Delaying tactics

Delaying tactics

The BBMP has been without an elected body for three years, as the government has been putting off the election for one reason or the other.

 What he obviously implied was that the Assembly and municipal elections are important to the party’s growth at the national level. But that pompous statement was forgotten soon after the Assembly election.

When the Lok Sabha election arrived (April 2009), everyone spied a preparedness for civic polls in the schemes and programmes announced by Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa and his cohorts. But the parliamentary election too passed off without the BJP betraying any signs of following it up with polls to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), though the party recorded an impressive victory, capturing 19 out of 28 Lok Sabha seats.
The BBMP has been without an elected body for close to three years now. It has been a relentless parade of insults to democratic form of governance as well as the court of law by the state government through its repeated postponement of the BBMP polls. The Yeddyurappa government is now living off its third reprieve of eight weeks, granted by the Karnataka high court in mid-July, in order to help it complete the pre-election processes such as delimitation of wards, wardwise reservation and revision of voters list. The grace period ends on Sept 15.

Earlier, the court had given two such extensions and both the times the government failed to keep its promise of conducting elections without further delay. The third time round, the government avoided facing the court and, instead, made the State Election Commissioner seek fresh relief to put off the election beyond the July 31 deadline set by the court. While granting the third extension, which might be the last, the high court took a tough stand and warned the government that if it failed this time, the court knew what to do.

As things stand now, the government has used up two weeks of the eight-week reprieve and is still to finalise the delimitation of wards. Though it published the list of freshly delimited wards, increasing their number to 198, a public interest litigation challenging the overlapping of some wards with the boundaries of nearby villages coming under the control of gram panchayats, has stalled the delimitation exercise. The urban development department is understood to be awaiting a copy of the court’s order in the matter and only on its receipt will be free to fix the boundaries afresh and publish the modified ward list.

Though described as minor corrections, the State Election Commission cannot finalise the revised voters list unless the ward delimitation is completed. With by-elections to five Assembly seats scheduled for Aug 18, the Yeddyurappa dispensation is understandably pre-occupied with this more immediate concern than the civic polls.

The next hurdle to cross before going into election mode is the reservation of wards for different caste categories and groupings like Scheduled Castes and Tribes, backward classes, women, etc. The last grouping — women — will get a whopping 65 to 66 seats out of 198 in accordance with the 33 per cent reservation accorded to them under the 74th Amendment to the Constitution. Women representing the IT hub will then outnumber their counterparts in the Lok Sabha, whose number stands at 58. Of course, there is no reservation for women in parliament and assemblies, as yet.
Coming to wardwise quotas, it is all finalised and with the chief minister. But the list is being touted as only a ‘draft’ in order to keep the loyalties of interested parties intact till the by-elections are over.

All this strategic planning may require 10 days to a fortnight. The Opposition parties, therefore, are keeping Aug 20 as the outer limit to complete the preliminaries and notify the election. Will the government oblige is the moot point.

Cut back to 2008 pre-Assembly election days. Yeddyurappa, betrayed by JD(S), ended his eight-day-old government without seeking a vote of confidence. Vehemently opposing President’s rule, he marched to Raj Bhavan to seek dissolution of the Assembly and fresh elections, all in the name of protecting the true spirit of democracy. Whither that commitment to democracy now? Why is he time and again going back on his promise to conduct the civic polls in time?

True, the MLAs representing City constituencies in the Assembly may find it profitable to stall the BBMP elections as they have to share power with the corporators once an elected corporation council is in place. It is these same ‘city lords’, it is said, who threw a wrench in the works when the chief minister wished to amend the law to provide for a five-year term for the Bangalore Mayor, as promised in the BJP’s election manifesto.
That is not all. The BJP manifesto contained one more big promise — of raising Bangalore to international standards. Perhaps that may happen faster if an elected body is given a free hand and adequate resources to deliver the promise. So that no more Abhisheks are washed down overflowing open drains and no more time and effort is wasted in fruitless fishing in troubled waters.