On Friday, April 29, by 10 am, BBMP Council had decided its next Mayor and Deputy Mayor. Sharadamma Ramanjaneya (45) and S Harish (42) were the only candidates who had filed their nominations. BJP activists were in a celebratory mood soon after. But the events that followed showed the constraints that the new Mayor will likely face.
Sharadamma and Harish were nominated this year as the Mayor’s post was reserved for SC-woman and Deputy Mayor’s post for Backward Class A category.
‘Minister will be consulted’
As media persons asked the Mayor about her plans for the city, she said that beautifying the city, management of garbage, water supply to all and prevention of flooding were her priorities. However, on further questions on how to implement this, the Mayor did not have answers. Always surrounded by a team of partymen, the Mayor was whisked away every time too many questions were asked.
Sharadamma said that she will take action after getting advice from Minister Ashok and other senior party members. When reporters asked if all decisions will be taken by Ashok, Sharadamma said, "Minister will be consulted, but not all decisions will be taken by him. I will take action depending on the situation."
BJP women activists all over the city, who were strongly backing Sharadamma, had gathered at the Council. When asked about Sharadamma’s limited experience in BBMP, they opined that her husband would support her. Channamma, a party worker from K G Halli, said, "She may be lacking in experience, but her husband Ramanjaneya has lot of political experience. Other senior party members will help her." The Mayor’s biodata too, which was given on media’s request, details more of Ramanjaneya’s achievements than Sharadamma’s.
Some party workers said that Harish, due to his higher education, will ‘guide’ the Mayor. While the Mayor is educated upto class 9, Harish is an engineering graduate and works as an Architect and Builder. However, when asked about his plans, Harish also talked mostly about managing garbage, traffic and flooding during monsoon.
Before the Council session itself, Home, Transport and Bangalore in-charge Minister R Ashok and former minister Katta Subramanya Naidu formally congratulated the new Mayor and Deputy Mayor. B R Nanjundappa, Corporator of JP Park, was announced the leader of ruling party in the council.
Ashok said that BJP was proud to have an SC woman from a rural area as Mayor. "Sharadamma was formerly elected in the gram panchayat and taluk panchayat levels. This experience will help her," Ashok said.
The Council meeting, which started at around 12.30 pm, did not spring any surprises. Along with Corporators, Minister Ashok, MLAs Katta Subramanaya Naidu, B N Vijayakumar, K J George, B N Prasanna Kumar etc were also present for the vote.
Regional Commissioner (Bangalore Division) S N Jayaram, who was Chief Election Officer this time, read out the nominations and announced that Sharadamma and Harish have been elected. The new Mayor and Deputy Mayor were congratulated by council members in the well of the council itself, presenting bouquets and posing for photographs.
Minister Ashok plays principal, with councillors as his students
But pleasantries gave way to commotion shortly as nominations had to be submitted for Standing Committee (SC) elections. Though council members were given time to discuss nominations, party leaders could not reach a consensus. Opposition leader M Nagaraj, JD(S) leader Padmanabha Reddy and others were seen discussing with Ashok, Naidu and other BJP leaders.
While the members for Taxation and Finance Committee were decided upon in a while, Jayaram adjourned the meeting for post-lunch, as the discussions had exceeded the stipulated time. Only 15 minutes was given for the lunch session. After 15 minutes, when the council was supposed to gather again, hardly any council members were present. The session was hence adjourned to Saturday.
The lobbying continued even on Saturday. The meeting was postponed by one hour as the council members were not present in the council hall, but were instead busy holding discussions to nab top positions. However, when the session started post 12 pm, parties had reached a consensus on the nominations and the list of all SC members was approved without any issue. Excluding Taxation and Finance, there are 11 other SCs in BBMP, each having 11 members.
The Mayor and Deputy Mayor formally took charge after this. In her speech, the Mayor said that she needs the co-operation of the council and not its sympathy. In a press note, the Mayor’s plans were detailed – improving transparency, getting state and central funds to improve infrastructure, building parks and playgrounds in each ward, managing garbage, ensuring access to all in BBMP educational institutions and hospitals, welfare programmes for economically backward women and SC/ST individuals. Janaspandana programme (wherein the Mayor visits each ward and learns the issues there) will be held once every 15 days and funds will be allocated to solve civic issues during these visits.
However, in the press meet after the session, the Mayor was again tongue-tied when asked about the financial crisis in BBMP, plans to prevent flooding during monsoon etc. Harish responded that many commercial properties would be brought under the tax net to generate revenue. "Taxes of about 10% properties, which are already under tax net, will be re-assessed. De-silting will be done and organic waste converters installed," he said. The Deputy Mayor also did not have much to say on further questions and the conference barely lasted five minutes.
In a press conference on Friday, Minister Ashok had also talked about generating revenue by implementing the Akrama-Sakrama scheme. "We will generate Rs 5000 cr from the scheme this year. But the budget will be lower than last year’s (which was Rs 8488 crore). State government will give some funds. We are planning to make 12 roads signal-free and introduce more bus routes in new BBMP areas."
On the performance of the last term’s SCs, Ashok said that their performance was poor, though individual corporators were competent and served their wards well. Mayor, Deputy Mayor and SCs will be given freedom to work independently, but BJP will supervise the SCs and review their performance every month. "Whoever performs well in these committees will be made Chairmen next year," he said. ⊕