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Friday, September 17, 2021

Karnataka: High-stakes battle for council, JD(S) shelters 4 councillors

JD(S) councillors Aleemuddin Patil, Vishal Navarang, Sajid Kalyani and Vijayalakshmi R arrived in Bengaluru on September 8.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
Updated: September 10, 2021 6:53:50 am
Field marshals: Deve Gowda, Kumaraswamy, Kateel, Kharge

Four newly elected JD(S) councillors, who hold the key to the Kalaburagi city council amid a hung verdict and both the BJP and Congress vying for power, have now been sheltered in Bengaluru by party leaders over fears of being poached by the two parties.

JD(S) councillors Aleemuddin Patil, Vishal Navarang, Sajid Kalyani and Vijayalakshmi R arrived in Bengaluru on September 8. They have been seen at a farmhouse outside Bengaluru where former CM and JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy resides and at the city residence of JDS supremo H D Deve Gowda.

The JD(S), which won only four seats in the 55-seat council, compared to 27 of the Congress and 23 of the BJP, is driving a hard bargain to gain political ground while considering its weakened political and economic situation in the state after the fall of its coalition government with the Congress in 2019.

The BJP has indicated that it will try all strategies available to gain control of the Kalaburagi city council. BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel, who visited Kalaburagi and held meetings with party leaders, said the BJP “will use all strategies to come to power” in the Kalaburagi city council.

After the poll results were announced on Monday, Kumaraswamy met CM Basavaraj Bommai.

One seat in the 55-member council was won by an Independent. The magic number to take control of the council is 32. The council, which has a large number of minority community voters, has traditionally been a Congress stronghold and the BJP now has its first opportunity to take control.

The Congress – a section of which sees the JD(S) as an ideological ally – is hoping the JD(S) will be swayed by the common goal of keeping “communal politics” at bay. Former PM and JD(S) national president Deve Gowda said Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is from Kalaburagi, had spoken to him.

With three MLCs, two MLAs and a Lok Sabha MP on its side, the BJP has 29 votes in the council and is in a deadlock with the Congress, which has one MLA and one Rajya Sabha member. With the sole Independent winner being a BJP rebel, the BJP is widely expected to bag the Independent vote.

This leaves the four JD(S) councillors in the position of being kingmakers, with the BJP best placed to come to power by winning over at least two of the JD(S) councillors to reach 32 votes.

One of the key political conditions that the JD(S) has put out at present is that a JD(S) councillor must get the first shot at being the mayor of Kalaburagi and the party should get at least two chances to have a mayor during the five-year term of the council. The mayor’s position in Kalaburagi is currently reserved for a woman candidate and the JD(S) has a woman councillor in Vijayalakshmi R.

“We will decide everything after the dates for the election of the mayor and deputy mayor are announced. My priority is to go from the win in the civic polls to winning two Assembly seats in Gulbarga,” JD(S) leader and former CM H D Kumaraswamy has claimed.

JD(S) local leaders in Kalaburagi have said that the mayor’s position is key to deciding an alliance. “The key for an alliance is that it should be for five years and JD(S) should have a major role. It has to be a JD(S) mayor in the first term at the least,” a local JDS leader, Nasir Hussain Ustad, said. He said the Congress has not been able to bring development to the city and it has in the past given the mayor’s post to a party that won only one seat in the city council.

The JD(S) is also worried about the BJP splitting the support of its four councillors – two of whom are Hindus and two Muslims – in order to wrest control.

The BJP remains confident that the JD(S) will swing its way in the end on account of compulsions. “Though former CM D Kumaraswamy has not given any assurance on an alliance we are sure he will support us unconditionally,” a BJP minister said.

Earlier this week, Devegowda had stated that a decision would have to be taken by Kumaraswamy in consultation with JD(S) councillors.

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