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Southern States - Karnataka

Council polls may not give Congress majority

By A. Jayaram

Bangalore May 30. Next month's biennial elections to the Legislative Council to fill 11 seats and byelection for one seat are unlikely to help the ruling Congress to gain a majority in the House.

The byelection will be held on June 15 from the Legislative Assembly for the seat which has fallen vacant following the election of M.V. Rajashekaran to the Rajya Sabha. On the same day, the Assembly will elect seven candidates to the Upper House.

Elections to the Council from the Karnataka West and Karnataka South-east Graduates' constituencies and the Karnataka North-east and Bangalore Teachers' constituencies will be held on June 23.

With its big majority in the Assembly (135 members in the 224-strong House) and the support of all but one of the 28 independents, the Congress is sure of bagging five out of the seven seats from the Assembly constituency. The BJP, with its depleted strength of 35, will secure one seat and the two JD groups — the JD(U) with 19 members and the JD(S) with four, and an independent supporting them (V. Somanna) — might get one seat.

The Congress is confident of retaining the Karnataka West Graduates' seat represented by the Water Resources Minister, H.K. Patil.

The Congress will win with ease the byelection in which all the MLAs will be voting. Thus, the Congress which now has 30 members in the 75-member Council, with one seat vacant, will be losing three seats on account of retirement (including H.K. Patil), but will capture six seats in next month's elections, including the byelection. Its strength is likely to go up to 34, which will be four short of majority. Even if it wins all the four graduates' and teachers' seats, its strength will not go beyond 37.

The BJP, which has 13 members, will be losing four members by way of retirement, reducing the number to nine. However, with the expectation that it will win four seats, the party will retain its present strength.

The JD(S), which is the main Opposition in the Council with 14 members, is in danger of losing that status unless the JD(U) and the unattached JD MLCs come to its rescue by forming a united group. Of the five unattached JD members, B.A. Mohideen is retiring and another, B.L. Shankar, has been elected Chairman. Of the JD(S) members, three will be retiring and there is no hope of its securing even a single seat from the Assembly where it has only four members. The JD(U), with 19 MLAs, might insist on one of its members being elected to the Council.

Unless splits occur in Opposition parties and the splinter groups merge with it, a majority will elude the Congress. It will remain below the halfway mark even when three of the nominated members retire in December and those nominated in their place join it (Congress).

The nominated MLCs retiring this year are the Deputy Chairman, David Simeon (JD-S), K.B. Shanappa (JD-U), and M.S. Siddaraju. In recent years, most of the nominated members have joined the ruling party.

The party position in the Assembly is: Congress - 135, including the Speaker, M.V. Venkatappa, BJP - 35, JD(U) - 19, JD(S) - four, AIADMK - one, independents - 28, including nine expelled BJP members, and nominated (Anglo-Indian) - one. There are two vacancies in the House — Karwar, since February 19, 2000 when the MLA, Vasanth Asnotikar, was shot dead, and Narasimharaja, since December 28, 2001. However, the byelection from the Narasimharaja seat is being held on May 31. The late Azeez Sait of the Congress had represented the constituency.

The party position in the Council is: Congress - 30, JD(S) - 14, BJP - 13, JD(U) - eight, JD(unattached) - five, including the Chairman, Mr. Shankar, independents - four, and one vacancy.

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