It is possibly for the first time that citizens of Bengaluru are getting an opportunity to interact with candidates closely, ahead of the council elections. Through various such sessions being organised across the city, citizens can make an informed choice on March 28th, when they vote for their Councillor.
Citizen Matters, along with residents welfare associations of BTM Layout, organised one such interaction for residents of Madiwala (Ward 172) and BTM Layout (Ward 176) to meet with the candidates of their wards. This debate-cum-discussion was held on March 21th at the AICOBOO Grounds in BTM 1st stage. The debate was held in Kannada.
On cleaning Madiwala lake
Devadas: If I’m elected, I’ll work on the lake
Rafiuddin: I invite all RWAs to join Civic Front and raise such issues
Muthappa: We’ll speak to officials and get it cleaned. I’ll see to it that people are not troubled
Reddy: Earlier, the lake was under Uttarahalli constituency. Now it’s under Bommanahalli. We’ll still make an effort
Babu: I’ll work on the parts of the lake that come under my ward
On the lack of a proper bus stand in BTM layout
Devadas: I know the residents have been protesting about this for a long time
Muthappa: The residents and I protested and we got it sanctioned. After elections we’ll do puja and get it ready
On water supply
Devadas: Development has increased but the same amount of water is being supplied
Babu: I’ll solve the water problem
On safety for cyclists
Devadas: my symbol is a bicycle. If I win, I’ll make sure there are more cycles on the road. Traffic will increase because of cycles!
On encroachment of footpaths and heavy vehicles plying on bylanes
Rafiuddin: Whether we win or lose, we will take up this issue of traffic
Devadas: An underpass was proposed near 16th main, but it was cancelled because water pipe lines are running near there
On garbage clearance
Rafiuddin: Through Civic Front, we’ll take this up
Devadas: Throughout Bangalore this problem exists
Reddy: All these years, if we had had a Corporator, this problem would not have been there. I will give importance to garbage clearance. I also appeal to the people not to litter
On public toilets in parks
Reddy: Three public toilets have been sanctioned recently. We’ll decide where to get it installed
Babu: The toilets have been sanctioned
On drag racing at 13th Main, BTM 1st stage
Reddy: This is a bad habit. We will inform the police
On a full-fledged post office
Muthappa: There are many places where we can construct one. We’ll get this done
Sadiq: Construction is happening on 7th Main. We’ll get this done
Rafiuddin: We’ll make sure this is completed
For residents present at the meeting, it was more of a grievance redressal session. Citizens spoke at length about their grievances, giving little room for candidates to complete responding to each of them. Their impatience and frustration was evident with Bangalore not having had a city council for about three years now.
From the BTM Layout (Ward 176) candidates, G N R Babu (Congress), H K Muthappa (BJP), Asgar Rafiuddin (Indian National League), K Devadas (Independent) and Mohammad Sadiq (Independent) were present. T Dayanand of the JD(S), and three independent candidates, K Venkatesh, M Nagaraj and P S Nagaraj were unable to make it to the event.
Among the Madiwala (Ward 172) candidates, only Manjunath Reddy of the Congress was present. BJP’s Gopal Reddy and JD(S) candidate Ramakrishna Reddy were unable to be present at the event.
The candidates themselves gave predictable answers to questions raised on basic amenities. All of them promised to look into each issue if elected to power. Residents, on their part, stuck to specific ward-related problems and did not raise any questions concerning the entire city or on matters related to policy.
However, it is unclear whether residents used this session to make an informed choice on who they should vote for this coming Sunday.
Residents complain about garbage, water, toilets and more
The major problems they complained about were irregular garbage clearance, no public toilets in parks and water supply.
Babu of Congress stated that three public toilets have been sanctioned and the same will be discussed with residents to decide on where these need to be constructed.
On BBMP not collecting garbage regularly, Reddy said that he will look into once he’s elected and also appealed to the residents not to litter on the streets. The water supply issue was similarly raised, with all candidates promising to fix the problem once elected.
Another major problem that the residents complained about was the state of Madiwala lake. Even as Devadas and Reddy said that the lake was not within BBMP limits till recently, they said they will look into cleaning up parts of the lake which come under their respective wards. BJP’s Muthappa said, "We’ll speak to the officials and get the lake cleaned. I’ll see to it that people are not troubled." Rafiuddin, representing the Indian National League and Civic Front (a citizens movement comprising several political parties and organisations), said that Civic Front has been formed for the citizens and will look into all issues concerning not just the ward but the entire city.
Another concern raised by some citizens was the lack of a proper bus stand in BTM Layout. Muthappa said that a bus stand has been sanctioned by Transport Minister R Ashoka which will be inaugurated after the elections. He said this was a result of protests held by residents of the area.
Residents fume over some candidates leaving debate mid-way
One resident of Madiwala, Natarajan Iyer complained about the presence of rowdy elements in the area. Reddy responded to this saying he is aware of this problem and requested the residents to bring it to his notice next time round. He also promised to look into the matter of drag racing that was reported from 13th Main Road in BTM 1st stage, and complain to the police.
There was a brief interruption during the debate when Congress’s Reddy and Babu, and Devadas had to leave mid-way. At the same time, the power line to the venue tripped and the audio system went out. There was a minor commotion with people thinking the debate had ended, even as three candidates remained on state to continue answering questions. Several announcements were made and power was restored 10 minutes later.
Angry residents condemned the three candidates for leaving without responding to all questions raised by them. However, while accepting invitations by Citizen Matters to the debate, Manjunath Reddy had requested to be excused early (6pm instead of 7pm) due to a hectic canvassing agenda. Babu and Devdas had confirmed their attendance itself at the very last minute and also left early indicating they had to leave for canvassing.
"Will you work for your party or the public?"
Moving away from ward-specific questions, Citizen Matters questioned the candidates on issues pertaining to the entire city, one such being that of road widening.
Rafiuddin of Civic Front said road widening is important for Bangalore but compensation needs to be given as per market value. He said he will fight for this along with residents irrespective of winning or losing in these elections. Independent candidate Sadiq said a representation can be made to Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa on this matter.
On a question about the medium of instruction in Corporation schools, Muthappa said that both English and Kannada should be taught. Rafiuddin said that both languages need to be taught but more importantly it’s the quality of education and the condition of these schools that matter.
In conclusion, a resident pointedly asked party candidates on whether they’ll tow their party line or work for the public once elected, to which BJP’s Muthappa said, "I lost in 2001. I worked after that, not just from my party. It’s all just for the public. Parties are there only for meetings." Rafiuddin also responded saying that the Civic Front was formed not in light of the elections but to work for the city.