Parties in tizzy with two polls in three months

By V.S. Karnic, IANS,

Bangalore : Political parties in Karnataka are in for a double whammy this summer — elections to urban local bodies in March and the state assembly before May.

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Elections to 208 urban local bodies, except the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike or Greater Bangalore City Corporation, are to be held March 7. The code of conduct prohibiting the government from announcing schemes that can sway voters came into effect from Friday (Feb 15).

Counting is on March 11.

Elections to the 225-member Karnataka assembly, which includes a nominated member, are due in May.

Political parties, mainly the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have to blame themselves for the piquant situation as polls to the local bodies were overdue.

Elections to seven city corporations, 44 city municipal councils, 93 town municipalities and 65 town panchayats were to be held by December last year.

The elections were not held because the government failed to provide an updated reservation list based on the 2011 census.

The total number of people to be elected to these bodies is 4,976.

Seats are reserved for women and several other sections of society in local bodies according to their headcount to give adequate representation to all sections at local governance.

Since a new reservation list was not drawn up, the state elections officials are going ahead with the elections on the basis of the reservation finalised for the last elections in 2007. This reservation was made on the basis of the 2001 census figures.

The state election commission got the Supreme Court’s green signal early this week to hold the elections without further delay and the schedule was announced Feb 14, sending the parties into a tizzy as they were getting ready for the bigger battle of assembly polls.

The effect of the announcement of the local body elections schedule was visible in the assembly Friday — the last day of its last session of the present term.

There were only a handful of members in the house as a majority stayed away or had gone back to their constituencies.

While the last local body elections were a battle among the Congress, the BJP and the Janata Dal-Secular (JDS), this time two more parties, headed by BJP rebels, would be in the field – the Karnataka Janata Party, led by former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, and the BSR Congress, led by former minister B. Sriramulu.

The immediate headache for the parties, particularly the Congress, is selection of candidates for the local body elections as last date for filing nominations is Feb 23.

The Congress had emerged as the biggest winner in the 2007 polls bagging over 1,600 seats followed by the JDS with around 1,500 and the BJP with about 1,100. Rest were taken by independents.

Candidate selection has always left all major parties with a large number of disgruntled elements and usually the brunt has been borne by the Congress.

By delaying the local body elections, parties find themselves in the field for a semi-final while they were blissfully preparing for the championship.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at [email protected])