A model global metro?

Yeddyurappas promise

The Yeddyurappa government has every reason to be happy with the final outcome of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) elections. Considering that it was most reluctant to hold these polls fearing a voter backlash over its lacklustre performance and ‘quarrelsome’ image, the absolute majority the BJP gained to capture power for the first time in the metropolitan city in five decades, has come as a morale booster to the party.
The Congress, on the other hand, has suffered its third successive defeat after losing the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls in May 2008. The party leadership has to do serious introspection on how it is losing ground so rapidly across the state. While it has completely surrendered the Karnataka hinterland to the BJP, with its traditional supporters deserting the party in droves, the poor performance in Bangalore city indicates that even the urbanites now don’t trust them.

The symptoms clearly show that the Congress is in terminal illness and needs a new crop of leaders with better image and fresh ideas to begin a revival process.

Several factors seem to have combined to give the BJP a resounding victory in the corporation elections. Being the ruling party in the state and having as many as 17 MLAs representing the city obviously helped, but more than anything, it was the coordinated efforts of young leaders like R Ashoka, Suresh Kumar and Katta Subramanya Naidu which seemed to have paid rich dividends to the party.

But a closer examination of the polls reveals some disturbing trends. Despite high-voltage, door-to-door campaigning and the interests shown by residents associations to mobilise voters, the polling was an abysmally low 44 per cent. That was the average for the entire BBMP and in many areas, the voting was less than 30 per cent. It meant that in the first-past-the-post election, even someone who got less than 5,000 votes was a winner.

Shocked at the low voter turnout, chief minister Yeddyurappa has mooted the idea of
compulsory voting, but it may not be practicable to implement it. Instead, Yeddyurappa and the leaders of other parties should consider putting up candidates with better credentials and image, well-known citizens with honesty and integrity, rather than the general bunch of rascals whose sole motive to get elected is to make money.

Despite having poor candidates to choose from — a majority of them semi-literates — the people who voted have apparently made an intelligent choice. As the BJP controls the levers of power and the funds at least for the next three years, the citizens have given a clear mandate to the same party so that development works go on unhindered. A Congress or Congress-JD(S) dominated Council would have been at loggerheads with the BJP, serving no purpose other than play of politics.

Power and water

The BJP will now have to live up to the people’s expectations and begin to tackle the city’s endemic problems in a systematic manner. The power supply and drinking water are major areas of concern. How can Yeddyurappa realise his dream of making Bangalore a ‘model global metro’ as he has announced, unless these problems are tackled expeditiously in a time-bound manner?

Water is scarce in many outlying areas which have recently been brought within the BBMP ambit and with the Cauvery as a source nearly exhausted through over-exploitation, what does the government plan to do to quench the city’s thirst?

One possible solution could be to take up rejuvenation of the city’s lakes more seriously, award stringent punishment to the polluters who are mostly apartment builders and ensure that these water bodies regain their former role as sources of usable water. The rainwater harvesting should be taken up on a mission mode so that it not only helps recharging of underground water, but will be available for all non-potable requirements.
The government will have to revisit its akrama-sakrama scheme of regularisation of illegal constructions which is hanging fire for a long time. There should not be any compromise with the planned development of the city, especially the buildings that have come up on drainages and rainwater channels to prevent flooding during monsoons.

The city’s garbage clearing and disposal remains far from satisfactory. The government should ruthlessly eliminate the garbage mafias that have been ruling the roost, entrust the work to professional bodies of international standards that will bring in modern equipment for collection, transportation and disposal of garbage.

The chief minister’s promise to bring in a new Governance Act to introduce transparency and accountability in the functioning of the BBMP is most welcome and one hopes that the government will take the initiative at the earliest.

There is also need to involve the citizen’s associations and other forums in decision-making, monitoring and implementation of development works so that bureaucratic bungling and corruption can be minimised. A classic example of the officials’ arrogance and non-accountability is the project taken up at the Tagore circle in Basavanagudi, which was vehemently opposed by the local people and perhaps the result of a gigantic scam. Can we expect a more responsive and responsible administration with the elected representatives in place? We shall wait and see.

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