K’taka CM ‘Orders’ Delay in Mayor Polls, Presiding Officer Says No

Elections to Bengaluru’s mayor, deputy mayor and 4 standng committees of the BBMP will take place on 1 October

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India
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CM BS Yediyurappa. 
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Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had a moment of embarrassment on Monday, 30 September, when hours after he announced that the BBMP mayoral polls, scheduled for 1 October, will be delayed by a month, officials responsible continued with the election preparations.

“As you know, the HC has deferred polls to certain BBMP standing committees. I have ordered that the mayoral polls also be delayed by a month and a half,” Yediyurappa told reporters in Shivamoga.

However, presiding officer and Bengaluru regional commissioner Harsha Gupta said that the elections to the posts of mayor and deputy mayor will be held on 1 October, without any change in the schedule.

The official also added that he can’t take action on statements given to media. "I heard only from media outlets. We can’t take action based on that. Letter from UDD was the only official communication,” the official told The Quint.

Gupta said that he had acted in accordance with his statutory duty to conduct elections as soon as the terms of the two posts expired.

“Since the HC’s interim order deferred the postponement of only 8 standing committees, we decided to conduct the mayor polls on 1 October as scheduled, with the balance four standing committee polls,” he said.

The CM calling for a delay betrays signs of an inner power struggle and the inability to unanimously decide on a nominee for the post.

Can’t Take Action on Statements Given to Media: Regional Commissioner

Harsha Gupta said that he was not aware of any statement made by the CM regarding the polls and the only official communication received by his department was the letter by UDD, asking for ‘necessary steps to postpone the polls’.

“As per provisions of the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, mayoral polls must take place alongside the elections to standing committees. The HC order has only deferred polls to 8 committees while the balance 4 committees will have polls on Tuesday as scheduled because there is no stay order on them. Thus, I announced the elections as per the law and not in violation of any court order, “ he said.

Apart from the 198 corporators representing the wards into which the city has been divided, Bengaluru’s MPs, MLAs, and MLCs will also be voting in the polls taking the total tally to 257. Disqualification of four Congress MLAs and one JD(S) MLA from the legislative assembly will give an advantage to the BJP, which is hoping to wrest power from the Congress-JD(S) that has ruled over the council for the last four years.

When it comes to the BBMP council, historically, the party at power in the state finds itself in power in the council as well. This time, however, confusion ensued in camps of all three political parties over which candidates to field in Tuesday’s all important polls.

Despite BJP having 101 corporators in the council, the power in the BBMP council has been shared between the Congress and the JD(S) for the last four years now, when the city corporators were elected for their current 5-year-term.

Along with the top two posts, the members of the standing committees of health, markets, accounts, and taxation & finance will also be elected on Tuesday.

No Clarity on Candidates

Speaking to The Quint, BJP corporator from Kacharkanahalli Padmanabh Reddy who is presently serving as the leader of Opposition in the BBMP council, said that there was still no clarity on who would be fielded from the party, but were confident of gaining control purely through numbers.

Sources said that hectic meetings were conducted by the BJP on Monday, ahead of the polls – state BJP chief Nalin Kumar Kateel met with party workers at the BJP office in Malleshwaram while another sub-committee created by CM Yediyurappa and led by MLA S Raghu screened possible candidates questioning them on their performance as corporators. However, this sub-committee was reportedly scrapped before it could submit its report.

The simultaneous meetings betray signs of a growing disagreement within the BJP, indicative of more to come. The power struggle between the RSS faction of the BJP and the old guard of CM Yediyurappa’s ilk is an age-old one and is likely to continue with RSS strongman Kateel being named BJP chief. Controlling Bengaluru is key to the ruling party’s success.

A Congress corporator, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that it would be difficult for the coalition to retain power with dwindling numbers. “There are 7 Independents whose vote can go either way, who might pledge their support to the BJP which is in power in the state. With fewer MLAs on our side, getting the numbers will be a task. The BJP will strategise and do everything in its power to wrest power for close coordination between BBMP and the state government,” the corporator said.

The Numbers Game

At present, the Congress has the support of 76 corporators in the council plus the votes of 1 Lok Sabha MP, 6 Rajya Sabha MPs, 11 MLAs and 10 MLCs.

The JD(S) has the strength in terms of 14 councillors, 1 Rajya Sabha MP, 1 MLA and 5 MLCs. The BJP has 101 corporators in the council at present, and will also have the support of 4 Lok Sabha MLAs, 2 Rajya Sabha MPs, 11 MLAs and 7 MLCs.

The magic number to gain control in the BBMP council is 129 votes, which is the halfway mark of 257, the total strength of the BBMP council.

(With inputs from The Hindu)

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