Parties slug it out to conquer Bengaluru

Parties slug it out to conquer Bengaluru

India's IT capital Bengaluru suddenly finds itself at the centre of all political muckraking.

With 28 Assembly constituencies, the Bengaluru Urban district is a key geography for political parties to shore up numbers on the floor of the House.

"The fact that Bengaluru accounts for more than 10% of the total seats makes it politically important," says political scientist Sandeep Shastri. "Irrespective of who has been in power in the last 25 years, Bengaluru has had high representation in the Council of Ministers."

The Siddaramaiah-led Congress government is claiming bragging rights over Bengaluru. It asserts that no other government allocated close to Rs 10,000 crore to give the city a facelift. When to feed the hungry, Siddaramaiah chose Bengaluru for setting up Indira Canteens, one of his flagship projects.

The Congress, however, was pushed to the wall over the episode involving Shantinagar legislator N A Haris' son, Mohammed Nalapad Haris, who was arrested for assaulting a diner. To add to this, one of its local leaders, Narayanaswamy, ran amok spilling petrol inside a BBMP office in KR Puram.

In 2016, the government faced people's wrath for its proposal to build a Rs 1,800-crore steel flyover. Also, the government has been pulled up by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) over its 'apathy' toward the Bellandur Lake, the city's largest waterbody.

Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president G Parameshwara admitted recently that the party would face a tough challenge in the urban landscape of Karnataka, mainly Bengaluru.

Arch-rival BJP, with its national president Amit Shah at the helm, is using the corruption plank to pin down the ruling party. The saffron party recently concluded the 'Bengaluru Rakshisi' (Save Bengaluru) padayatra in all Assembly segments to underline the city's 'misrule' by the Congress. The BJP's star campaigner is Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose popularity among urban voters the party is trying to leverage. Also, it has in its fold former chief minister S M Krishna (who was earlier with the Congress), who is credited with Bengaluru's transformation into an IT powerhouse.

Even the JD(S), which positions itself as a regional party with a negligible urban presence, came out with a separate manifesto for the city before the 2013 elections because 'problems of Bengaluru are different from the other areas of the state.'

However, the regional party suffered a setback with two of its city MLAs - B Z Zameer Ahmed Khan (Chamarajpet) and Akhanda Srinivas Murthy (Pulikeshinagar) - having joined the Congress.

In the last decade, Bengaluru grew at 44.6%, the highest for any city in the world. The 2011 census showed that out of every 10 people added to an urban area in Karnataka, Bengaluru accounted for 5.7.

"The challenge (for political parties) is what one does to manage the considerable growth of Bengaluru with its attendant pressure on quality of life," says urban evangelist V Ravichandar, who was also a member of an expert committee tasked with restructuring the city's civic administration.

In the 2013 elections, of the 28 Assembly seats in Bengaluru, the Congress won 13, the BJP bagged 12 and the JD(S) cornered three.

In a bid to win the hearts of Bengaluru voters, chief ministers have played all tricks to address the woes faced by the city. One can see a trend that has emerged over a period of time. In 1999, Congress' S M Krishna formed the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF).

In 2008, B S Yeddyurappa formed the Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development (ABIDe). In 2016, Siddaramaiah formed a Bengaluru Blue Print Action Group. All of them are defunct now.

 

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