Bengaluru’s mayoral elections are to be held on September 28 and the BJP, which has been in the opposition for the past three years, is now eyeing the Mayor’s post. The party is employing multiple strategies – on the one hand, they are trying to woo independents, whose support will be crucial, and on the other hand, they’re also trying to get some Congress voters disqualified, according to sources.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) council – which votes for the Mayor’s post – currently has 266 members. This includes 198 ward corporators from Bengaluru, and MLAs, MLCs and MPs who are registered to vote in Bengaluru. The Mayoral elections are held every year, and for the past three terms, the Congress-JD(S) coalition has been winning the post, and in all three terms, the Mayor has been from the Congress while the Deputy Mayor has been from JD(S).
The elections for ward corporators was last held in 2015, and the BJP had won 100 of the 198 seats and emerged as the single largest party. The Congress won 76 seats and the JD(S) won 14 seats.
The independent candidates are the swing voters who will determine which party will come to power. This is because neither the BJP, Congress or JD(S) have 130 elected representatives to win the elections.
However, BJP leaders say that they are confident of defeating the coalition this time. BJP leaders in the BBMP Council say that they have been holding talks with independents. “We are sure that at least six to seven independents will vote for the BJP candidate,” says BJP’s Padmanabha Reddy, leader of opposition in the BBMP Council.
The BJP is also banking on reducing the total strength of the council in order to secure a majority.
In 2017, eight MLCs – RB Thimmapur, Allum Veerabhadrappa, N Appaji Gowda, Raghu Achar, NS Boseraju, CR Manohar, S Ravi and MD Lakshminarayana – were accused of submitting false information ahead of the 2016 Mayoral polls – they claimed they were residents of Bengaluru, though they were residing in other cities. In July 2017, the Election Commission had initiated a probe based on a complaint filed by BJP’s Padmanabha Reddy seeking disqualification of the eight MLCs. BBMP Commissioner N Manjunath Prasad had submitted a report on this to the Election Commission just before the 2017 mayoral polls in August last year, and the eight of them were disqualified.
However, in the list of eligible voters for 2018 that TNM has accessed a copy of, while six of the eight MLCs are not included, two of them have found a place.
BJP is meanwhile targeting other Congress-JD(S) voters this time around. “If four members are taken out, then the strength will drop to 254. Already eight members have been deemed ineligible to vote bringing the number down to 258. If these leaders are dropped, then we will be able to win as the independents now want to go with us. We will be able to secure 128 votes,” Padmanabha Reddy said.
Party sources revealed the names of the four voters they’re targeting. “We now want Congress Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh to be taken out of the voter list. He is not a registered resident of Bengaluru. Also, Congress MLCs VS Ugrappa and Raghu Achar are not eligible to vote. CR Manohar from JD(S) is also not eligible,” BJP sources said.
Congress leaders meanwhile say that they are aware of the BJP’s move to lure independents. “We know what the BJP is trying to do. These independent candidates have stood by us and they will do so this time as well. If the BJP is so confident, why have they not announced who their candidate is yet?” a Congress leader questioned.
According to Congress leader Ramalinga Reddy, who controls the party’s BBMP elections, the coalition’s calculations, they will still be able to get 138 votes. “BJP has 122 votes. They will not get the support of independents. I am confident about it,” Ramalinga Reddy told TNM.