Politicians own at least 40 per cent hoardings in City

Politicians own at least 40 per cent hoardings in City

Politicians own at least 40 per cent hoardings in City

The advertisement scam in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) went unnoticed because of a bureaucrat-politician-advertiser mafia.

It has emerged only now that nearly 40 per cent of hoardings in Bengaluru belong to politicians of all parties or their followers, several advertisers admit in private. Lokayukta officials concur but suspect the percentage is more than 40.

“They are either benami (held in others’ names) or plain illegal and unauthorised,” a senior functionary in the Lokayukta, who didn’t wish to be named, told Deccan Herald. “It’s a challenge to find when and where these hoardings were erected?”

One advertiser even claimed that a majority of the politicians are from the ruling Congress party while leaders from the opposition BJP and the JD(S), too, have similar interests. Besides sitting corporators and legislators, former elected representatives also have their share of pie in the thriving business, he said. According to an estimate by the Lokayukta, a hoarding in a prime locality will fetch a rent of at least Rs one lakh per month and sometimes up to Rs 5 lakh depending on the demand and the company’s profile. Besides the profit from the display of advertisements, illegal advertisers save on land rent and BBMP tax. “We pay up to Rs three lakh a year as tax to the BBMP besides land rent to property owners. In the end, people with illegal hoardings walk away with profit while we with all legal sanctions are made to suffer even after paying tax,” said Manmohan Singh, secretary, Bangalore Outdoor Advertisers.

Rahman Khan relative
A source said that Pro Ads and Signs, a firm run by a relative of former Union minister and Rajya Sabha member K Rahman Khan, had “illegal and unauthorised” hoardings all over Bengaluru, even on drains. A few hoardings at Mantri Square Mall, near Gymkhana Club in Cooke Town and close to the new JD(S) office on Platform Road said to belong to this company.

The firm is accused of not only erecting over-sized hoardings without permission but also using fake stay orders to “avoid action from the BBMP”.  Once an advertiser gets stay orders, the BBMP refrains from acting and doesn’t even bother to check whether the stay order is genuine.

When contacted, Khan said he had nothing to do with illegal hoardings. “He could be a relative of mine, but I never encouraged any illegality. Let the government take action,” he said.

Vatal’s family
In another instance, the BBMP has been more than generous in allotting its land free to former MLA Vatal Nagaraj to erect 12 hoardings in prime localities like Trinity Church junction, MG Road, near Orion Mall in Rajajinagar and opposite The Forum mall in Koramangala. The allotment was made by then commissioner M Lakshminarayana. He sanctioned seven hoardings on BBMP property for Vatal’s family firm by using his discretionary powers under section 176 of the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act.

Even a senior minister’s supporter in Bengaluru is said to be involved in pole advertisements on footpaths and central medians, which are banned.

The quid pro quo
Besides those directly involved in the hoarding business, some politicians act as “protectors” to illegal advertisers. Politicians ask illegal advertisers to put their photographs for free during festivals, New Year, on their birthdays or when senior party functionaries visit the City. In turn, they protect the interests of these illegal advertisers, according to officials and advertisers.