BJP-Cong close fight likely in B’luru Urban, say experts
India’s information technology capital, Bengaluru, is bracing for a close contest between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress again, with experts giving Congress a slight edge owing to anti-incumbency for the ruling party.
Bengaluru city sends 28 lawmakers to the 224-member state assembly and the city’s infrastructure woes are a major issue even as the city has recorded very poor voter turnout in recent assembly elections. With voting on May 10, a Wednesday, the election commission expects a better turnout this time.
The election data shows that the BJP’s electoral power in Bengaluru is going down. In 2008, when the BJP came to power with the full majority for the first time, it won 17 out of the 28 seats. In the next election in 2013, which the Congress won, the BJP got 12 seats. Five years down the line, the BJP could win only 11 seats in 2018, even though it won 110 seats in Karnataka, falling short of the majority mark of 113.
The Congress has been witnessing an increase in seats in Bengaluru city. The party, which bagged ten seats in 2008, got 13 in 2013 and 15 in 2018. The Janata Dal (Secular), a powerful regional party, won one seat in 2018. In 2019, however, the BJP won three seats in Bengaluru city in a by-poll after three Congress legislators and one JD (S) MLA jumped ship to join BJP. The JD (S) retained its seat.
This time around, both parties are making efforts to increase the 2018 seat tally, according to leaders of the two national parties. The BJP has set a target of winning at least 20 seats in the state capital, which is crucial for the party to retain power in the state, party leaders aware of the election strategy said.
“The BJP and the Congress have been having a close fight for many years in Bengaluru Urban. We have 15 seats at the moment, and Congress has 12, and one in JD(S). This time, we are targeting up to 20 seats, and we will reach it,” Gopinath Reddy, BJP organisation in-charge of Bengaluru, said.
The party has also gone the extra mile to woo the public who are reeling under several civic issues, from rising potholes and related deaths to worsening traffic congestion and frequent flooding. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have continued to put more emphasis on the urban electorate with frequent visits and inaugurations of development projects.
The BJP is also promising more capital investment for infrastructure projects for the city, including building new flyovers to reduce congestion under the Centre’s Smart City project.
“The PM himself has come three times to Bengaluru and has inaugurated the metro. Now, we are making a Satellite Ring Road. We have already given ₹5,000 crore for the Smart City project. So, every priority will be given to infrastructure. Not just the state government, but even the Central government is very particular about major cities, including Bengaluru,” Reddy said.
“The frequent visits of PM Modi, Amit Shah and JP Nadda, can’t be ruled out. It will have an impact on people of urban areas and the ‘double-engine sarkar’ push will influence them,” Political analyst Chambi Puranik said.
The Congress is also looking to improve its tally compared to the last elections. A senior state Congress leader said the party would announce several new schemes for Bengaluru city in its manifesto and will raise the issue of corruption in BBMP and the implementation of infrastructure schemes.
Pointing out that the Congress and the BJP will have a close contest in Bengaluru Urban, Puranik said, “The voters are highly educated and informed, and know the day-to-day problems of the city and its condition. AAP might cause a problem for both Congress and the BJP. But I don’t think JD(S) has candidates who can challenge the BJP and Congress. They don’t have that kind of winnable candidates in Bengaluru Urban as a contrast in Bengaluru Rural where the party can might some impact.”
Puranik, however, said that Congress might have a slight edge over the BJP due to mounting corruption, and infrastructure woes, adding that the anti-incumbency is a big factor that can’t be overlooked. “Due to the mismanagement of the BBMP, allegations of corruption, and the civic woes, I think Congress has a slight edge because it is a party not in power. Amid the blame game of corruption, among other things, people will take this seriously. The anti-incumbency factor will work in Bengaluru Urban.”
“But the margin of victory will be less in Bengaluru Urban because Congress is also going all out to fight the BJP with freebies and assurances. Meanwhile, with the BJP government at the Centre as well, the people would want the BJP government here for better development of the city. However, in constituencies like the Koramangala or Chamarajpet, the minorities might favour the Congress and help them win a few more seats,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), for the first time, will contest all 224 assembly seats in the state. The party hopes that its candidates can win on their merit and make a dent in the votes of the major parties. “I don’t think AAP will have a big impact this election. Earlier, we thought AAP might eat into our votes. After the Manish Sisodia incident and everything the AAP is facing in Delhi, I don’t think they will have any impact here,” Reddy said.
Low voter turnout is another issue that the Election Commission of India (ECI) expressed concern about in the Bengaluru Urban district. According to the ECI, 2013 saw 62.03% voter turnout in Bengaluru Urban and 57% in 2018. While the city is likely to see a close contest, experts say it will also come down to how the voters turn up this election season.