BENGALURU: Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Tuesday said he would seek a legal opinion on the next step to be taken to hold Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) polls. The announcement came after the Supreme Court directed the State Election Commission (SEC) of Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday to hold pending urban local body elections for which the notification has to be issued within two weeks.
As the delimitation process for the wards is not yet completed, government authorities are now in a dilemma whether to hold the civic polls for the newer 243 wards, or the older 198 wards.The apex court’s order stated that Madhya Pradesh can go ahead with the local body polls without the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota. Polls cannot be delayed for urban local bodies (ULBs) that have completed their five-year terms, it added.
The Supreme Court ruling is applicable to all ULBs who have completed five years and are due for polls, including BBMP. Bommai, who is in New Delhi, said BJP is ready to face any polls including BBMP, taluk and zilla panchayat.
'Will discuss with experts on holding BBMP polls without delimitation'
On the Supreme Court direction, he said they will study the court order and take a suitable decision. "We have yet to receive the court order. I have told the advocate general to study the order. The court order is applicable to all the states. We will also discuss it with the State Election Commission. We will take action as per their directions," he said.
Reacting to Congress leaders questioning the BJP's readiness to face Palike, zilla and taluk panchayat elections, he said, "Let Congress leaders mind the affairs of their own party. They are fighting among themselves at public meetings. We have toured the entire state and prepared for zilla and taluk panchayat polls. We have held meetings to prepare for BBMP elections too. We will study the Supreme Court order and take an appropriate decision."
Revenue Minister R Ashoka said that if the Supreme Court order has to be followed, they have to conduct polls for BBMP with 198 wards. "The delimitation process is yet to get over, but it is in the completion stage. We are ready for polls now," he said.
Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) working president Ramalinga Reddy said the government does not have the will to conduct the polls. "Regarding delimitation, the BBMP Chief Commissioner has not called any meeting with the local MLAs. Because of the government’s apathy, OBC candidates did not get justice," he added.
The term of the BBMP Council came to an end in September 2020, and a new Council has not been elected since then.
In December 2020, the Karnataka High Court directed the state government to conduct elections to 198 wards within six weeks. But the state government filed a petition before the Supreme Court, pointing at the BBMP Act that shows 243 wards.
State Election Commissioner Basavaraju said as the Supreme Court has directed states to conduct polls and issue notifications within two weeks, it is up to the state government to decide whether to go ahead with the polls for 198 or 243 wards. "We are ready to conduct the polls," he added.
BBMP Chief Commissioner Tushar Girinath, who is part of the Delimitation Committee, said the SC order is applicable to the entire nation, and the SEC will take appropriate action. "We are also checking with legal experts whether the polls can be conducted with or without delimitation. As per the Constitution, polls have to be conducted once in five years within six months of additional time. Going by that, we are supposed to conduct the polls by now," he said.
Pointed out that there are certain pockets on the city's outskirts removed from Panchayat limits which need to be added to the bigger BBMP, he said the government will ensure that there will be no uncertainty over the inclusion of these areas either to panchayat or BBMP limits. The state government will take a decision and issue a notification accordingly, he added.
As the number of wards was to increase to 243 wards, the Palike was gearing up for a bigger BBMP Council by changing the seating arrangements in the hall. For this, Rs 10 crore was allocated. The new Council has to accommodate at least 300 members, including the proposed 243 councillors, 28 MLAs, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members along with the nominated councillors. However, the seating arrangement and the building is not ready. Tushar Girinath said they will make suitable arrangements for all these members at one place once polls are conducted.