The court, acting on writ petitions, directed the Commission to hold polls in two months to 198 wards. The order has thrown a spanner into the works of the state BJP regime which wants to increase the number of wards from the present 198 to 243 to align the council size with the increase in population.
Law minister JC Madhuswamy was quoted in sections of the media confirming that the government was planning to move the apex court.
The government would require time to redraw 243 ward boundaries based on population, official sources said. They added the government would require at least one year to complete the exercise, and they would submit the same before the apex court.
The tenure of the 198-members council ended three months ago. The BJP regime has been trying to put off the civic body polls, without, however, committing to a date on when it is likely to hold the polls.
Boundaries of wards, at present, are drawn based on the 2001 census which scores of elected representatives, across party affiliations, view as unscientific in view of the population growth in the past two decades – steep in some pockets, moderate in several others.
A joint select committee headed by BJP legislator S Raghu that was tasked to suggest the way forward for the BBMP’s governance structure, has proposed to increase the number of wards from 198 to 243. The government even amended the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, 1976, in the last session to provide for the increase.
The court has told the SEC to announce the election schedule within six weeks from the date of notification of ward-wise reservation list. The court said the government’s move to increase the number of wards cannot apply to the present election, a view that could virtually put off the BJP’s plans by another five years.
It was pretty well known even before the council term expired that the government would delay the BBMP polls as much as it could as most Bengaluru MLAs, regardless of their party affiliations, are not in favour of an elected council. A fresh set of corporators mean erosion of their powers and clout in their respective Assembly constituencies.
Political leaders and citizen groups are seeing the recurrence of the 2010 and 2015 scenario when the elections were held only after the court’s intervention. The BBMP polls were held in 2010, two years after the council’s term expired as the ruling BJP had cited expansion of the corporation and delimitation exercise for the delay. In 2015, the ruling Congress postponed the election by six months citing its efforts at restructuring the BBMP.