District polls results Tuesday may impact Karnataka politics

January 3rd, 2011 - 8:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bangalore, Jan 3 (IANS) Hailed as pioneer in ‘Panchayat Raj’, Karnataka may be impacted in an unintended way when results of the polls to these local governing councils are announced Tuesday, as Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who heads the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first government in south India, has staked his fate on the outcome.Yeddyurappa, under pressure to quit following the controversy over his allotment of prime land to close kin in and around Bangalore, is banking heavily on good performance in these polls to retain his chair.

The taluka (sub-district) and zila (district) panchayat polls were held between Dec 26 and Jan 1, across the state.

Karnataka became the first state in the country to give in 1983 a legislative framework and backing to the gram (village), taluka and zila panchayats.

A decade later a modified version of Karnataka law on ‘Panchayati Raj Institutions’ was included in the Indian Constitution through the 73rd amendment to ensure all states ushered in third tier of grass-root governance.

However, the elections to local governing councils in the state never in the past acquired the importance as did the three-phase polls that began Dec 26 and ended Jan 1 for the 1,013 zila and 3,659 taluka panchayat seats.

Over 65 percent of the 21 million voters, nearly half of them women, cast their ballots in the elections to the 30 zila and 176 taluka panchayats.

Counting begins 8 a.m. Tuesday at 171 places across the state. Most of the results are expected to be announced by noon as electronic voting machines were used in these polls for the first time.

The ruling BJP, and the opposition the Congress and the Janata Dal-Secular were locked in three-way contests for most of the seats in the bitterly fought elections.

Facing the district polls for the first time after capturing power in the state in 2008, the BJP hopes a good show would lessen its embarrassment over Yeddyurappa’s continuance in spite of allegations against him.

For the Congress, which had won the majority of district and sub-district panchayats in the 2005 polls though it had lost the assembly polls a year earlier, a victory would be a morale booster.

The JD-S’s ambition to remain a political force in the state depends on winning a decent number of these councils.

The BJP’s performance in the last taluka and zila panchayat polls in 2005 was dismal, though it had emerged as the single largest party with 79 seats in the 225-member assembly, including one nominated, in the 2004 assembly polls.

Of the 1,005 zila panchayat seats at stake then, the BJP secured less than 160 seats with the Congress emerging the biggest winner with about 490 seats. The JD-S stood second with around 270 seats and smaller parties and Independents shared the remaining ones.

The BJP did no better in the taluka panchayat polls too. Of the 3,659 seats, it got 540 with the Congress bagging over 1,700 and the JD-S 945. Smaller parties and Independents made up the rest.

The party is in power now. But, unlike the 2008 assembly polls when it had an ‘emotive issue’ of ‘betrayal’ by the JD-S to romp home, the party this time went to the people with a bagful of charges against its best known mascot in the state - Chief Minister Yeddyurappa.

His, and apparently also the party’s, belief is that only the urban voters are concerned over the land scams and the issue is not of any consequence at all at district and village level.

Ahead of Tuesday’s ballot counting, state BJP chief K.S. Eshwarappa said Monday that the charges against Yeddyurappa have not made any impact on rural voters.

“We will win at least 20 of the 30 ZPs (zila parishads — district councils),” he told reporters in Shimoga, about 280 km from here.

The Congress and the JD-S have, however, dismissed the BJP claims of winning the majority in both district and sub-district councils.

“They are dreaming. People across the state are concerned about corruption in the BJP government and this will show in the result,” JD-S state president and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has been insisting.

Congress state president G. Parameshwara has said he was confident of the party winning the majority, though he has accused the BJP of spending “over Rs.500 crore to win these elections”.

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