Bangalore: Opposition Congress in Karnataka put up a sterling performance in the elections to urban local bodies as political heavyweight BS Yeddyurappa played spoilsport to ruling BJP but made no big independent electoral impact ahead of assembly polls just two months away.
Congress won 1,960 wards as against 906 each secured by BJP and JD(S) of former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda in the March seven poll counting of votes for which was taken up on Monday.
The polls in urban pockets of the state were seen as a "semi-final", coming as it does in the run up to assembly elections due by May.
The Karnataka Janatha Paksha of former Chief Minister Yeddyurappa, who quit BJP in November last made its electoral debut securing 274 wards.
The former BJP strongman dented the ruling party`s prospects but failed to make much impact statewide on its own, exemplified by his party`s performance in his home district of Shimoga where KJP could secure only 34 wards out of 176 with Congress bagging 64, JD(S) 40 and BJP 24.
The BSR Congress of former Minister B Sriramulu, who had also broken away from BJP and tested the political waters, won 86 wards, eating into latter`s votes.
Independents made it big, winning 776 wards and are all set to play a key part in formation of urban local bodies where the elections have thrown up fractured verdict.
Elections were announced to 208 urban local bodies (4976 wards) -- seven city corporations, 43 city municipal corporations, 66 town municipal councils and 92 town panchyats.
Congress won the city corporations of Davanagere, Mangalore and Bellary. BJP was routed in Bellary, where the mining barons Reddy brothers, had a stranglehold, drawing a blank. Mysore and Gulbarga city corporation elections were marked by a fractured mandate, with Congress emerging as the single largest party.
The only saving grace for BJP was from Hubli-Dharwad city corporation, the home town of Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, where the party bagged 33 wards of a total of 67 but is not in a position to come to power on its own.
Candidates had won in 85 wards unopposed while there was no nomination in one ward in Chikkaballapur city municipal council.
"It`s a warning bell to all political parties", Shettar said in his reaction. "There was illusion in some quarters that BJP will be wiped out. It has not happened. BJP is intact".
Noting that a large number of independents have won, he said this showed that local issues weighed heavily on the minds of voters, Shettar added.
Congress saw the outcome as a "clear mandate" in its favour and a precursor to the coming elections. "It`s clear that people are yearning for change", President of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, G Parameshwara said.
JD(S) state unit President H D Kumarswamy said the party would debate on the reasons why it fell short of 300-400 wards it had expected to win and take corrective action for the assembly polls.
In the last elections to urban local bodies in 2007, out of the total 5,007 wards, Congress had come first winning 1606, followed by JD(S) 1502 and BJP 1180.