As BBMP poll results have been declared, the Congress has started indulging in horse-trading to bypass the people’s verdict.
What is being witnessed in Bengaluru with regard to the election of its next mayor and deputy mayor is a “Theatre of the Absurd” indeed. The two defeated parties in the elections to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) held on August 22, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) have almost formed a perfidious alliance to subvert the verdict of the electorate. The elections of the mayor and the deputy mayor have been fixed for September 11 and the two parties are going all out in the name of secularism as understood by them and development to thwart the BJP from taking over the civic body. In the BBMP elections, the BJP was the clear winner securing 100 seats in the 198 member Council followed by the Congress 74, the JD(S) with a laughable and paltry 14. The other 10 are independents. The people at large are bewildered as to how the two defeated parties are attempting to capture the all important civic body in Karnataka. The Electoral College for the election of the mayor and the deputy mayor has a total of 260 members, though only 198 are councillors. The mischief on which the two parties are relying on, lies in the Karnataka Municipalities Act of 1976 which allows members of Parliament – 14 of them (nine from the Lok Sabha and five from the Rajya Sabha) 28 MLAs and 20 members of the Legislative Council to vote in the BBMP .
It appears that more than the Congress, it is the JD (S) which is keen on taking control of the BBMP. Even here, it is the former prime minister by “accident” and JD (S) supremo, H D Deve Gowda than his “former chief minister son” H D Kumaraswamy, who is working overtime to come to power in Bengaluru through the backdoor. In the Congress, it is the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who is more eager than the other leaders in the Party to forge an alliance with the JD (S) or the Deve Gowda family. In the process, he has buried his animosity towards the Gowdas who prevented him from becoming the chief minister. Even while in the JD (S) Siddaramaiah wants to emerge as a leader of the OBCs, Dalits and minorities. Now that is history and Siddaramaiah is ready to sup with the devil. The other factor is that Siddaramaiah wants to impress on the Congress leadership in New Delhi that he is the one chief minister who is unbending in his opposition to the BJP. Both the Siddaramaiah group in the Congress and the JD (S) leaders are behind the shameful operation to confine the 14 councillors of the latter, the independents and also some MLAs to a resort in Kerala. They have been claiming that they had to take the councillors out of Bengaluru to prevent poaching by the BJP. Four MLAs from the two parties have been assigned the task of keeping a watch on the councillors who are in illegal custody.
Section 242-ZF of the Constitution has stipulated the amendment or repeal of any law relating to municipalities which were in force before the amendment and were not in consonance with it. Sections of the State’s Municipalities Act are in fact repugnant to the 74th amendment. The provision giving the right to MPs and MLAs to elect the mayor or deputy mayor along with the elected councillors should be dumped like the now notorious uncleared garbage of Bangalore at the earliest. It is against the spirit of decentralisation and also local self government. Moreover a civic body is a different tier of administration. The Constitution does not allow MPs to attend the sessions of the State legislatures.
Considering the horse trading already in full swing to get JD (S) support for the Congress and win over the loyalty of the independent councillors, one can be sure that the new BBMP Council will be more corrupt and inefficient than what it was during 2010-15. Both the Congress and the JD (S) are behind the dirty shenanigans. It does not require much business acumen to say that the two parties have to recover the money spent on winning over the councillors, keep them in good humour for five years and also earn much more than that in multiples.
The BJP is no doubt watching the situation and not sitting helplessly. Its former deputy chief minister R Ashok has been saying that they would capture the BBMP Council whatever might be the machinations of the Congress and the JD (S). All eyes are on September 11. The returning officer for the election, the BBMP Commissioner Kumar Naik took his own time to announce the Electoral College. The election results were announced on August 25. It is being said that the State Election Commission cannot remain an idle spectator and should assert its powers.
A Jayaram (The writer is a Bengaluru based senior journalist)