BENGALURU: With elections to 105 Urban Local Bodies barely four days away, grassroots level workers of all three major political parties in Karnataka are campaigning relentlessly. However, the same cannot be said of the senior leaders across party lines. Senior leaders of Congress, JD(S) and BJP have left it all to the MLAs, district unit chiefs and MLA candidates who lost in the assembly election to decide the party’s fate in the hyper-local elections.
While the ULB polls this time around haven’t elicited the kind of fervour they did in 2013, analysts say that it is a peculiar one. Sandwiched between two major elections — one assembly and another Parliament — the polls to 105 ULBs during a coalition government in Karnataka this year is unprecedented.
In 2013, elections to 208 city municipal corporations, town municipal councils and town panchayats were held barely two months before the assembly elections. The results - which favoured the Congress - became a barometer to gauge the public’s mood. “The party in power is generally favoured in these elections but the single largest party is not in the government this time. ULB elections are being held after the assembly polls and under a coalition government. This is unprecedented. While it is sandwiched between two general polls, the outcome may not be relevant to the Lok Sabha polls,” said A Narayana, political analyst and commentator.
The reduced relevance of ULB polls explains the lack of ‘hands-on’ approach by parties. The BJP constituted three teams to tour the state to enthuse the cadres and also campaign, but only one team led by state president and former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa completed its schedule. Two more teams — one led by K S Eshwarappa and another by Jagadish Shettar — did not complete the tour owing to changes in schedules of ULB polls and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s demise. The party has, however, appointed MLAs and MLCs to supervise campaigns. “Local MLAs and MPs, as well as district unit presidents, are made responsible for the polls. We have asked the local unit workers to engage in agenda according to their convenience,” a state BJP functionary said. MLA Arvind Limbavali has been made in charge of Bagalkot while MLC Ravi Kumar will take care of Kalaburagi. A divided BJP had managed to win 906 out of 4,952 wards with KJP winning 274 in 2013.
The Congress, which secured about 40 per cent of the seats in 2013 ULB polls, too, is dependent on MLAs and MLA candidates to facilitate the campaign for ULB polls. This apart, the party is using district-in-charge ministers to supervise campaigns but apart from KPCC President Dinesh Gundu Rao and working president Eshwar Khandre, no other tall leader is seen campaigning extensively. “Senior leaders are reluctant to campaign since workers will force them to campaigns in all districts,” a Congress office-bearer said.
The fact that only 105 ULBs, and not 208 like in 2013, are going to polls on August 31 comes as no incentive to the political parties. “Leaders would have taken the elections seriously had all ULBs gone to polls,” a Congress worker said. JD(S), which secured 18 per cent of the seats in 2013, is only certain of securing the seats they are strong in. “I haven’t had the time to campaign and have left it to the local leaders. We will retain the seats that we are strong in,” Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy told The New Indian Express.