“As an MLA, I have to wear many hats”

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I thought it would be a very daunting task to seek an interview with Narendra Babu, three times MLA, Congress, from Rajajinagar, and currently the MLA from the newly carved constituency, Mahalakshmi Layout. So when I called on his mobile, his friendly response and immediate ‘yes’ shattered the myth of hard-to-get politicians.

Narendra Babu

Narendra Babu (left) speaking to citizens (Pic courtesy: Narendra Babu)

His residence-cum-office turned out to be a laid back middle class home with his office on the first floor. A tulsi plant and a few other flowering shrubs completed the picture. The office itself was a simple hall with a couple of computers. Books on many subjects from philosophy to basic science lined the shelves on one side of the office. An admirer of Swami Vivekananda, the shelves have many well-thumbed books on Vivekananda’s teachings. His staff revealed that he doesn’t encourage ‘adambara‘ (pageantry) – no huge garlands or multiple hangers-on that are typical of a politician’s imagery. The person himself was casually attired in simple T-shirt and trousers.

NL Narendra Babu is from a middle class background. He has a B.Sc. degree from MES College, Malleswaram. During college, he was drawn towards theatre and classical dance.

His initiation into politics and theatre happened at the same time. He recalls the chance meeting with Devaraj Urs during a factory opening. Later, during his BSc (1981), he joined the NSUI (National Students Union of India) and later the Congress.

Click here for the complete profile.

Here are some excerpts from this free-wheeling interview with Narendra Babu.

Can you give us some details about your experiences as corporator of Nagapura?

During my time as the chairman of the taxation finance committee of the city corporation, we started a 22 point programme for the city development that included schemes such as Janodyan van, Kere Siri, Halli Kalyana, Makkala Mamathe, Neeru, Sooru et cetera.

During my time the self assessment scheme for property was also introduced. We also launched Arthika Darpana, a revolutionary programme that addressed both Transparency Act and Right to Information. It is a platform where the elected representatives and the public can discuss how the taxpayers’ money is spent on various programmes in their respective wards. Before the budget allocation we held discussions with MLAs, corporators and the common public on various schemes and proposals. It’s another thing that for this budget, no MLA was consulted.

Janodyan van is a programme for park development in each ward and Kere Siri is a programme for development and upkeep of the lakes in the area. Halli Kalyana is for the development of urban villages like the Kethamaranahalli and Kanakanapalya. Sooru is a small programme to replace the thatched roofs with asbestos sheets. You know a lot of fire accidents occur in the thatched huts during summer because of the heat. Around 500 homes have benefited from this programme. Another programme called Sumarga dealt with infrastructure development.

You have been corporator thrice and MLA twice. How different are the two roles?

If as a corporator I have gained much experience on civic problems and issues, as an MLA I have to wear many hats – pourakarmika, revenue inspector, policeman. I can’t expect people to segregate their issues as that of a corporator or MLA or MP. Whether its kerosene shortage or railway problems or street lights, they come to me. So you see the spectrum of governance is much wider as an MLA.

What are some key issues that you want to solve as an MLA?

Infrastructure development. However, you see, when you stand on the floor of the house, there’s a lot of responsibility. One cannot think of only one subject as you have to face many issues ranging from unemployment, women and child welfare, environmental problems et cetera.

So how do you tackle all these issues at the same time?

We have established a task force for all round development in the constituency. For example, we have an education task force, youth development task force, environmental task force, infrastructure task force, so on and so forth.

Are they based on BATF (Bangalore Agenda Task Force) model?

On a broad level, yes. But they are also different as it’s for only this constituency.

Narendra Babu

Pic courtesy: Narendra Babu

Can you detail some key implementations of these task forces?

We need to enrich and empower the youth. They need training and guidance towards the career of their choice. Every young man can add value to society, whether he’s passed only 7th standard or SSLC or is physically handicapped. So I started the state’s first Udyoga Mela in 2007. Our range is from sweeper to software. The experiment drew more than a 100 MNCs, government departments, NGOs and training institutes. There was over 5000 people turnout for the programme. More than 250 were hired on the spot and 1000 were employed within a short span of six months. I’ve also initiated many cultural programmes for the young – Talents of Rajajinagar, Rajajinagar Habba and recently Janapada Jatre.

I have also improved all the government and corporation schools of my area. All the schools have drinking water, sanitary and toilet facilities. We have also upgraded the furniture of the schools and are trying to improve the teaching techniques. Did you know the government school in Mahalakshmi Layout ran in a rented building for the last forty years? Fortunately we were provided the necessary funds and the BDA provided the land. Now construction is on at full swing for our own premises.

One project that caught my attention was the initiative regarding birds. Mr Babu, many MLAs’ pet issues are usually related to food or fuel as this will affect the public directly and hence get more votes. How did you take up this ecological initiative?

