Cong irked over BBMP ward reservation, may move court
The Congress on Friday barged into the main office of the urban development department and tried to replace existing name boards with that of the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in protest against the Basavaraj Bommai government’s ward-wise reservation for the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP, the city’s civic body).
The Congress, the principal opposition party in Karnataka, has accused the ruling BJP of misusing its powers in the BBMP delimitation process and ward-wise reservation to help it politically and not for the welfare of the city or social justice.
The BJP, however, categorically denied the charges.
Ramalinga Reddy, working president of Congress state unit, said: “The delimitation had to be done by revenue department officials, but they did not get involved and instead it was done by BJP MLAs, MPs, RSS workers and others in Keshava Krupa. There were 3,500 objections, but not even one was considered and was thrown in the bin.”
He said the BJP government has misused the Supreme Court orders and guidelines to implement reservation for backward classes.
Reddy accused the BJP of splitting wards in Congress held assembly constituencies, giving reservations that are not rooted to ground realities and with an intention of gaining a political advantage in the soon-to-be-held BBMP election.
The Congress leader said they will challenge the reservations in court, adding more uncertainty to the fate of the long-delayed civic polls.
Bengaluru development portfolio is held by Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai and the Congress has said it will lay siege to his official residence on Monday.
The statements come at a time when Bommai and the BJP government is facing a barrage of charges, including corruption, fanning communal tensions for political gain, neglecting civic infrastructure which has exposed the fault lines between claims of being a globally renowned city and the treacherous conditions citizens are faced to endure each day.
The elections for zilla and taluka panchayat have not been held, which is normally used as an indicator of sentiments in the grassroots.
Reddy said out of the 97 wards that come under the assembly constituencies of Congress and one Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) legislator, 76 have been reserved for women. And out of the 65 wards that are categorised as general, 45 were in the constituencies of BJP MLAs.
“We do not have any objection to women’s reservation. But why only against Congress candidates, women are made to contest,” Zameer Ahmed Khan, the Congress legislator from Chamarajpet, said.
Revenue minister R Ashoka said: “There are 243 wards. There is SC/ST, backward classes, general women reservations of 50%. No one can demand reservation as it’s not someone’s father’s property. A three to four term corporator demanding that he wants to contest from the same ward is not possible as there is no provision in the constitution. Even MLAs and MPs’ reservations keep changing. We should be ready for change and not demand things the way we want.”
“They (SC) asked us to give reservations and we had to give it (implement) in some place (wards). We have given 50% reservation for women. So, where is the deceit?” Ashok told reporters on Friday.
The BJP has been in power in the BBMP since 2010 and is now facing a growing list of allegations from various quarters over rising corruption, crumbling infrastructure, floods, traffic, waste mismanagement, encroachment of lakes, potholed roads and overall civic apathy that has forced the city’s over 12 million residents to endure treacherous conditions in India’s IT capital which aspires to be a global centre.
The elections for zilla and taluka panchayat also have not been held which is normally used as an indicator of sentiments in the grassroots.
The BBMP delimitation which expanded the number of wards from 198 to 243 has already come under sharp criticism from various quarters including the political opposition, including allegations that the BJP had bifurcated wards to split votes that were likely to benefit the opposition.
The BBMP elections were to be held in mid-2020 and the results were unlikely to have any major impact on the assembly elections in 2023. But closer to the assembly polls, the BJP has seemed reluctant to take any chances this time around as it has no one to blame for the crumbling infrastructure in Bengaluru but itself as it held power in the city corporation for two successive terms since 2010.
Bengaluru accounts for 28 out of the total 224 assembly constituencies in the state and any upset in the state capital is likely to dent the BJP’s reelection bid next year.
The Karnataka government in May had told the Supreme Court, which is hearing a case in the matter, that elections could be held within 10 weeks, in which not just new wards would be drawn, but reservations for other backward classes (OBC) will also be included.
According to the draft notification, nearly half of the total 243 seats will be reserved for OBCs, SCs and STs. The breakup is as follows - 81 seats have been reserved for OBCs, while 28 have been reserved for SCs and four for STs. The remaining 130 seats will be occupied by general category candidates. Women will be taking up half of the total seats.
“Protested in front of State Urban Development Department against the unlawful BBMP ward reservation. The @BJP4Karnataka is using delimitation & reservations as a political tool to deny equal representation to women in BJP MLA constituencies. This is a terrible blow to democracy,” Krishna Byre Gowda, former minister and Congress legislator from Byatrayanapura in Bengaluru said.