I sat on a plastic chair at the party office, waiting for the MLA at the BJP’s temporary office during campaigning at Yelahanka New Town. In the portico outside, under the shamiana there were some party workers clad in the traditional white, friends of the MLA waiting for him, and a ubiquitous chai-wallah. When the MLA came, he was surrounded by a horde of workers, colleagues and well wishers. It looked like he had a busy schedule and I was doubtful of getting any questions answered. However, he was courteous, prompt and gave pertinent answers.
S R Vishwanath is a first time MLA from Yelahanka constituency. Vishwanath joined the RSS in 1978 and the BJP in 1991. In 2000, he won the Zilla Panchayat elections in Hesaraghatta. The 2008 elections saw him rise as the MLA of Yelahanka constituency. Click here to view his full profile.
Here are some excerpts from an interview with S R Vishwanath.
Yelahanka is mix of defence, rural, urban population. What type of problems do you face in such a constituency?
The main problem is shortage of drinking water. Of course in the rural areas, I have to mediate or solve many land litigation issues. Then there is lack of good roads in rural areas. For rural development, we don’t get many funds. As a ZP member, per annum one gets only 40 to 45 lakhs for development which isn’t much. Now the BJP government has increased it to 70 lakhs. Still there is a shortfall of funds. Of course in case of rural areas, the population is less and roads are longer whereas the city area has much more people in a much smaller area and hence gets more funds.
Which are the two key issues of your constituency? What are your plans for solving them?
As I said earlier, the main problem is water shortage. It is been calculated at in 2025, the area will need 50 TMC water. We now get 18 TMC of Cauvery water (which is including the Cauvery 4th stage release). So how do get the remaining 32 TMC of water Also the water table is decreasing due to increase in the number of bore wells. In view of all this a general consensus was reached through discussions between many NGOs, experts etc to revive the Arkavathi river. By linking the Arkavathi and Hemavati rivers and also through the restoration of many lakes that are presently dried up, underground water sources will rise in a few years. Do you know that there are 1240 lakes between here and TippaGondana Halli Magadi town .The starting point is Yelahanka kere.
Hesaraghatta Lake is dry…
That is because the sources of water to the lakes are being cut off. Our plan is to restore all of them. An expert committee had been initiated by Katta Subramanya Naidu and Ashok. A survey has started based on many factors like average rainfall andcosts of linking the rivers. Based on the committee’s suggestions, the project will start.
There has been a lot of flak on the Lake Development Authority…
That’s why the control has been transferred back to BBMP. We have NGOs and environment experts helping us in lake restoration. In case of Puttenahalli kere, for example, the work with start after the breeding season. The government has given grants for maintenance of the known lakes. For example the budget for cleaning the Puttenahalli kere lake bed and restoration is 13 crores.
What are the other key problems of the area?
Asphalting and Drainage. These have not been restored in the last five years. In the old town, which you know was built during the Kempegowda’s times, the drainage is not modern. There is no underground drainage system. Now a tender for 21 crores has been approved and the work has started. We are asphalting all the main roads and making them double roads. You can see for yourself the work going on in the area.
What other development works is being presently done?
Though the new town has many residences, there were no parks or playgrounds. The New town now has 51 parks. The rural belt has been here and like the parks so much that they want one too. We can create parks there too; however there is no budget for park maintenance in the rural area.
We have also started to build community halls for cultural programs – Kempegowda Bhavan, Ambedkar Bhavan and Stree Shakti Bhavan. A corporation swimming pool facility for the poor is also being built. Apart from this, street lights and bus shelters are all being constructed. A Multiplex will also come up in front of the Yelahanka police station
Does being in the ruling party help you in anyway?
Usually it helps. Easier to get funds and additional grants released. But it also depends on the candidate. When I was in Zilla Parishad, I was the only one from BJP in otherwise Congress governance. Still I could get a lot of work done.
Due to all the road widening works, many old trees are felled. Have you discussed the plans with citizen groups such as Hasiru Usiru or Bangalore Environment Trust (BET)?
Today no politician wants to cut down trees. We are emotionally bonded to them as we have grown up seeing these trees. However, with the ever increasing traffic, road widening is inevitable. Unfortunately, in our city, the only place to grow trees is by the road side. I mean we don’t have many lung spaces apart from Lalbagh and Cubbon Park. For every tree cut down, we will plant 10 saplings. So in that way, we can maintain the ecology.
Yelahanka old town is very crowded. There are no open spaces and houses have sprung up everywhere. So we have plans of growing trees around the Yelahanka kere. We’ll probably make a park like area. The plans are still in the making.
Except for some areas in old Bengaluru like Malleswaram, Gandhibazaar etc, the new areas lack good even made wide footpaths. What are your plans for Yelahanka?
Footpaths in Yelahanka are good. Usually uneven factor occurs when the trees’ roots grow under the cobbled area about which one can’t do anything.
Your views on heritage.
It’s true that the old town area is very old, built during Kempegowda’s time. But apart from some old temples, there are no other remnants of that era here. But about the heritage as a subject, I surely feel the government must take steps in preserving and maintaining them; improve the place and develop tourism.
What about private properties that are at least a century old but changes hands and turn into a commercial complex?
The private owners will ultimately sell it one day to make money. The government cannot do anything about that. To preserve such houses, it will have to pass a new law and also the courts might not uphold it. Only the heritage buildings under government property can be maintained and preserved.
Your views on youth in politics.
There should be more prominence of young in politics. Though they lack experience, they are very eager and work with a lot of enthusiasm. BJP won here mainly due to the young.
What are your goals for the next few years?
Until now the area used to be under Congress. Now it has elected BJP. I want to make Yelahanka a model area for all Bangaloreans.
Profile of S R Vishwanath
S R Vishwanath is a first time MLA from Yelahanka constituency. However, he says he is not new to the world of politics. He credits his father, K V Ramaiah, an agriculturist, as his motivation to enter politics. His father was a Congress loyalist and a close aide of Basavalingappa, the then Congress minister. However, he got disillusioned during the Emergency time and hence supported his son’s decision to join RSS.
Vishwanath joined the RSS as early as 1978. He took various roles and responsibilities in Taluk and Panchayat levels. His initiation into BJP happened in 1991. He joined BJP as its youth wing president. In 2000, he won the Zilla Panchayat elections in Hesaraghatta and the 2005 elections saw his wife, Vanishree, follow the same route. The 2008 elections saw him rise as the MLA of Yelahanka constituency.
His day starts at 6 with an hour of exercise and thotada kelasa (farming) followed by meeting the public til 10.30 AM at his home-cum-office at Singanayakanahalli, a rural hamlet, few kilometres from Yelahanka on the Doddaballapur road. Later in the day, he goes to the city to follow up and inspect projects and attend functions and go for inspection. When I questioned him about his hobbies, the party workers enthusiastically claimed that he was a brown belt in Karate. However, he shrugged off his accomplishment saying ‘adella aaga, eega bari kelsa madi mane seru aste’ (now it’s just work and family).
In 1985, Vishwanath worked as a flight control technician in HAL and later as HAL Union President and Chief Convenor. He nostalgically says, “Jaguars was introduced in our times” as he glances through ‘History of Aviation’ article published in Citizen Matters.
Vishwanath’s family consists of his wife, Vanishree and two children, a son and a daughter.
Meet the first time MLA of Yelahanka constituency, S R Vishwanath.