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Legislative Council polls set to redraw equations in Karnataka

Karnataka has the oldest functioning Legislative Council in the country.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The elections to the 25 Legislative Council seats in Karnataka, slated for December 10, will not only decide the fate of several leaders, but also redraw the power structure in the Upper House.

The biennial elections to the Council, from Local Authorities constituencies, is coming at a time when the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with 32 members, is short of a majority in the 75-member House. The Congress, currently with 29 members, is looking to remain relevant as the principal Opposition by retaining its numbers. The regional outfit, Janata Dal (Secular), which currently has 12 members, is struggling to hold on to its steadily declining numbers.

Legislative Council polls set to redraw equations in Karnataka
 

For the first time in the history of the Karnataka Legislative Council, the BJP could wrest a majority. Political calculations also put the party in a better position since the composition of the gram panchayats has changed following the elections last year. Congress insiders acknowledge that the BJP is likely to benefit at the cost of the party in some seats, though it is hard to predict the outcome considering the preferential voting system that is in place for Council elections.

The JD(S), which is fighting to remain politically relevant, but is sending confusing signals on its stand on the BJP, has an estranged relationship with three of its four retiring members. Two of them have already approached the BJP for tickets to contest the December 10 elections. Any further erosion of the JD(S)’s strength in the Council is likely to snatch away its bargaining power in politics.

These elections are also coming at a time when the zilla panchayats and taluk panchayats, two important rural local bodies, have not been formed yet. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Council is also not in place with the elections long overdue. Notwithstanding the reduced electorate as a result, parties are banking on the newly-elected gram panchayat members whose affiliation in such elections remain a grey area. However, going by the precedent, a large number of them are expected to support the ruling dispensation.

For the ruling BJP, whose six members are also retiring on January 5, this election is crucial to gain control of the House where it is now often dependent on the largesse of the JD(S) for the passage of Bills. Ironically, the BJP had unseated the Congress-JD(S) coalition in 2019 to come to power by poaching members of both parties.

Several Bills stalled

The BJP’s push for majority in the Upper House comes in the backdrop of several Bills being stalled in the Legislative Council after being passed in the Assembly. The Industrial Disputes and Certain Other Laws (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2020, was defeated in the Council jointly by the Congress and JD(S). The Bill, strongly opposed by trade unions, had been brought in the midst of COVID-19 in 2020 as part of labour law reforms by former Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa. The changed composition could also cast its shadow on the Council Chairman’s post currently held by Basavaraj Horatti, elected to the House on a JD(S) symbol. If the BJP crosses the majority mark, it is expected to stake claim to the post that was shared with the JD(S) last year after both the parties had ousted the earlier Chairman in a session that witnessed unruly scenes.

Development issues hardly form the political narrative in these elections that has restricted electorates. Campaigns by big leaders have limited impact on voting patterns. Without much noise, the composition of the Upper House could change drastically in a month’s time.

sharath.srivatsa@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 12:31:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/legislative-council-polls-set-to-redraw-equations-in-karnataka/article37550254.ece

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