by a coalition of the Congress and JD(S), even though the BJP had won a simple majority of councillor seats in the 2015 elections. Councillors enjoy five-year terms whereas mayors are elected every year.

With votes from MLAs, MPs of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and MLCs, the Congress and JD(S) had managed to pip the BJP. However, that is set to change this time around amid a lack of interest in the coalition partners and the defections of coalition MLAs, who were disqualified in July.

In total, 262 people are allowed to vote in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) elections, that is 198 councilors of the civic body and other elected representatives like MLAs, MPs and MLCs. This time around, 257 will be eligible to cast votes, excluding five former MLAs who were disqualified for their role in bringing down the HD Kumaraswamy led coalition government.

Currently, the BJP has the support of 101 councilors, four Lok Sabha MPs, two Rajya Sabha MPs, 11 MLAs, and seven MLCs. Though the Congress and JD(S) coalition can also in theory muster as many votes as the BJP, i.e. 125, some councillors are close aides of the disqualified MLAs and are set to go against the coalition. Additionally, seven Independent councillors, too, are set to back the BJP as it is close to power.

With a budget of around Rs 10,000 crore, the Bengaluru civic body is the second largest after the Brihanmumbai Mumicipal Corporation. It is bigger than the Delhi civic bodies, because they have been split into three. Then there is the prestige of controlling the largest centre in the state, as Bengaluru accounts for over 1 crore of the state’s 6.5 crore population.

Deputy chief minister CN Ashwath Narayan highlighted the importance of the BBMP for the BJP. Speaking to HT, he said that winning the mayoral election was one part of a larger strategy of the BJP to stake a claim on Bengaluru.

“We have the numbers at present and we are keen on having our mayor elected after a gap of four years,” Ashwath Narayan said. “Through this we hope to once again stake a claim on Bengaluru,” he said.

The BBMP mayoral poll comes on the back of the BJP’s sweep of the three Bengaluru urban seats in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year. The Congress was only able to win the Bengaluru Rural seat, its only victory in the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state.

However, at the state level, the Congress has done much better than the BJP. In the 2018 assembly polls, it bucked predictions and won 15 of the 28 assembly seats in the city. This was a two-seat increase over its 2013 tally of 13 seats.

A senior Congress leader said though the party will formally field a candidate there was little chance of victory. “Of course, we have to field a candidate so we will do so, but it will be of little use,” the leader said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The disqualified rebels have the support of at least 20 Congress-JD(S) councillors, so there is no question of us mustering together the numbers,” the Congress leader admitted.

One reason for this lack of interest, a JD(S) leader said, was because both parties had been scarred by the 14 months they were in government. “At present, there is no inclination on both sides to revive the coalition considering how bitter the experience was,” the leader said.

First Published: Sep 17, 2019 10:19 IST

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