“You always need an occasion. We need something to ignite”, says Major P Kapur, a resident of Bangalore South’s Koramangala area. Major Kapur is referring to the coming together of citizens of Koramangala to form what is called the Koramangala United Citizens Council or the KUCC. This federation has been set up to take up common causes of all the eight Koramangala blocks, Jakkasandra extension, ST Bed layout and Nirgun Mandir area.
“There are common areas of concern for the whole area like water, roads, drainage. We can tackle them together”, says Major Kapur, who is the convenor of KUCC.
The KUCC is still at an infant stage, presently functioning with an ad hoc committee (a temporary working committee). This committee is also speaking to the Koramangala residents and are in the process of drawing up a constitution.
The KUCC will also engage with the individual Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and assist them. So far the ad hoc committee has met twice and will again meet towards the end of January to speak to other residents in the area. Major Kapur states clearly that they do not want to thrust anything on the residents. “We will reach out to the lower income group as well. We won’t thrust anything on them. They have an RWA. We’ll give full support – financially, meetings with officials, etc”. The council is looking to be in place before the BBMP elections next month.
The Smart Vote website contains rolls of all the assembly constituencies, sourced from the website of the Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka. The system has been developed by Pluma Knowledge Solutions Pvt Ltd. The site allows you to search for your name, ward-wise, by entering your name, age, father’s name and so on. The search results show polling booth information as well.
The role of KUCC is to be a lobby/pressure group to all the government bodies that are responsible for the welfare of Koramangala. Members will interact, guide, pressurise and partner with all the necessary government bodies, parties and bureaucrats to make it happen, says Kapur.
KUCC’s manifesto includes protection of open spaces, better pedestrian and auto traffic management, improvements in sewerage and drainage management and waste management.
Making votes count for the council elections
KUCC’s formation comes in the light of BBMP elections scheduled to be held next month. Another reason that this body came together now is the work being done by a group called Smart Vote, a citizen’s initiative on voter awareness and collective action in Koramangala. Smart Vote will work with the KUCC in the run up to the BBMP polls.
“We were looking at Indiranagar and Koramangala. In Indiranagar there seemed to be some issues between the RWAs. We were also looking at an area where there are a number of educational instituions”, says Prithvi Reddy, co-founder, Smart Vote. The first meeting they held in Koramangala also saw quite a number of people turn up. Reddy adds that they also chose Koramangala because none of the Smart Vote core team members are from Koramangala. “We were clear that this should be a people campaign and involve RWAs.”
Smart Vote’s campaign aims to raise awareness about the role of BBMP and the corporator and increase voter turnout. This model project has involved door-to-door campaigns, mass outreach programmes and registrations through SMS (Short Messaging Service). Reddy explains that during the door-to-door campaigns, volunteers of Smart Vote explain to residents on how to register their names to vote. They also explain the importance of the BBMP elections.
Reddy explains that he has been surprised with the response they have received from the Koramangala residents. “On a Sunday morning, we thought we’ll be thrown out. Response to door-to-door has been tremendous. Most households, when they see us, they want to have a conversation. So we end up having a half hour conversation with them. They call us in, give us something to eat or drink. We are quite surprised”, he says. “In the process, we feel people who normally may not contest, may contest”.
The Smart Vote group is also looking to profile candidates before the BBMP elections and print these interviews and hand them out to the residents. They will also hold a debate of all the candidates in the contesting from the area, where residents will be invited to question and seek commitments from their future Corporator. “With profile, interview and debate, one can make an informed choice”, says Varsha C, a volunteer with Smart Vote.
Smart Vote will also conduct an opinion poll through SMS, and then announce the consensus candidate before the day of elections. However, Reddy says that some people have objected to this saying they don’t have the right to influence people through an opinion poll. “Our answer – when something is by the people, for the people, we are not doing it to promote a candidate. If there was some other way, we would have done it. But this is the only way”, he says.
Driven by volunteers
The Smart Vote campaign has around 100 volunteers who have signed up to create awareness in Koramangala. One among them, an MPhil student, Varsha, has even decided to take up the Smart Vote model as the topic for her research paper. “I felt the model was really good. Unless you participate, you don’t get good governance. Educated people don’t come out to vote. Then they crib. I joined Smart Vote after that”. Varsha herself is a resident of Koramangala 2nd block.
Another volunteer, Dr C N Radhakrishnan says, “People are very happy that something like this is finally happening. We are putting up posters at hot spots. We are providing the local knowledge”. Radhakrishnan, a paediatric surgeon at Manipal hospital, resides in Koramangala 3rd block and has helped steer the campaign there.
Software Engineer Santhosh M N says he decided to volunteer with Smart Vote because he could relate to their campaign. “A couple of years ago when I was out of college and was new to Bangalore, the Corporator elections were happening and I had no idea who to vote for. So I connected to this campaign where we can give information about the candidates to the people”, adding that he never expected it to be so easy.
One of those who has been registered is 36-year-old Manjula, a resident of Siddarth Colony in Koramangala 2nd block. She says that a group of people came to her house and handed out a pamphlet which says they should vote and bring about a change in Ward 151. “It says we’ll look into drainage and water problems”, she says in Kannada, unsure of what work the group is doing.
Reddy says that they have so far reached out to about 3,000 people in the area. Koramangala’s estimated population is said to be around 32,000 to 33,000.
Smart Vote is looking for volunteers for their door-to-door campaign, every Sunday between 8:30 AM and 12:30 PM. Contact 9414597655/9035938422, or e-mail koramangala[at]smartvote[dot]in for more information. You can also visit www[dot]smartvote[dot]in
Smart Vote will work with the KUCC in the run up to the BBMP polls. For its part, the KUCC itself is looking to find a consensus candidate, even if among the residents who wish to contest as independents. “We’ll be very happy. We’ll get them in one platform”, says Major Kapur. Smart Vote’s Reddy says that after the elections, they will work with KUCC to hold the corporator responsible. “We want to display a board where we put down all the projects of Koramangala and their cost. This will bring in transparency and people will be more cautious”. ⊕