The media which prodded every Bangalorean to make a difference to the city’s future by simply voting in the just concluded assembly elections has done a great job. Sadly, the media does not know that it has done a great job. This is because, it has failed to read beyond the voting turnout number given by the Election Commission.
Headlines like ‘middle class apathy’ to a meager turnout of 44 percent are plain wrong. In fact, the turnout may be as high as 80 percent. Ramesh Ramanathan, the urban affairs expert and founder of Janaagraha, notes in a column, that by simply taking into account the error rate in voter’s list (as high as 60 percent in urban areas until two years ago, perhaps down to 30 percent now), the percentage of real voters who turned out for voting will be very high.
Recent delimitation of constituencies in Bangalore which took its number to 28 in a 224 assembly has also enhanced the bargaining power of the city MLAs. Experts blame the woes of Bangalore, despite its image as the knowledge capital of Asia, to its earlier low number of seats in the assembly. Politicians of every hue know where their vote comes from and have been spending the little money that remains after a majority gets leaked on the way, in their constituencies. Bangalore has been getting pittance despite the city contributing about two thirds of the state’s revenue for its infrastructure.
Although Bangalore getting a bigger number of its representatives in the assembly is a good development, far more important will be reforms to the city council. So far, the mayor has been playing a ceremonial role with the real powers resting with the state government. The corporation, because of lack of accountability and transparency, has been a den of corruption.
The Kasturirangan Committee’s recommendation, submitted to the state government recently, if fifty percent of it is implemented, will make a remarkable difference to the way city is run. Bangaloreans will need to sustain the pressure on the government, of course through the friendly media.
Clearly, what Bangalore needs today is more legitimate power to rule itself. Bangalore’s future should not depend on the whims of chief ministers. This can happen only with structural reforms. The day making money out of Bangalore is made difficult and leakage points checked, the city will be left alone. Easier said than done but the city needs to make a start.
The media should not relax now. It should continue its campaign to get more autonomy to the city government and rally citizens around it. When the elections for the city council come up in a few months, the media has to rally the citizens again to go there and make their vote count ⊕