Dinesh Gundu Rao (Congress) was first given an MLA ticket in 1999. He won from the Gandhinagar constituency and has won for three times now from the same constituency.
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Rao did his schooling from Bishop Cottons in Bangalore. He graduated in Electronics and Communication from BMS College of Engineering in 1992. He ran a computer training centre with a few others for some time after graduation while simultaneously participating in Congress party activities.
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I called Rao on his mobile. He asked me to come to his office where I landed the next morning with directions from the passersby in the neighbourhood who were very familiar with his office in Sheshadripuram.
Party workers, staff and citizens were waiting to meet the MLA and I join the queue. I was handed a sleek brochure his office has brought out. It talked of Dinesh Gundu Rao’s various initiatives and even mentions the amount spent on each initiative. Here are some excerpts from the interview with Dinesh Gundu Rao.
You have a degree in Engineering, so how and why did you join politics?
I was part of the Congress party and participated in its activities since the time my father was a politician. When my father suddenly passed away, at age 53, due to cancer, party members and others who had seen me work until then, felt that I should join politics. Perhaps to carry forward the legacy my father had left behind. I had actually never intended to join politics. I wanted to go to the US and study further and had even written my GRE. Before joining politics full-time, I had spent six years working for the Congress Party, as a youth congress worker and campaigning for others. I had liked it then and I do like being in politics very much now.
What motivates you?
Meeting a lot of people is very paying. I get to interact with people from different fields and that is itself very satisfying. I cherish being able to help others and enjoy problem-solving. Solving a problem leaves me with a feeling of wanting to do more and inspires me and I get caught in the ‘process’.
Do you think being educated makes a difference in solving people’s problems?
Yes. It definitely makes a difference. Look at the exposure you get if you are educated. You get so many different perspectives on just one issue. You can find out how the same problems are handled in the west and a whole world is open to you if you are educated. I think it changes the very way you work, your attitude towards it
What is your work schedule?
I have two offices, one in Chickpet and another in Sheshadripuram. I visit the Chickpet office on Wednesdays. It helps me administer better from the two different offices. I visit my office everyday and occasionally also handle issues from home, but my home is too far for people to access and so I prefer the office. I meet citizens directly to address their problems and also meet party members who help in bringing problems to my notice. I am in office all day, unless on an area visit or am attending meetings. I make sure I go on area visits once to twice in a week and spend about three to four hours in a single day surveying the area. Arranging grievance meetings are also part of how I reach out to the people of my constituency.
What is specific about your constituency?
Gandhinagar constituency consists of what is an old area. It is centrally located as well and Chickpet is a newly added area to my constituency, hence the additional office. Communal harmony I think is an issue that is something very specific to my constituency. We have a large number of Tamil-speaking people and I take care to keep linguistic antagonism down between communities speaking Tamil and Kannada.
What is your mode of functioning?
People can get in touch with me through the phone numbers made available. My PAs are available easily as well. I have hired two extra staff members for each of my offices and I pay them from my pocket so that I can be efficient. My working style is informal and I am helped by many of the congress party’s volunteers.
Grievance meetings are announced (using loudspeakers fitted in) auto-rickshaws and that is also how I attend to my people. Unfortunately it is the same set of people or party members who take interest in issues that need solving. People of not just of the Congress party, but others too meet me with regard to the problems faced.
How do you go about solving a problem?
I work informally and I think it works better that way. I contact the concerned department and do the needful. And then follow it up with the concerned officials until the problem is solved. For bigger problems, I make a representation with higher authorities or ask for funds.
Tell us about some of your initiatives so far.
With no corporate counselors anymore, the public seeks our help with regard to almost everything; from Garbage, Cleaning and Sewage to Water. In the past year, I have focused on: Education, Indoor Stadiums, Water, Roads, Sanitary and Khata Certificates for slum-dwellers.
I constantly interact with teachers in the schools of my constituency to improve the quality of education and motivate them towards a better performance. I review the results and the pass percentage each year and examine students closely on a monthly basis ort through teachers in order to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. For e.g. why a student who is good in all subjects fails in Mathematics, I look into it and do the needful. A 100% pass percentage in all schools is my aim.
The metro has displaced some slum-dwellers in my constituency and I have supervised building houses for them in Svatantra playa and Jakran Kere. I have delivered Khata certificates for the poor who had lived in houses for a long period of time, sometimes for over fifty years, at the meager cost of rupees two thousand.
Have you been innovative with any of the initiatives?
Six months back, I held meetings with the Education Department with regard to Edusat. The aim is to bring at least one TV to every school so that they can benefit from the programmes aired through the Edusat initiative.
And then, I converted a Corporation Building into a school that gave CBSE quality education to poor children with the help of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. The building is under construction and the project will take off soon. Nehru circle underpass and Anand Rao circle flyover along with the Freedom Park are some of the other things achieved.
What are the key problems you face?
Funds were a problem in the first one and half years of my career, but with the SM Krishna-government, much money was released and the entire process smoothened. So, funds right now are not a problem, although they were initially.
I feel that if good equations are developed with officials in the various departments, there is less scope for delay. Sometimes, everything depends on the performance of the concerned officials Some officials are lethargic although I have also known some very efficient officials in many departments.
What is your response to criticism about the Freedom Park?
The Freedom Park should be used for cultural activities and only then its true purpose would be served. About twenty crores have been spent on it with State and Centre initiatives, but we will have to wait to see what use it will be put to, upon completion. I, for one, have always thought it an apt space for concerts, plays and such other cultural activities.
What is your goal for the next one year? And where do you see yourself as a politician?
To administrate water, sewage and garbage problems better and improve the quality of education would be my goal for the next one year. For me as a politician too, much depends on whatever kind of success the Congress party meets with. But I do see myself holding key positions in politics.
Profile of Dinesh Gundu Rao:
Dinesh Gundu Rao did his schooling from Bishop Cottons in Bangalore. He graduated in Electronics and Communication from BMS College of Engineering in 1992. He ran a computer training centre with a few others for some time after graduation while simultaneously participating in Congress party activities. “I wanted to go to the US to study further and even wrote my GRE”, says Rao.
He joined politics full-time in 1993, partly to carry on the legacy of his father, the late Gundu Rao who had passed away suddenly. “But I always found helping people satisfying”, he says. Rao was active in campaigning and other activities of the Congress party for six years before he joined politics full-time. He was a Youth Congress worker, General Secretary of the Karnataka Pradesh Youth Congress Committee (KPYCC), Vice-President, KPYCC and then President, KPYCC.
Dinesh Gundu Rao was first given an MLA ticket in 1999. He won from the Gandhinagar constituency and has won for three times now from the same constituency. He works from his two offices, one in Chickpet and another in Sheshadripuram and can be contacted through e-mail at mladgr [at] gmail [dot] com
“I am reading Ramachandra Guha’s India after Gandhi” says Rao. He says he used to be an avid reader of fiction, but now due to his busy schedule, sticks to history, current affairs and biographies.⊕