As the eighth woman to become Bengaluru’s Mayor, Gangambike Mallikarjun has had an eventful tenure since she took charge in September 2018. She prioritised ward committee meetings much to the pleasure of those who had been fighting for it for years, weathered the political turmoil at Vidhana Soudha, and even sheepishly coughed up fines (twice) for using plastic bags.
With less than a week left for her to step down from office, she sat down for a chat with Citizens’ Live, to talk about all she could accomplish in her tenure and couldn’t accomplish.
Her major achievement that made headlines, was the push for ward committee meetings. The demand was around for years, and even the High Court had stepped in to tell the BBMP it needed to initiate the meetings.
Last November the then-BBMP Commissioner, at the behest of the Mayor, issued a directive making ward committee meetings mandatory on the first Saturday of every month.
“This was a dream of mine. When I contested my first election in 2010, a common sentiment among voters was that we appeared only to ask for votes and after we got elected they had no idea how to get in touch with us. Ward committee meetings have now become a bridge between the BBMP and the people. But a personal reason for me to push this was that I no longer wanted to carry the charge that we, as corporators, were inaccessible,” Gangambike said.
Though the success with ward committee meetings marked a high for the Mayor, once the BJP took over state government, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa announced an investigation into the controversial project of white-topping roads. Several private citizens had even filed PILs against white-topping.
Yediyurappa’s move was seen by many as state government’s interference in local governance. The mayor however side-stepped controversy, and said, “The money for the project is coming from state government. If they think costs have been inflated, I welcome the move to investigate it. If any officer is found guilty, action should be taken against him.”
Moving on to other governance matters, Gangambike, in response to a question sent in by our reader, said that BBMP was taking steps to equip its personnel with technological expertise. “We have the Sahaya app, and yes, our employees have to be trained in these things, which we are doing. Our head office has a wing for this. In the next one month, we should be able to set the ball rolling.”
A controversial decision during her tenure was on the delimitation of wards. So the question remained – how will delimiting the wards based on 2011 census while maintaining the same number of wards, help in better administration of Bengaluru? And how did corporators react to the decision on delimitation?
“I am in agreement with the aim of delimitation. But some of the councillors are not really happy because it effectively will rearrange their wards – the areas where they have done a lot of work will now be part of someone else’s ward. With the elections coming up next year, it hasn’t been welcomed by all.”
The Mayor was also quite vociferous about the short tenure of people who hold this office. “As a woman, there were many schemes I wanted to implement for the betterment of women, but have not been able to complete these. It takes us a month to understand the processes and ongoings of the office, and by the time you settle in, it is time for you to go.”
She said that a Mayor-in-Council was a good idea. “If we can’t have a mayor for five years, at least have two mayors in the five-year tenure so that we can do everything we planned,” she said as she signed off.