For a fractious coalition that marked its first 100 days last week with barely a whimper, the outcome of urban local bodies’ elections is not only an unexpected bonus for Karnataka CM H.D. Kumaraswamy, but a pointer that the coalition can’t be written off yet, and 2019 may not be quite the cakewalk the BJP hopes.
The Congress and JD(S) fought separately but made sure friendly contests didn’t split the vote, the main aim being to keep the BJP out of as many urban bodies as possible. Congress leaders, including those kept out of the Cabinet, cheered as the party emerged on top, with 946 of 2,709 wards. It also made inroads into the Mumbai-Karnataka region, a traditional BJP bastion.
The JD(S) held on to its turf in Old Mysore, winning only 345 wards, finishing third. But even that wasn’t a dampener as, thanks to the pre-poll pact, the JD(S) and Congress will share power in Mysuru and Tumakuru. The BJP, which regained power in Shivamogga and won a total of 875 wards, up from 683 in 2013, has less to smile about. State chief B.S. Yeddyurappa’s remark that the local elections can’t be an indicator of the people’s mood was a tacit admission that as divided as the coalition is, it deprived the BJP of a chance to wrest power in urban areas where it traditionally held sway, and made inroads into the Mumbai-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka regions.
With the Cabinet expansion due later this month, mainly to placate Congress heavyweights in north Karnataka, this unlikely alliance could give the BJP a run for its money in its former gateway to the South.