Ramalinga Reddy hails from Anekal and did his schooling at the government school at Hombegowdanagar in Bangalore. He completed his B.Sc. from Government Science College in Bangalore after which he began pursuing an L.L.B. at the University Law College. He got into politics before he could finish the Law degree and has been associated with the Congress party in important capacities since that time, in 1973.
Even as a student, Reddy was active in Youth Congress and was a city level office bearer while still at college. He was elected to the city corporation in 1983 and became President of Jayanagar Block Congress in 1985. He was the district Congress President for ten years between till 2008.
In 1985, an MLA ticket was given to him, but he lost. In 1989 he came back and won and remained an MLA at Jayanagar for 20 years, winning for four times continuously—in 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2004. In 2009, he won from the BTM Layout constituency facing a lakh and half new voters. He was an education minister in the previous Congress government.
Reddy’s hobbies included reading and sports until politics took front seat. “There’s hardly any time now for sports or other activities, with politics taking up all my time” he says.
Here are some excerts from the interview with him:
You are a senior politician with over twenty years of experience, how would you describe your joining politics and your early days in politics?
I entered politics through my participation in the N.S.U.I National Conference. That was in 1973. In 1973 – 74, I was elected as Cultural Secretary of Government Science College and was then elected as Member of Student Council in Bangalore University twice; in 1973 – 74 and 1977 – 78. So somehow the interest in politics was there right from my student days. My father too was a corporator and that may have played a role in my entering politics. In those times, university elections were big events. Parties would support students a lot and even get pamphlets made for them. Young leaders were encouraged and the public too was pro-active. Congress party was strong then and people like Mrs.Indira Gandhi and our Late Chief Minister Sri Devaraj Urs were an inspiration to me. Indira Gandhi’s 20 point programme and other activities to help the poor inspired me immensely.
You were MLA in Jayanagar alone for twenty years, how has it been at BTM Layout this time?
Yes. I have joined BTM Layout just now. Two thirds of it is new. There are about 1,40,000 new voters from Madiwala and Koramangala. And there are about 70,000 old voters from Lakkasandra and other areas. There has been no tar in many parts of BTM Layout for over fifteen to twenty years. Much of the interior road work in Uttarahalli had not been ever worked upon. When I came to BTM Layout, there were still mud roads there. So these are things that are new for me with the BTM Layout constituency.
What are the issues you have taken up in the BTM constituency?
Lots of issues. We have trouble with drains. Garbage and water work still need much attention. I have improved water problems but they persist and I am aware of these things. Eejipura has mud roads, water and light problems. There were no lights in many areas. About 95 per cent of lighting work has been done now by me. About three thousand to four thousand lights have been installed. I have also seen to it that concrete roads are laid. Healthwise, we face mosquito problems and garbage problems. The garbage problem is aggravated because of the dumping yards. We are dealing with all these problems as efficiently as we can. In Shettypalya I was asked to upgrade a hospital which I will do this year. In Taavrekere, a hospital is being built.
What makes up an ordinary day at office?
My availability at my office depends on my programmes. On days that I have to go out for meetings I would not be available. But otherwise, I am available everyday at 8:30 AM and at 3 PM. I meet people for at least an hour and then extend it if there are more people waiting. The Constituency office was a Corporation building. It was there for about two years. I didn’t like it much there, so I now meet people at home. I have a PA and I function informally. We make notes of grievances and do the needful immediately. I am always in touch with the Residents’ Associations of my constituency. My phone number is online and people can contact me anytime.
What is your approach?
Much of my work is done through phone. I have a website, but it needs updating. I receive every phone call myself. And within two minutes, I do whatever is necessary.
Work needs following-up and I do that without fail. 90 per cent of the work usually gets done, and only a 10 per cent delay may be there. One of ten contract jobs fails and I know these things and so follow-up everything myself. I send out eight hundred to nine hundred messages on an average when there are developmental meetings. Meetings organized with Residents’ Association sometimes take me to their venues or public grievance meetings and people visit me as well.
Does being educated matter in politics?
A certain handling capacity is important in politics. More than education, there should be an initiative and interest. One must know how to handle officers and how to mobilize funds. One must have the knack required to bring funds out of programs as well. Sometimes double graduates are total failures in politics and others who are not educated at all do well. One should be able to give anything certain amounts of time and work on it until the job is done. Education might help, but there are these things as well is what I am telling you.
