BBMP polls: Siddaramaiah’s Bhagyas his trump card

Winning Bengaluru is all that CM Siddaramaiah needs to cement his position

Bengaluru: With just three days left of the poll blitzkrieg, the city’s streets are witnessing a no-holds barred battle. Political parties have come out with all guns blazing, blaming each other for traffic chaos, the muck on the streets and scam-scarred civic governance.

Winning Bengaluru is all that CM Siddaramaiah needs to cement his position as the numero uno among Congress CMs in the country; a loss is sure to make his position more jittery. That’s the reason, why the BJP and JD(S are going for Siddu’s jugular. DC takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the political parties in the fray.

Will CM’s pro-poor image help Congress?

The days of collective leadership have disappeared and it’s a one-man show all the way in the Congress this time as it battles to win back the prestigious BBMP from the BJP. Whether this will prove to be its biggest strength or weakness is something only the poll results can prove.

Leading the Congress pack this time is Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who is monitoring every move which helps him in taking decisions pertaining to poll strategy quickly. This could also prove to be a self-defeating move as party lieutenants may err if they are not apprised about ground level tactics to be adopted vis-a-vis opposition parties.

As for a leader with an urban-centric image whom Bengalureans can identify themselves with, Mr Siddaramaiah is not one but neither BJP nor JD(S) have urban icons and so it is a battle of equals. Speaking to DC, a senior leader in the CM's camp declared that with Mr Siddaramaiah himself leading from the front, there is no resource crunch at all. “The entire party machinery is with him. So we have the primary resource-party workers- to ensure an edge against our rivals whereas other parties will have to scramble to arrange resources to match ours,” the source claimed.

The source also said that the reservation matrix will work to its advantage. The Congress can continue to bank on its vote bank in the slums where Mr Siddaramaiah’s pet projects-Anna Bhagya and Ksheera Bhagya- are major attractions. The decision to make Mr Siddaramaiah the focal point of the Congress strategy was deliberate as he is considered a favourite of the poor in the city.

Quota may work against BJP

After sitting pretty in the BBMP Council for five long years with a comfortable majority, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now straining every sinew and hoping its city MLAs and party bigwigs can counter the massive campaign launched by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to win it big this time for the Congress party.

Union Minister and BJP leader H.N. Ananth Kumar seeking votes in favour of a party candidate in Bengaluru on Monday (Photo: DC)

According to party strategists, the BJP has quite a few minus points which could reduce its tally. One, the reservation matrix does not suit the party. “For the first time, 50 per cent BBMP seats are reserved for women. We do not know how people will react in places where we have fielded the wives of our former councillors. “We are not sure if this will click,” a senior leader said.

The BJP is also worried if the other backward caste (OBC) voters particularly Kurubas may vote for the Congress en masse fearing that if the Congress loses, it may cost Mr Siddaramaiah, a Kuruba, the CM post. “So, unlike in the past, the caste factor may play a pivotal role in this election,” sources said.

What could work to the BJP’s advantage is the fact that it has 17 MLAs and MLCs like V. Somanna who are putting their heart and soul into electioneering. “Assembly elections are still a long three years away but MLAs and potential candidates have to nurture their constituencies. To achieve this, they need dedicated workers.

“So they have to help their supporters win the elections so that when the assembly election are here, these councilors will work wholeheartedly for them. Though we are not in power in the state, our MLAs and central ministers are taking care of the entire electioneering process,” sources explained.

JD(S) may play kingmaker

With just 13 councillors in the last BBMP council, the JD(S) is looking to increase its tally in the next Palike council. This will help it play the role of kingmaker if it does not get the numbers to come to power on its own. The party is keen on doubling its seat tally with police intelligence reports predicting a better performance by JD(S), especially in constituencies falling on the outskirts of the city. Besides, a number of sitting councillors, who were denied ticket by the Congress and BJP, are now contesting from JD(S). What could come to the JD(S) rescue is the fact that the Congress is unable to project its achievements in the past two years and grab votes.

State JD(S) chief H.D. Kumaraswamy campaigns for a party candidate in Bengaluru on Monday (Photo: KPN)

Interestingly, Deve Gowda's party has this time decided to concentrate on 'A' category wards which number around 40 instead of wasting its efforts on all 198 seats. It will also make a strenuous effort to win another 35 wards where it feels it has a chance and has categorised the remaining 123 seats in 'C-category' where it does not have much hope.

The party has fielded the highest number of Muslim candidates - 38 with Chamarajpet MLA Zameer Ahamed Khan keen on ensuring the victory of at least 10 minority community nominees. Leaders such as Cheluvarayaswamy, Magadi MLA Balakrishna and MLC Puttanna have sunk their differences and are for the victory of the party. The unhappiness among BJP local leaders, who were deprived of ticket, may work to the JD(S)' benefit in many wards.

AIMIM may play spoilsport

A new entrant to the BBMP poll scene, All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM)'s biggest strength is that it can ensure the defeat of Congress candidates while its weakness is that it cannot grow beyond a certain point because of its community based approach.

Even in Telangana, where the party was born in 1958, it has failed to cross a vote share of two per cent with its vote bank vacillating between 0.53 per cent and 1.39 per cent. This being the case, the party may not make much of an impact on the political scene in Bengaluru but is definitely adding to the worries of poll managers of the Congress and like-minded parties.

What could hurt the party’s prospects more than anything else is the absence of a local popular face with AIMIM still heavily dependent on party supremo Asaduddin Owaisi's oratorial skills to make an impact. Speaking to DC, a senior leader associated with AIMIM, disclosed that the party would try and defeat Congress candidates in the elections. “Even though we have 17 candidates contesting on party ticket and are supporting less than 13 independent candidates, it would add to our stature if we are able to eat into the Congress vote share,” he said.

Will clean image help Loksatta?

It may be a huge risk but the Loksatta Party for the first time has plunged into the BBMP poll scene putting up 17 candidates to take on seasoned political parties with its meager human and financial resources. With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) withdrawing from the poll scene, undecided voters and those looking for a whiff of change, may back the Loksatta Party helping it to garner more votes and penetrate new city localities.

The party is confident of winning at least two seats, said sources. Clean politics, young candidates with high qualification and the ability to work closely with people are the strengths of the party. Some have hands-on experience of working at the ward level solving local problems and taking up civic issues.

One worry is whether people will be prepared to accept a fledgling outfit which they know may not be able to make much of an impact in BBMP. The party lacks prominent leaders who can swing votes in its favour and hold rallies to reach out to an entire ward. Loksatta is targeting slums but their biggest vote bank will be the educated lot and those living in apartment complexes.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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