Cong-JD(S) claws back in Karnataka, win majority of municipalities

The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition in Karnataka received a shot in the arm after it won in 30 urban local bodies out of the 56 for which results were announced on Friday.

The voting for the municipal polls was held on Wednesday.

The coalition had been reeling for over a week after it was decimated in the Lok Sabha polls by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which won 25 of the 28 seats in the state. Since then the coalition partners had been staring at a crisis with dissidents expected to continue making life difficult for the year-old state government.

The performance of the two parties in the municipal polls appeared to give the coalition some breathing space.

Of the 1,221 seats that went to polls across the 56 ULBs, the Congress won 509, the BJP 366 and the JD(S) 174. Independents won 160 seats and other parties managed 12 seats.

Congress unit chief in Karnataka Dinesh Gundu Rao said the results showed that the party was strong at the local level. “BJP’s claims that Congress would be swept away lost the people’s confidence. Over 50% of the seats have been won by the alliance. Congress alone has won 40% on its own. Wherever we have majority we will take charge, if not we will ally with the JD(S),” he said.

Also read: Lok Sabha election result 2019: Big setback for Congress-JD(S) combine BJP sweeps Karnataka

The performance of the coalition was particularly impressive in the seven City Municipal Councils (CMCs), where together it got a majority in five. In two other CMCs, the BJP was close to a majority in one and the other was inconclusive and would be decided based on which group independents would support.

In the 30 Town Municipal Councils, the coalition got a majority in 20, the BJP in five and five others were inconclusive, with two councils voting overwhelmingly for independents.

The BJP did manage to pip the coalition in the 19 Town Pachayats by winning a majority in eight TPs compared to seven for the coalition. In three others, once again, the ruling combination depended on support from independents.

However, the coalition partners fought the elections independently and the numbers mentioned above depend on the decision of their respective party leaderships to ally with each in case of split verdicts.

Such an alliance could be especially contentious in the districts of the southern Old Mysuru region. For example, in the KR Pete TMC in Mandya district the allies will have to depend on each other for support. Meanwhile, in the Malavalli Town Municipal Council the JD(S) can either go with the Congress or garner the support of the seven independent councilors.

The BJP was able to pip the coalition in only three districts – the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada, and the northern Gadag district.

In many places, like Tumakuru, in which the BJP MP GS Basavaraj defeated former Prime Minister and JD(S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda, the coalition had significant leads. Similarly in Mysuru, too, the coalition was much ahead of the BJP, despite the BJP winning the Lok Sabha seat.

State cooperation minister Bandeppa Kashempur of the JD(S) said that the coalition would most likely continue at the municipal level subject to the party seniors’ decision.

“This result goes to show that people vote differently in different elections and claims that the BJP will destabilise the government and call for mid-term polls will surely have taken a hit,” he said.

BJP state general secretary CT Ravi cautioned against reading too much into these results. “ULB elections are fought on the basis of candidates and not strictly on party lines, so the influence of candidates matter more. Hence, it will be unwise to draw definitive conclusions especially because these were held in few districts,” he said.

First Published:
May 31, 2019 21:51 IST

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