Updated: January 4, 2022 2:15:31 pm
The results of the Karnataka urban local bodies announced on Thursday have come as a blow for the BJP, with the Congress emerging ahead overall, but especially in small towns. All the three main parties had projected the elections as a semi-final for the 2023 Assembly elections, and if the trends hold, the horizon is bleak for the JD(S).
The elections were held on December 27 in 58 urban bodies across 20 districts for 1,184 wards. The Congress won 501 of the wards, the BJP 433 and the JD(S) 45, while 195 wards were won by Independents. Incidentally, the Aam Aadmi Party marked its debut in Karnataka with one seat while the AIMIM and Social Democratic Party of India won two and six, respectively.
With several claimants to his post, the loss will leave Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai even more vulnerable. This is the third election he has faced since taking over as CM from B S Yediyurappa. Of the three, the BJP lost the Sindagi Assembly bypoll in his home district, though Bommai led the party to 37 seats in the 75-member Legislative Council compared to the Congress’s 26. But Thursday’s result will wipe the Council memory as among the areas from where the BJP lost was its strongholds of Dharwad and Belagavi.
While the BJP emerged ahead in the five Muncipal Corporations, winning 66 of 166 wards, compared to the Congress’s 62 and the JD(S)’s 12, it was outdone in town municipal and town panchayats. Of the 441 seats in town municipals, the Congress bagged 202 and the BJP 176. In town panchayats, of 577 seats, the Congress got 237 and the BJP 191.
In Bommai’s Shiggaon Assembly constituency, the Congress won 14 of the 23 wards, double the BJP’s 7. The remaining two wards were won by Independents.
A source in the BJP admitted that while the Congress went all out, the party, splintering and squabbling since Yediyurappa’s departure, did not put in the effort required. It is also a blow to the BJP given that it comes in the wake of its government putting its weight behind measures such as anti-conversion Bill, amid instances of attacks on minorities.
In his reaction to the results, Bommai said that despite many of the local bodies having a large population of minorities, the BJP had defied expectations to do creditably. And that the BJP had done well in areas where the party had no presence in the past.
Former CM and Congress leader Siddaramaiah said the results showed the BJP could not win with money power alone, and people had rejected its “hopeless governance”.
Karnataka Congress president D K Shivakumar said, “The recent election results indicate a Congress wave in the state. Without doubt, the Congress will win the 2023 Assembly elections.” He said the results also confirm “the popularity of Congress ideology”.
The results are a personal boost for Shivakumar at a time when he is in a leadership tussle with Siddaramaiah. The big question mark is whether the Congress can build on this.
For the JD(S), it is hard to find a silver lining besides Bidadi town panchayat, which the party won in a prestige battle between H D Kumaraswamy and D K Shivakumar, and Ramanagara district. While its strongholds such as Hassan and Mandya did not see elections, the results indicate it hasn’t gained any ground in other areas.
The party was done in by the absence of organisation as well as the lack of interest shown by its leaders during the Assembly session. JD(S) chief H D Kumaraswamy was absent on most days.
Kumaraswamy asserted that it was wrong to write off the JD(S) yet. “Those who are calling the JD(S) a sinking ship, they once enjoyed power in the same ship (in a hint at the Congress). The same party leader is now indulged in Operation Hastha (hand) to draw JD(S) candidates to his side. People will show what the JD(S) can do in the 2023 Assembly elections,” he said.
And, while all eyes are on AAP in Punjab and Goa, where it fancies its chances, it quietly won one seat here in the newly formed district of Vijayanagar.