news Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 05:30
The elections to the urban local body that governs Bengaluru may have the acquired the capacity to influence the next Assembly elections in Karnataka, making the BBMP’s trifurcation an all-important battle for every party. While the Congress fears a complete rout if the elections are held now, the BJP and JD (S) see an opening for themselves to gain a foothold in the Assembly elections due in 2018. Around six months ago the Congress party did not want the timing of the BBMP elections to be affected by the trifurcation of the civic body, but come April, and the party sees no other option but to delay the polls and has called a special session of the legislature on Monday to pass a law to that effect. The Congress’ fortunes took a dramatic turn for the worse in March, thanks to the politics played by the BJP and JD (S) over IAS officer D K Ravi’s death which coincided with an ongoing steady campaign of misinformation and opposition to the socio-economic survey – also called the caste census – which is now underway. The Congress government’s image has taken a beating due to both, and the party sees the postponing of the elections as the only means to salvage its image in the eyes of the public. How things got to such a head The Karnataka government had issued an ordinance for an immediate trifurcation of the BBMP which the Governor Vajubhai Vala returned. The term of the BBMP will come to an end on April 23 and a single bench of the Karnataka High recently ordered that the elections be conducted by May 30. Following this, the state government filed a writ petition before the High Court a two bench judge urging to stay the elections. Incidentally, the court has now scheduled the hearing on Monday. Sensing an opportunity, both the BJP and JD (S) have opposed the trifurcation and submitted separate memoranda to the Governor urging him not sign it. However, neither party has the real interests of the BBMP at heart, and are opposing the move to put the Congress on the mat. At the heart of all the politics is the influence of caste. Karnataka’s largest voting blocks are Lingayats and Vokkaligas and at present, the Congress’ image in the eyes of both groups isn’t very great. DK Ravi case The BJP and JD (S) kept up a relentless campaign projecting D K Ravi, a Vokkaliga, as a martyr and demanding a CBI inquiry into his death. Media coverage too affected this perception. The JD (S) whose major votebank is the community, had cashed in on this and the party’s demand for a CBI probe rallied the Vokkaliga community against the Congress. Similarly the BJP too ensured that its Vokkaliga faces led the call for the CBI inquiry. Caste survey Some of the most powerful Lingayat Mutts in the state, have come out against the caste survey and Lingayat associations too have lent their support. They say that the socio-economic survey will further divide caste, creating a dent in the Congress’ image among the community. BBMP restructuring Last November, KPCC president G Parameshwara had said that the party was not in favour of delaying the BBMP polls even though it was for splitting the civic body into three smaller units. However, its image badly dented, the party now wants to postpone the elections at any cost. The BJP, which has claimed still opposition to the trifurcation, had actually called for almost the exact same restructuring. In its memorandum to the Governor, the BJP cited the failed model of the Delhi Municipal Corporation as one of the grounds for not going ahead with the trifurcation, but the then urban development minister Suresh Kumar had called for a three-way split of the BBMP in 2012. So what about the BBMP? If there is one thing that all the political parties, civic groups and Bengaluru residents agree on, it is that the BBMP is highly inefficient, corrupt and too large to manage. To understand the problems and possible solutions, see this report. But if the Assembly passes the bill to trifurcate the BBMP, and there is no stay on the polls, the Congress government will get a breather. Otherwise, it’s open season for all.