The results of the Urban Local Body (ULB) elections are out and the Karnataka Congress finally has reason to cheer. When the result of the polls for 105 ULBs were announced on Monday evening, Congress emerged as the single largest party, commanding power in 37 of them.
While the Congress won 37 ULBs, the BJP won 31 and the JD(S) secured 12, the Congress-JD(S) coalition won 12 ULBs, and 13 local bodies saw a hung mandate, according to the State Election Commission.
The 12 ULBs won by the Congress-JD(S) coalition is the result of a pact between the two parties to join hands for any seat where either of the two parties failed to get majority and the BJP is in the lead.
The 105 ULBs include three municipal corporations, 29 city municipal corporations, 53 town municipal corporations and 20 town panchayats. These 105 ULBs are made up of 2,670 wards/seats, with the winners of each ward forming the governing council for the respective ULB.
After the polls on 31 August, the Congress managed to win 982 seats, while the BJP secured 929, and the JD(S) won 375 seats. The others, including 329 independents, secured the rest of the seats in the three-way race with Congress and JD(S) fighting against each other, despite being coalition partners, in a strategy to keep the BJP at bay.
Wind of Change For Congress
Experts believe these elections to be an adequate indicator of the current political climate. In 2013, the ULB elections were held before the Assembly polls – the Congress won 1,906 seats, while the BJP and the JD(S) managed only 906 seats each. That year, the Congress swept the Assembly elections.
As the 2013 urban local body elections were held months before the Assembly elections, it was seen as a ‘semi-final’ as it reflected the voter sentiment. This year, the polls came after the Assembly elections and the Congress’ victory is seen as a change in the state’s political climate after Assembly polls, where the Congress suffered a crushing defeat.
Results A Victory for Coalition Partners
The ULB elections were also seen as a test of the coalition’s stability. Although speculation over cracks in the alliance were doing the rounds, both parties have emerged successful without losing their grassroot-level workers.
“The parties forming an alliance before the ULB election was seen as counterproductive, many local leaders would lose their chance to contest because of a division of tickets. That was avoided,” pointed out a Congress leader.
At the same time, the objective of the coalition i.e. to keep BJP out of power has been achieved as well. “In areas, where the either of the parties failed to get majority and the BJP was leading, a coalition was formed to keep BJP is out. This is the success story of the alliance’s coordination,” he added.
Alleged Acid Attack
Celebrations were marred in ward 16 of Tumakuru district where an acid-like substance was thrown on those taking part in Congress’ victory procession to mark Inayatullah Khan’s win. At least eight persons were reportedly injured in the rally, which was sabotaged by unidentified persons on Bar Line Road.
In a separate incident, a Congress worker, furious over his sister-in-law's loss in the election, allegedly stabbed the mother of the two JD(S) workers in Koppal district. Another incident of alleged stabbing emerged from Mysuru where Congress workers have been accused of attacking a member of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI).
Litmus Test for Congress-JD(S) Coalition
These elections were considered the first test of popularity of the Congress-JD(S) coalition government, which was formed post May Assembly polls when it yielded a hung verdict.
The BJP had emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly polls, but failed to shore up the numbers in its bid to form the government.
The ULB polls were also considered as indicative of the voters' mood before the next Lok Sabha elections.
Compared to its performance in the 2013 urban local bodies elections, BJP has fared far better.
In the polls then conducted for 4,976 seats, the Congress had bagged 1,960 seats and BJP and JD(S) 905 seats each. Election for the remaining more than 2,300 seats is likely be held early next year.
Polls to Kodagu urban local bodies has been withheld due to the recent floods in the district.
Reiterating the JD(S) and Congress' resolve, former Prime Minister and JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda said, "Wherever we can form a coalition government to keep the BJP out of power, we will certainly do that."
Buoyed by the election results, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy said it was a "befitting answer" to those who were saying that the coalition government was weak and would collapse soon.
"The election results have silenced all those who have been saying that Congress has weakened, that it was lagging behind and its popularity was diminishing," said an upbeat state Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao.
‘Not as Per Our Expectations’: BJP
State BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa admitted that the election results were not as per the expectations.
Results are not as per our expectation. The overall results satisfy us because we could withstand the money and muscle power used during the election.BS Yeddyurappa
Yeddyurappa said the results would not have any bearing on the popularity of the government because there were many local factors at work.
He reiterated the party's resolve to win 22 or 23 seats out of 28 in Lok Sabha polls.
The ULB results show that the Congress, BJP and JD(S) have broadly held on to their position secured in the Assembly polls.
(With PTI inputs)