Karnataka panchayat elections: Winning spree of BJP
Since coming to power about a year and half earlier, BJP in this southern state has set the election winning spree. First, it won 10 of the 12 assembly by-elections and secured absolute majority in the state assembly. Then, it won all the four seats in the state legislative council. And now in the recent gram panchayat elections, it has won about 60 per cent seats. It is undoubtedly clear political signals that BJP was and is ahead of other parties not only in urban areas but also in rural areas throughout the state.
This was party’s biggest win in south after the elections of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation in which BJP increased its number from 4 to 44. It secured about 38 per cent votes which were almost at par with ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti which won 56 seats.
Elections for about 90,000 seats of 5728 gram panchayats were held in two phases on December 22 and December 27. According to Panchyati Raj Act, these election were contested without election symbols. Political parties officially stayed away from elections, but political activists and voter were well aware that candidates belong to which parties and votes were given accordingly. After results were declared Congress leaders sought to undermine the victory of BJP. Its leaders, including former chief minister siddaramaiah and state congress party chief D.K. Shivkumar, said their party had secured more seats than BJP. On the other side, BJP Chief Minster B.S. Yeddiyurappa said, that after the results were available, party leaders sat together to go through the list of winning candidates and counted the heads who belong to the party.” we have secured 60 seats if not more”, he claimed.
In fact, state leaders of BJP went into election mode months back and finalised its candidates much ahead of the elections. Each leader of the party was given responsibility of particular areas and they were asked to stay there till elections were over. local leaders had better say in deciding the candidates which paid rich dividend to the party. On the other side, congress remained as usual a divided house. senior leaders virtually stayed away from the elections and left every thing to the local leaders of the area.
Central leadership of BJP, off late has made it a point that no election, including at the lowest level should be considered less important and party leaders, including the senior most, should not be shy of elections campaign. This strategy of the party paid good return in the Hyderabad Municipal election where party president J.P Nadda and Union Home Minister, came down to campaign for the party candidates. The list of other senior leaders, who joined the campaign is very long.
Same strategy was adopted in the gram Panchayat elections by the party leaders. Yeddiyurappa and other party leaders were closely monitoring the campaign and used every resource to see the victory of party workers who were in the field without a party symbol .
In a way, gram panchayats in Karnataka are different from other states. At the time of introduction of Panchayat Raj Act, it was envisaged that elections at the lowest level, gram panchayat, would be held informally and people as panch, would be treated as respected person of the area there and would be no need of formal elections. But when gram panchayats started getting direct and more funds, elections of panchayat became keenly contested by spending of huge money. In these elections about 8000 candidates were elected “unopposed”. But infact candidates won the seat through “auction”. The unanimously elected candidates were infact the highest bidders. The bid in some case was not less then 10 lakhs. The money was distributed among the prospective candidates who agreed not to file the nomination after receiving the money. State election Commission had directed the district authorities not to allow auctioning of the post. It also warned that elections of such auctioned seats would be cancelled. But despite of this warning such big number of them got elected . As technically they were elected without any contest, state election commission has no way to cancel their election.
Though, elections of 30 Zila committees and 176 Tahsil committees are due some time in May-June, the BJP ranks and file have already gearing up for this second round of rural elections. Unlike gram panchayat elections, these elections would be contested on party lines. BJP leaders says that party is again going to win majority seats to prove that party has strong footings in the rural areas.
By Lokpal Sethi