Mystery of Independents in Belagavi local body polls-90% of the seats won by Independent candidates


Published: 04/09/2018



In five of the 14 urban local bodies (ULBs) in the district, Independent candidates have won either all or 90% of the seats, leaving observers puzzled over the condition of national and regional parties in these towns.

Not a single nominee of the Congress, the BJP or the JD(S) won in Khanapur, Chikkodi, Kannur, Gokak, and Nippani. Independents won in numbers large enough to affect the balance of power in Raybag and Sadalga towns.

Interestingly, both the Congress and the BJP have claimed that these Independents belong to them.

All the 20 seats in Khanapur and the 23 seats each in Kannur and Chikkodi were won by Independents. In Gokak, Independents took 30 of the 31 seats, with the BJP winning the lone seat left. In Nippani, 18 out of 31 seat winners were Independents, while the BJP won 13 wards. In Raybag, eight of the 19 seats went to Independents, and in Sadalga, voters favoured eight Independents, 13 BJP candidates, and two JD(S) candidates.

Leaders in various taluks claimed they had won. In Gokak, Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi was quick to say that the Independents were supported by the Congress. In Chikkodi, Mahantesh Kavatagimath, MLC belonging to the BJP, claimed victory. In Khanapur, local Congress leaders and Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) leaders claimed they had decimated their opponents by getting their own Independents elected.

Political observers say this phenomenon is neither new nor obscure. This has been the trend in Belagavi politics for decades, according to Sujit Mulgund, an activist. He said MLAs avoid discontent among their followers and party workers by not giving them party tickets. They make sure all the aspiring candidates fight as Independents. With this, they can claim that all the winners are their supporters while also sending a message that their individual leadership was more important than party affiliation.

For decades, the MES has been doing this, said Ashok Chandaragi, convener of an action committee of Kannada groups. The MES has been fielding candidates as Independents as it has no fixed symbol because it is a registered party and not a recognised one. To counter this, Kannada and Urdu groups started fielding candidates in a non-political fight in Belagavi City Corporation.