Banadigale Bengalurige marali banni‘ (Bring back the birds to Bangalore) is one of my pet projects. Someone has to protect those who don’t have a voice. When have you last spotted a sparrow in Rajajinagar? Malleswaram once had 30% green cover, now it’s reduced considerably. In Rajajinagar, the green cover has reduced from 25% to 8%. Bangalore was once known as Garden city. Now due to lack of nesting places and water, many species (of birds) have disappeared from the city. That’s why I have started this project. There are many trees like ‘Athi mara’, ‘Arali’, ‘Bevu’ and ‘Bilwa’ which attract many species. Our project is to raise such trees, create a pakshi dhama in every park and organise neighbourhood committees (green police) to maintain the ecological balance.

Speaking of green cover, there has been a lot of trees cut down for road widening in the city. Your views.

Yes. While widening roads, there should also be sufficient lung space. The Indian Road Congress standard for footpaths is 15-20 feet, like the footpaths of Mysore. Cutting trees is not a solution. We have seen Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’. We all know the effects of global warming.

The ongoing Metro work will displace many small traders in Rajajinagar. Your views.

While providing a mass transit system is good, the entire project should have gone underground. Because of Metro, many residents and local traders are affected. It’s very difficult to run a business. Do you think it’s easy for traders to just shift the business and hence the customers base which they have built over years?

What are your other achievements in the last one year?

Only a sound body can produce a sound mind. Two stadia were improved in my constituency. The first is the football stadium in Mahalakshmi Layout completed at a cost of 25 lakhs. The other is Ram Mandir playground with a youth centre. Twenty one lakhs rupees have been allotted for improvisation and work has to be started. Also the playground behind Nandhini theatre has been used to develop an international standard skating ring. A plan to convert this land to an indoor stadium and youth centre has been approved. Road asphalting, road connectivity (Sneha Setuve), park development, restoring Kurubarahalli tank bed are some of the others I am happy about. Some issues that I’m still not happy about are the BPL (Below Poverty Line) cards process and the water shortage problems. The water supply office keeps on adding consumers without making any provisions on its sources. Imagine the chaos if TG Halli tank bed goes dry!

How do you think the city should tackle the water scarcity that occurs every summer?

My request to every citizen is – conserve water, don’t waste it. The water table in Bangalore has gone down by 600-700 feet. Adapt rain water harvesting, use solar energy. The lights in the park near Nandhini theatre (Mahalakshmi Layout) use solar energy. We all should do more.

Changing topics, every party is now looking at the youth. What are your views on youngsters joining politics?

Why not? We want youngsters in cricket, films, so why not in politics? Sixty five per cent of India is below 40. Rajiv Gandhi wanted the youth’s voice to be heard – so he reduced the minimum age for voting from 21 to 18. At 26, when I wanted to stand as a corporator, I was denied a ticket stating that I was too young! Having said that, I also recommend that proper training has to be given. One should not become an MLA by accident or luck. To become a lawyer, one has to pass bar exams, work under an advocate and understand all the groundwork. It’s the same with politics.

Profile of NL Narendra Babu:

NL Narendra Babu is from a middle class background. He has a B.Sc. degree from MES College, Malleswaram. During college, he was drawn towards theatre and classical dance. His college friends recall the days they used to get together to practice for theatre. His first foray into films was through Nagabharana’s ‘Ravana Rajya’ where depicts the role of an ‘angry young man’. But he became a household name through the popular TV soaps like ‘Sihi Kahi’ and ‘Krishna nee begane baro’ on the small screen. In the latter, he displayed his dancing talent. Even today, active in politics he still makes time for acting. Till date he’s acted in 60 television serials and 5-6 films.

His initiation into politics and theatre happened at the same time. He recalls the chance meeting with Devaraj Urs during a factory opening. Later, during his BSc (1981), he joined the NSUI (National Students Union of India) and later the Congress.

Babu reveals that he initially wanted to join the civil service. “I actually wanted to join the IAS cadre but could not make it,” he said, adding that he has always been inclined towards public service. He says that to run a democracy, “we need the three arms – Karyanga (Bureaucracy), Nyayanga (Judiciary) and Shasakanga (Legislature).” He believes the legislative platform gives him an opportunity to address many problems collectively.

Website: http://narendrababu.com

Office:
No.904, 9th A Cross, II Stage,
WC Road, Near Modi Hospital,
Bangalore-560086
Mobile No. 9845186673

Babu appears very approachable. He meets his constituents at his office every Monday and Thursday. The other days are scheduled for field visits. He’s also one of the few MLAs who have an active website. He claims that his website receives around one lakh hits per annum. However, he adds that people prefer to talk to him over the phone or meet him in person at his office.

Babu has served as a corporator of Rajajinagar Wards for three terms starting from 1990. He won the 2004 MLA elections for Rajajinagar constituency and again retained his post in the newly carved Mahalakshmi Layout constituency (parts of Rajajinagar, Yeshwantpur et cetera) in 2008.

About Poornima Dasharathi 46 Articles
Poornima is our correspondent for Heritage & Features. She also runs a heritage and culture themed travel outfit called Unhurried.

1 Comment

  1. My locality was included in the Mahalakshmi Layout constituency during the last elections and it was the best thing to happen. Best part about Narendra Babu is that most of us in the area have his contact number and he picks the phone himself. And the next best part is – he seems to have the cell numbers of most of the civic agency officials at his fingertips – without thinking for a sec, he gives out the contact numbers!

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