Bengaluru: M. Gowtham Kumar, the 43 year old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator from Jogupalya, was elected as the new Mayor of Bengaluru as the saffron party stormed to power in the corporation after a gap of four years.
C.R. Ram Mohan Raju, the corporator from Bommanahalli ward was elected as the deputy mayor.
The victory heralding the BJP back to power at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP, the city's civic body) after the earlier coalition between the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) collapsed in the state.
Kumar got 129 votes in favour of his candidature while his opponent, R.S. Sathyanarayana got 112 votes as the Congress and JD(S) backed the same candidate. But despite the decision to continue voting for the same candidate, the former allies unable to hold on to power at one of the largest city corporations in the country that has a budget in excess of ₹11,000 crore per year.
Kumar takes over as the first citizen of the city when it faces innumerable challenges that ranges from ineffective handling of solid waste management, dug up roads, overflowing drains and rapidly crumbling infrastructure among other problems.
The BJP said that it had finally gotten power in the city corporation after it was denied a chance at power in spite of emerging as the single largest party in the BBMP polls in 2015.
The Congress and JD(S) joined hands to keep the BJP out of power for four years but was unable to continue its coaltion in the corporations after its state level alliance collapsed earlier in July.
Senior Congress leader Ramalinga Reddy, who helped his party retain power in the corporation, refused to get involved this time after he was snubbed during the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government.
Control of the BBMP is crucial for Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa-led BJP government as the civic body, not just for its size, but also houses over 20% of the state’s population and has a budget outlay of over ₹11,000 crore.
But the BBMP has lost power and significance over the years, according to urban experts.
"Increasingly, the state has gained more control and the BBMP is like a maintenance agency," Naresh Narasimha, urban infrastructure consultant and principal architect and managing partner at Venkataramanan Associates, who designed the Church Street makeover pro bono for the BBMP.
The BJP looking to control the functioning of the city that expands over 840 square kilometers.
The BJP government also want to win the perception battle of who controls the administration in Bengaluru, a globally renowned city for being one of the biggest software exporters in the country and houses one of the biggest start-up and e-commerce ecosystems.
The BJP won comfortably as it had most of its members in attendance. Out of the total 257 members that include councillors, MLA, MLC's, member of parliament in both houses, 249 were present at the BBMP council on Tuesday.
Out of the total 198 councillors, the BJP has 101, the Congress has 76, the JD(S) has 14 and there are seven independents.
The JD(S) tally shrunk to 13 as Ramila Umashankar, its deputy mayor and councillor from Kaveripura ward died last year, barely a week since she took over.
Apart from the 101 councillors, the BJP has the support of four Lok Sabha members, two from Rajya Sabha, 11 members of legislative assembly (MLA) and seven members of the legislative council (MLC), taking its total to over 126.
The Congress has one Lok Sabha member, six Rajya Sabha members, 11 MLA’s and 10 MLC’s taking its total to 104.
The JD(S) has the support of one Rajya Sabha member, one MLA, five MLC’s taking its total to 20 (excluding the Umashankar).
BBMP councillors and party leaders from the JD(S) and Congress said that the five disqualified former legislators control at least 20 corporators and are likely to side with the BJP. BBMP corporators cannot be disqualified for abstaining from voting and there is no mention of the word ‘whip’ in the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act 1976.