If one takes even a cursory glance at the political campaign for the ULB elections in Hubli-Dharwad, it is amply evident that the absence of strong opposition should help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the mini-battle ahead of the assembly elections.
When chief minister Jagadish Shettar campaigned for four days in Hubli-Dharwad city, observers were sure the lack of confidence had led him to concentrate on his home town.
It will now be up to Shettar himself to ensure BJP’s electoral success, besides proving his popularity in both his Assembly constituency as well as city. It would be obligatory for him to retain his stature as the district has six ULBs.
Ofcourse, there was the perceptible threat from the Karnataka Janata Party (KJP) in Hubli-Dharwad when the party proved its growing popularity during its inauguration in neighboring district Haveri during November last. KJP supremo BS Yeddyurappa was able to rope in former minister Jabbarkhan Honnalli from the Congress and leaders like Ashok Katwe, Mohan Limbikai and Nimbannavar from the BJP. The popularity graph of the KJP did not during the ULB election campaign as ministers Basavaraj Bommai, Murugesh Nirani and Umesh Katti from North Karnataka region stayed away from the KJP.
Bommai’s refusal to change his loyalty came as a major setback for the KJP.
Despite repeated visits by Yeddyurappa, the KJP could not improve its popularity and it even had to struggle to put up candidates in all 67 wards. After gruelling day-night efforts, it was able to field candidates in 63 wards.
On the other hand, the BSR Congress, which is mainly depending on minorities and backward communities, has little hope — it has fielded candidates in 37 wards. It would consider itself lucky to get even 10 seats in the Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation(HDMC). Both these parties would have face-saving excuses since both are facing elections for the first time.
The Janata Dal (Secular) is not a force to reckon with here. Efforts put up by HD Kumaraswamy and his father HD Deve Gowda to come clean off the allegation that the party is ‘anti-north Karnataka and anti-Lingayat’ have been not yet successful. Fielding candidates in 65 wards itself was a task for the party.
The Congress, which has ruled HDMC for decades, is dissidence-ridden. An internal forum has been created in the Congress to campaign against its own candidates. Political enemity between former minister HK Patil and SR More has made state level leaders stay away. Patil and former opposition leader in legislative council Veeranna Mattikatti have restricted their daily activities to addressing press conferences. When workers were roaring for success, Patil was boasting of his drinking water project that is said to have inspired P Chidambaram to reserve Rs 1,400 crore to set up water purification units in rural areas of the country. Unfortunately for the party, dissidence in Congress has intensified just when people were looking for an alternative.
Though, the BJP has its own fears in facing face voters because of its acts in the last five years, people had been happy to see the BJP wrest HDMC for the first time in 2008. It had assured of 24x7 water supply in its all 67 wards but could do it only for eight during its tenure. Increase of property tax twice was its shock treatment for the public.
Its claims of developing Unkal lake, Nrupatunga Hills, Indira Glass House and Sadhanakere Lake have failed. The claim of spending Rs700-800 crore have created speculations among BJP workers themselves. Roads are crumbling and water supply is a scare. The water level in the Malaprabha river, which is lifeline for the city, is falling by the day. These were the apprehensions that made Shettar and party leader Anantha Kumar canvas in the city.