Lok Satta party announced two of its candidates for the upcoming assembly elections in a press conference on October 4th. Shanthala Damle and Dr Meenakshi Bharath are the two candidates, who will contest from Basavanagudi and Malleswaram constituencies respectively. The party also invited members from the general public who are interested in contesting elections under Lok Satta ticket.
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Dr Meenakshi has contested as Lok Satta candidate in the 2010 BBMP ward elections. She is currently the Bangalore district President of the party. A practising gynaecologist, she is also active in the civic initiatives Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT) and Citizens Action Forum (CAF). Shanthala Damle is a software professional, and has previously served as state Secretary of Lok Satta.
Speaking at the press conference, the candidates said that their aim was to bring change in the current political set up through clean politics and citizen participation. "Currently public have no say or don’t know about government’s policies. Our aim is to solve local problems, to get opinions from the public and present it before the assembly," said Dr Meenakshi.
Shanthala said that basic issues like lack of toilets in schools will be prioritised. On a question on benefits for BPL (Below Poverty Line) community, Dr Meenakshi said, "Instead of giving them fish, we will teach BPL individuals how to fish. They have to be trained in skills and made independent, rather than be made dependent on politicians to access welfare schemes."
Shanthala has already started campaigning by distributing pamphlets in Basavanagudi, her constituency. The pamphlet mentions a phone number to which public can give missed calls to express support. Shanthala says that she has distributed the pamphlets to some 5000 houses already, and has gotten about 1500 missed calls. She says that she plans to cover the nearly one lakh houses in the constituency.
The party plans to field candidates for all constituencies in the city. "We are not as strong in other districts as in Bangalore. We have not yet set a target on the total number of seats in the state we want to contest from," says Shanthala. Ashwin Mahesh – who was Lok Satta’s candidate for Bangalore graduate constituency MLC election – is also likely to contest in the election, said Shanthala; but this was not formally announced.
Dr Meenakshi’s manifesto says that the party will focus on education, empowering local government, and judicial and police reforms. And that elected representatives will be able to vote in assembly, free of party dictates.
Her manifesto further says that she will set up Citizens Relations systems in seven wards in her constituency to solve day-to-day problems, and have ‘streetwise champions’ for citizens to contact. It also says that the constituency’s performance will be published in an annual report card. Her focus is on ensuring equitable water supply, free medical camps, vocational training centres, waste management, and including all citizens’ names in voters’ list.
All candidates – both members from within and outside party – who contest for the party will be decided based on internal elections within the party. Regarding the basis for selecting candidates from among public, Lok Satta said, "Such candidates should agree with our basic principles. They should have a clean background, be transparent and accountable, and may have done social service. So far 1-2 citizens have shown interest in contesting." They have also invited students to campaign for the party using social media like Facebook.
"IAC members will vote for us"
Lok Satta has been part of IAC (India Against Corruption) movement, and believes that IAC supporters will vote for them. They say that Arvind Kejriwal’s new party may also get the same kind of support, and that both parties may work under the same umbrella. "There are no ideological differences between both parties, so we may not fight against each other in the same constituencies. IAC is becoming political now; IAC supporters will vote for us if they believe that we will follow their ideals. They are looking for good candidates to support," says Dr Meenakshi.
Shantala said that she will campaign in all areas, not just among educated voters. During the MLC election in June, Lok Satta had heavily focused its campaign among IT employees. "Initially urban educated voters will be good for us in elections. After that it would not matter," said Shanthala.