Karnataka polls: With 28 seats at stake, BJP, Congress look to change narrative in Bengaluru
There was a time when of the 224 assembly seats in the state, Bengaluru city had only 12 seats and Bengalureans felt they were neglected despite contributing economically. This changed post 2007, after the city corporation expanded coinciding with the delimitation exercise. The number of seats jumped to 28 (including Anekal) in 2008, giving the city a legislative heft and significant place in various parties’ electoral arithmetic.
It is cosmopolitan by every measure and yet Bengaluru behaves no differently than the rest of Karnataka on polling day, allowing caste tocast its long shadow.
Results speak for themselves. That 12 of the 28 current legislators are Vokkaligas reflects strong dominance of the community which holds sway in other constituencies too. Other seats are represented by a Lingayat, three OBCs (including two Kurubas), while Brahmins, SCs and minorities have four seats each.
Despite the dominance of Vokkaligas, JD(S) hasn’t reaped benefits. Since 2008, Bengaluru has elected 40 BJP MLAs, 38 Congress legislators and only six from JD(S).
R Prakash, JD(S) Bengaluru Urban president, said: “We were strong in outlying segments, but we haven’t paidemphasis in the last 15 years and that has hurt us. However, equations are changing now. ”
Given past trends, the upcoming elections will again see a BJP-Congress fight. BJP was ahead in 2008 but Congress bagged more seats in the two elections thereafter, even as BJP has more sitting MLAs as on date thanks to post-poll manoeuvres in 2018.
Although its early days yet, a variety of issues, not least of which is anti-incumbency, have made this election a huge challenge for BJP. State Congress president DK Shivakumar told TOI: “As per pre-poll surveys, we will win 20 seats. Even if that’s not possible, we will improve our tally. ”So confident is the party that it has already announced candidates for seats barring a few, including Pulakeshinagar and Chickpet where challenges persist. BJP on the other hand is playing the waiting game. Its plan to shift some seniors from their seats — in line with its Gujarat model — has also been met with resistance.
Gopinath Reddy, BJP organisation in charge of Bengaluru, said: “BJP keeps experimenting, but we may not make many changes to incumbent MLAs. The leadership will take the final call. ”
Notwithstanding all else, parties agree that Bengaluru’s 15%-20% neutral voters,who don’t look at caste and money but at candidates and issues (local, state & national), will be key.
Benglauru’s perennial infrastructure problems — pothole deaths to floods and waste mismanagement to traffic along with corruption which affects the quality of life — will impact all MLAs, but BJP legislators will bear the brunt for being in the government.
Citizens also believe the delay in holding BBMP polls, due nearly three years ago, has resulted in the city being neglected. This has political ramifications too, as BBMP results would have been an early indicator of the city’s mood, which the opposition says BJP didn’t want to risk. Also, it may have even opened doors to parties like AAP and Karnataka Rashtra Samithi.
That the government does not have a dedicated Bengaluru development minister — earlier governments did — has caused internal conflicts within BJP, with housing minister V Somanna’s latest rebellion being worrisome.
Efforts by parties aside, a status quo won’t come as a surprise to many. A key reason for this is seen to be implicit understanding between parties. Gopinath said: “It’s not match-fixing. There are practical issues. It’s not easy in constituencies where other parties are strong. It’s the same for Congress where our MLAs are strong. ”
But insiders say BJP’s chief poll strategist Amit Shah has taken note of this and asked cadres to focus on winning seats like Chamarajpet, Gandhinagar, Sarvagnanagar etc and curb arrangements with the opposition.
“Those who don’t understand politics call it match-fixing. There are other issues like disadvantages caused by delimitation where key pro-Congress wards were lost in constituencies,” KPCC working president (Bengaluru incharge) Ramalinga Reddy, said, while Prakash insisted there’s match-fixing between Congress and BJP.
The post is published through a syndicated feed and attributed to Times Of India