This election season, some RWAs (Residents Welfare Associations), NGOs and citizen groups have taken the initiative in their respective areas to invite candidates and interact with them. They are presenting a Citizens’ Charter that sets out of how citizens want candidate to communicate, consult with the public & complete promised programs, after they get elected. Here is a roundup from the various localities.
Rajajinagar 1st Block [27 Apr]
By Dr. Meenakshi Bharath
A meeting was organized by the RWA of First N and R block in Rajaji Nagar. Candidates present included R.V Hareesh (BJP) and K. Gopalaiah (JDS)
N.S Mukunda and Col. Mathew from Citizen Action Forum presented the issues and the citizen’s charter. The BJP and JDS candidates understood the charter and replied appropriately. Both candidates agreed that they will
- meet with the citizens at least once in one retrospective to three months depending on the situation.
- have an office where the citizens can communicate with him at all times and he would reply to the queries of the citizens.
- consult with the citizens on all issues of new legislation that may come up.
- repeal the CVS law and to look into the Sakrama issue.
They also agreed on transparency of functioning. Both of them signed the charter.
HMT Layout ground, R.T.Nagar [4 May]
By Taniappa Vidhyadhar
There was a very good gathering; Contestants present included Katta Subramanya Naidu from BJP, Lokesh Gowda from JD(S), H.M.Revanna from Congress and Chinnappa Gowda from Lok Paritran , Mallikarjuna S. Bommai from JD (U).
We had taken permission from Election Commission and the Police as the meeting was held in a public ground.
Triward Associations Federation (TWA) collected questions from different areas in all the wards; compiled and selected 16 questions. We wanted to give more weightage to citizens and avoid big lectures. All questions were read out by different RWA representatives. Questions were also circulated to contestants a day in advance.
Each contestant was introduced and addressed the audience for 15 minutes each. During these 15 minutes Contestants were to mention about their past performance, their vision for Hebbal Constituency and reply to questions.
Chinnappa Gowda spoke first, but used English frequently. Some people objected to this.
We had selected Nagaraj (former BJP Corporator) to introduce Katta Subrmanya Naidu (BJP). here. Naidu did not address the issues directly but spoke in general terms. At this point Congress activists barged in shouting and from other end BJP activists started barging in. There was an uncontrollable mob on the dais and in the front shouting at each other. After 15 minutes of his speech and 15 minutes of shouting, Naidu ended his speech and walked out along with his supporters.
Post this, there was still a full house to listen to Lokesh Gowda, JD(S), then Mallikarjun Bommai and Revanna. The only contestant who stuck to the specified points was Bommai.
As a whole, TWA achieved its goal by sending the message that elected representatives are responsible to solve citizens problems. Citizens got to know the contestants.
Meet the candidate programme at Shanthi Nagar [4th May]
By Kathyayini Chamaraj
On Sunday, SHRED (Shanthinagar Residents’ Development Association) along with Citizens’ Welfare Association of Richmond Town and Langford Town hosted a "Meet the Candidates" programme at Hotel Telehaus, 19, K.H.Road, Shanthinagar. We had taken police and returning officer’s permissions. We had distributed 5,000 pamphlets about the meeting through newspaper agents. The pamphlet also carried the names and parties of all the contesting candidates in their serial order.
The Citizens’ Charters prepared by Vote Bengaluru and a modified version prepared by SHRED for Shanthinagar were mailed to the candidates along with the invitation. 13 of the 15 candidates came, except for the Cong candidate N.A.Haris and the AIADMK candidate, V.A. Pugazhendi. There were about 100 residents present. The meeting was presided over by Col. D’Sa, president of SHRED. After the welcome by SHRED member Anwar Ahmed, Poornima spoke about Vote Bengaluru and its objectives. Then I made a presentation on SHRED’s citizens’ charter which was followed by the Citizens’ Welfare Association charter by Lasrado, President.
We wanted to ask the candidates from the major parties to respond first, but M.Muniswamy, Independent candidate (a Congress rebel), snatched the mike and started talking as he said that he was in a hurry to go. Since each candidate wanted to leave after his speech, we allowed citizens to ask them 2-3 questions each. The BJP candidate D.U. Mallikarjuna and JD(S) candidate, M.Francis Jackson each spoke for about 5-10 minutes and left saying, "We have to go" after answering a few questions. Since there were 13 candidates totally, it was not possible to give more than five minutes each to the independent candidates. The Lok Paritran candidate, J.S.Keshav Kumar, was the only one who responded well to the issues raised in the Charters. Some of the Independent candidates did not provide any clear points in their given five minutes.
The feeling we got was that the candidates were not used to being asked to respond to issues or answer questions by educated citizens. None from the major parties wanted to stay for two hours, listen and react to what citizens or other candidates had to say. Most of them did not respond meaningfully to the issues of transparency, accountability, etc., that were raised. This was in sharp contrast to the way B.L. Shankar (INC) stayed for two hours and responded to everything on 1st May. However, two or three signed the Charter document.
Though we had collected the candidates’ affidavits and prepared a table, we had not collected information about their background due to paucity of time. So we could not introduce them properly to the citizens and nor did we ask them to speak about themselves first before responding to the issues. Shortage of time was also a problem due to the large number of candidates. One youngster pointed out that all candidates were merely making promises but he wanted to know what they had already done for the community. We are rectifying this mistake by bringing out another pamphlet with their background and affidavit information and distributing it again to citizens before the 10th of May through the newspapers.
All in all, it went off well. N.A.Haris (INC) has regretted that he did not attend the meeting and has asked to meet our associations on Wednesday at 6.00 PM ⊕
This is an interesting report. It draws attention to the level of responsiveness of the candidates to citizens’ questions on development. The candidates’ motives to contest elections seem to be disconnected from the role envisaged for elected reps. But when citizens and the media network and try to take democracy forward, there’s bound to be a connection soon…