How many grievance meetings have you organized so far?
I meet citizens, educated voters as well as slum-dwellers. I go on area visits, one or two places in a day. I handle grievances in as quickly as two minutes’ time. Specifically, grievance meetings are both scheduled and unscheduled grievance meets. Many take place through residence associations. We maintain records of grievances and handle them immediately. The public invites me for meetings and that is another way of gathering grievances and complaints. I go on area visits once in three to four days and that too helps. I also go and supervise works-in-progress or send my engineers.
Give us examples of the work done so far?
Under the JNNURM Scheme eight hundred houses have been sanctioned and are being built for the poor at Rs. two lakh per house in Rajendra Nagar, Koramangala, Chandrappa Nagara and S R Nagar. A recent project has been to do with roads. For instance, 95 per cent of the work has been done in Eejipura. Three of the wards were worse off and I have helped with roads, water and other issues. You could just ask the public about this, they can tell you about the changes I have brought about.
You were an education minister. Tell us about your experience.
I mainly gave the officials my support. More than introducing new schemes, I see myself as someone who preserved existing ones and followed up on others. The scheme with ISCKON, for example, began before I became a minister, I just followed it up and it has been a success.
Is it true that roads in BTM layout have been re-laid although they were not in bad condition?
It is not true that roads have been laid unnecessarily. While it is right that many main roads were in good condition when the constituency came to my hands, they were all main roads and that is not the case in the inner areas. I have supervised work on roads in the interior areas of my constituency where there was a great need for such work. I would actually say that unnecessary road work and the re-laying of existing roads has been done in other constituencies. I would not like to take names though. And then, there were no footpaths in my constituency, I have done all that work as well. Footpath work has been done in BTM and Koramangala. I consider asphalting roads unnecessarily a waste of money. I realize that after every rainy season they might require work again. Excess funds make people re-tar roads that don’t require it, but I haven’t done that at all.
How have you utilized the MLA funds?
When corporation grants are finished, we draw from the MLA fund grants. The MLA’s area development fund is about one and a half crore rupees. It is not enough for anything actually. Government schools have been my top priority. This is because the Corporation doesn’t usually help schools. I have given about 14 lakh to Madiwala School and also to other schools. I spent my MLA fund of the previous time on street lights, so each time we have to prioritize.
We identify the issue that needs funding in the particular constituency and spend accordingly. The details of the expenditure are available in the print-out I am handing to you. But let me give you quick glimpse. As you can see, funds have been utilized under three heads: Civil works, Electricity and Parks. I have given 5 lakhs for Sanitary work at A K Colony and Koramangala, 14 lakhs for ST Bed, library and Samudaya Bhavan, 25 lakhs for street lights for Ejjipura, 15.20 lakhs for sanitary drainage in Marutinagar, 7.50 lakhs for borewells in AK Colony and so on. You will find details of all funds’ utilization in the Budget Book that has been published (by the government).
What are the obstacles facing you performance as an MLA?
A lot of work is being done, everyday through phone calls and through meeting people, I can’t say that there are too many problems actually. However lack of funds is a problem and one must know how to use funds from out of programs to solve immediate and pressing problems. I think that quality work is always wanting and I strive towards it.
What is your goal for the next one year?
Parks in BTM Layout are what I want to focus on. The parks should be like those in Jayanagar, with the latest technology and updated facilities. For this, tenders have been called for and the process complete. We only have to issue code of conduct orders and the work orders. At the parks where work is in progress, work will be finished in five to six months. There is an idea for a ‘beauty spot’ kind of a park in Koramangala.
About two acres of land is available and provision for this has been made in the budget. Traffic needs to be regulated in 16th main in BTM Layout, near Water Tank area, 100 ft Ring Road, on Military Road and near the Forum Mall. For this, flyovers and Passovers are what I will be pursuing over this year. Some come under the budget and others are under the corridor project. In four to five months a lot of things will find clarity.
India is changing so quickly, Bangalore even more so. What are your plans to mediate this change smoothly for us?
Bangalore is indeed changing very quickly. Parks, international airports, metro, flyovers, –we need all these things. There were no flyovers ten years ago, you know! I think all these things became possible because of S M Krishna’s initiatives. The State government gave 200 crores and the central government gave Rs. 16,500 crores. I just hope to do the quality work that is so required and then things should be smooth!