Being a Public Policy student from Mount Carmel College and currently working as an intern in Co Media Lab, I got an assignment of talking to a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), to understand how MLAs manage their expenses. I chose to talk to Priya Krishna, the MLA from Govindrajanagar constituency. He has been holding this position since 2009, re-elected in 2013 elections.
I assumed that an MLA, being a public figure, needs to give an appointment to meet him. Last week of April went in vain, as I was trying to reach Priya Krishna’s Personal Assistant (PA), one Mr. Kiran for the appointment. Finally on May 1st, 2017 Kiran finally fixed an appointment and guided me as to how to reach the place.
The next day, early morning, as I was excited to meet the MLA for the first time, I reached his home much before the scheduled time, at about 8.30 am. Banners and cutouts were plastered everywhere in front of his house.
Pile of footwears and hot breakfast
As I started walking towards the house, I happened to see the pile of footwears outside—I realised that I was not the only one to enter the house but there were 100’s of people already inside for help. I removed my footwear and walked inside.
In the office, I informed a person about the appointment I had taken from Mr. Kiran. The gentleman immediately told me: “Kiran avrige call maadi mathe, bandidira anta” (call Kiran and say that you have come).
I called him, but the call went unanswered. I then waited patiently in a room, where I was asked to sit. While I waited, I started looking around. There were many people who came there with their grievances. A woman, with her daughter, had visited MLA’s office to get some medical reimbursement.
Krishnappa, the Vijayanagara MLA and the current Minister for Housing, seemed to be working out of the same office. There were many unopened gifts lying on Krishnappa’s table, covered with dust. As I was sitting there watching, a few party workers garlanded Krishnappa. He soon left for some urgent meeting in Vidhan Soudha.
In another corner, the kitchen was busy boiling litres of milk and preparing food for everyone. Hot breakfast was served to each and everyone who was present in the building. A full plate lemon rice with chutney reached me as well, but I had to say no to it, as I had already had my breakfast.
I was sitting for almost an hour now. Finally the MLA, Priya Krishna reached there, to speak to the public. An officer asked me to go and stand in the crowd to meet him. But I had a detailed questionnaire ready, which I wasn’t sure whether the MLA would be comfortable answering in public.
After some time I went to the MLA after few minutes and introduced myself. He asked me to sit and wait for a few minutes. That was a relief!
After 30 or 45 minutes, the MLA was still not to be seen. But a heavy voice asked me: “Yaarana meet madbekamma?” (Whom do you want to meet?) I told that I want to meet the MLA. He asked: “Chikkavranna illa doddarvana?” (Younger or elder one?). When I said I wanted to meet the younger one, he informed that the MLA was leaving, and asked me to rush to meet him.
When the long wait finally pays off
So was I going to miss meeting him after waiting for two hours? I wasn’t ready for that. I rushed outside immediately with my notebook and pen. Luckily he was there, and I had to almost walk along with him among the crowd so that he doesn’t go away without talking to me. I walked with him for next 20 minutes inside the house, which was crazy.
Finally Priya Krishna offered me a chair in another corner of the house and asked me to wait there again. I thought this is not going to work, as he again walked away from me with the crowd. I waited patiently without any option.
I was expecting him to come back and talk to me as I showed up twice saying I am here to talk to you. To my surprise, after 10 minutes he came to me, with the crowd again, and patiently answered my questions.
But somewhere I sensed that he was not open and honest enough enough while he was talking to me. Finally, I politely thanked him for his time and walked out.
I went to MLA’s office again on May 3rd, 2017. This time I knew the house, so I walked in directly without appointment. He was there with the crowd again. Today, I learnt that being a female it is much easier to meet MLA as the crowd gives you way and in no time one can meet the MLA. For breakfast, it was hot pongal. Public with their issues were crowding, and I witnessed one more busy day for Mr. MLA. I took a few pictures from the scene.
Answers that weren’t really answers
What did I learn from him? Our conversation went like this:
1) Sir, can I know your full name?
2) What is your educational background?
I have done my post graduation in M.A llb.
3) Since when you have been holding this position?
From 2009 till date.
4) Prior to this where have you worked?
This is my first job as MLA. I have not worked anywhere before. (He replied with a smile).
Then there was some interruption. Party workers had come to meet him.
5) What are your major responsibilities as MLA?
Day in and out I work for public welfare and do social service.
6) How comfortable you are working here?
I have no issues. I am very much comfortable working here and I enjoy my daily routine.
7) How much honorarium you are receiving now?
I get sufficient amount of honorarium.
8) Is it enough for the work that you deliver? If not, then how do you manage your expenses?
I somehow manage my expenses and donate my entire salary to poor and hospitals.
Interruption: People crowding behind MLA impatiently started passing some papers to get his signature. I waited for a few minutes.
9) Do you believe that the honorarium should be increased? Why? By how much?
No, it is sufficient enough.
10) What are the privileges you receive being a MLA? Example, do you get phone, electricity bill refund, petrol for you car; etc.?
I don’t get any special privileges. I manage with my expenses.
After meeting the MLA, a few questions still remain in me. How is he managing the expenses like cafeteria arrangement for such huge crowd, that too on a daily basis? And the maintenance of his own party workers, who are not government servants! He even claimed that he donates all his income to hospitals and medical expenses to the needy and poor – so, through what source he is taking care of other public needs?
I know that he is the richest and youngest MLA in the city, but does he spend his personal money on the social and political work? How else does he manage? I guess these will remain unanswered for now.
Written by Lakshmi Raghavan, a student of Public Policy from Mount Carmel College, who interned in Co-media Lab / Citizen Matters.