Belagavi city is scheduled to get a Mayor and a Deputy Mayor, after nearly three years of the last set of leaders leaving office.
Mayoral polls have been scheduled for February 6. The last body of elected members bowed out of office in 2019.
The State government took nearly two years to hold elections to the urban local body.
And, BJP members are likely to be elected as Mayor and Deputy Mayor as the party has a majority of 35 seats in the 58-member body.
Party sources say that due to an arrangement between Members of Legislative Assembly Abhay Patil and Anil Benake, the Mayor is likely to be from Belagavi South, while the Deputy Mayor will be chosen from the north of the city.
This election is interesting because this is the first time since the reorganisation of States, that ticket were distributed on party lines. Elections between 1956 and 2014 were held on linguistic lines and not political affiliations.
Candidates identified themselves as members of Kannada, Marathi or Urdu groups and parties, national or regional, shied away from nominating their candidates. In 2021, however, voters chose candidates of various parties. The BJP went onto be the biggest party with 35 winners. The Congress has 10, the MES four and the AIMIM one member. The House has eight Independents.
It is not difficult for the BJP to contest for and win both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor posts. However, there are some political considerations the party has to attend to. Since any woman corporator can be Mayor, all women members, elected from all categories and unreserved seats, are eligible. The BJP that has five or six such candidates and it has kept its options open. It plans to nominate a Mayoral candidate from a community that can help it in the coming Assembly polls.
Mr. Abhay Patil, who is from Belagavi South, has argued that 20 of the 35 members hail from his constituency and that the Mayor shall be chosen from among them.
BJP sources say that the Mayor is likely to be from among Maratha or Devang communities, the two most populous groups in Belagavi South constituency. A Mayoral candidate can also come from the Brahmin or Lingayat communities, if it were to help the party electorally, party leaders say.
The BJP has three women members from the Maratha community, four from Devanga, three from Lingayat and one from Brahmin communities. The front runners are Sarika Patil, a Maratha, Savita Patil, a Lingayat, and Vani Joshi, who claims the support of the Sangh Parivar.
Ms. Vani Joshi defeated a candidate of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti and she is seen as the face of the Kannada voters in the corporation council. Ms. Savita Patil’s husband Murughendragouda Patil is a BJP city unit office-bearer and a Lingayat community leader. He has got letters of support from Lingayat organisations for his wife’s candidature.
The MLAs are, however, inclined to nominate a Maratha that can improve their electoral prospects in future, BJP leaders say.
The selection of the Deputy Mayor is proving to be difficult for the BJP that does not have any candidate who is elected from a constituency reserved for BC-B category.
The only two members from those seats belong to the Opposition parties. Vaishali Bhatkhande was elected on MES ticket and Jyoti Kadolkar is from the Congress.
The BJP leaders tried to request Ms. Bhatkhande to defect, but she has refused, say MES insiders. BJP leaders, however, say that they will ask any of the women elected from unreserved seats to get a BC-B caste certificate to stake their claim.
Council members were elected on September 6, 2021. But the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were not elected. The members and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor will be taking charge after nearly 15 months of their election to the urban body. Corporation officials say that they will get a term of five years, from the date of taking oath.
The State government said that the delay has been due to the confusion created by the Supreme Court judgement in R.R. Wagh vs Maharashtra case [December 2021]. It was about the status of the reservation categories for the posts of elected members in local bodies.
The judgment struck down reservation in elected bodies saying that the State government could not do it by itself and had to follow the recommendation of the Backward Classes Commission, instead.
The State government has reserved the post of Deputy Mayor for candidates of the Backward Classes-B category, while the post of the Mayor is reserved for woman.
The State government has said that all relevant rules and directions of the court have been followed before announcing the reservation categories, as per the Union government’s directive of December 20, 2021.