Fourteen assembly election candidates from the city have been endorsed by the Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC). B.PAC team includes Biocon Head Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairman of Manipal Global Education Services T V Mohandas Pai, and former IAS officer K Jairaj. The rest of the team includes more corporate honchos, and sportspersons and artists.
Candidates have been selected from across political parties – there are five Congress candidates, three from BJP, three from Lok Satta, two from JD(S) and one from KJP. BPAC says that political ideology was not a factor in candidate selection. B.PAC will contribute to the candidates’ campaigns, and also promote them through social media coverage. It will also hold public debates for the candidates. Each candidate is given Rs 5 lakh towards the campaign.
In the case of two constituencies – Malleswaram and Basavangudi – B.PAC has endorsed two candidates each. On this, B.PAC says, "We are endorsing candidates who satisfy our criteria. If there are two candidates, it is up to people to choose." These candidates will get Rs 3 lakh each. Cheques are issued directly to all candidates.
|Krishna Byregowda C
|Dr Ashwathnarayan C N
|Dr Meenakshi Bharath
|Michael B Fernandes
|Dinesh Gundu Rao
|S Suresh Kumar
|B K Chandrashekar
|B N Vijayakumar
|Dr Ashwin Mahesh
|Dr Tejaswini Gowda
|N L Narendra Babu
How were the candidates selected?
B.PAC is clearly targeting middle class voters. Before selecting candidates, B.PAC selected constituencies which had a high number of educated middle class voters and newly enrolled voters. Twelve out of the 27 constituencies were selected this way. The candidates here were rated based on their public service record, education and income, knowledge of city governance and e-governance. Winnability was also a criteria.
B.PAC also checked that candidates had no record of misusing public office, conflict of interest in standing for elections, criminal record or involvement with fundamentalist groups. A main criteria for endorsement was candidates’ support for B.PAC’s ‘Agenda for Bangalore‘. The agenda includes having a proper governance structure with more citizen participation, more funds and accountability for local bodies, and infrastructure development.
B.PAC has not endorsed any independent candidates. They say that many independent candidates did not have a good record of public service or a chance of winning. "Some independent candidates did not engage with us. Those who did engage, had not done much. For example, some would say that they have done work, but they might only have filed a PIL. So we selected those who had a good work record," says B.PAC.
Six of the endorsed candidates are sitting MLAs of the same constituencies from where they are contesting now – Krishna Byregowda (Byatarayanapura), Dr Ashwathnarayan C N (Malleshwaram), Dinesh Gundu Rao (Gandhinagar), S Suresh Kumar (Rajaji Nagar), B N Vijayakumar (Jayanagar), and N L Narendra Babu (Mahalakshmi Layout).
MLAs were selected based on their previous performance by looking at assembly records and their utilisation of Local Area Development (LAD) funds allotted to them. A score card prepared by the NGO Daksh was also considered – Daksh had rated the MLAs based on a survey of voters in their constituencies.
While most of the selected MLAs are perceived to have clean records, there have been allegations against some too. For instance, in 2011, BBMP’s Technical Vigilance Committee under Commissioner (TVCC) had unearthed the fake bill scam of Rs 1539 crore from Gandhinagar, Malleswaram and Rajarajeshwari Nagar divisions of BBMP.
At the time, MLAs Ashwathnarayan and Dinesh Gundu Rao had opposed the investigation, along with some corporators saying that the investigation was baseless and politically motivated. They also demanded that the TVCC should be dissolved. The case was transferred to CID later and the investigation is still going on.
Ashwathnarayan had pushed for projects like Sankey road widening and building of basketball and tennis court in Vyalikaval park, despite public protests. Vijayakumar has been accused of getting BBMP to build a road right through a park in BTM Layout, for the convenience of a Sai Baba Temple nearby.
Citizen Matters had earlier reported about children who were forced to work after a few government schools were shut down in Jayanagar constituency. These schools were supposedly ‘merged’ with bigger schools, and Vijayakumar had taken initiative for this.
However B.PAC team says that they have only checked if the candidates were convicted or have any serious investigations against them. They said that a review cannot be done based on perceptions alone, but that candidates who have overwhelming evidence against them have not been selected.
"For example, newspapers have widely reported land encroachment by Roshan Baig, even though there is no court case against him. In the case of N A Haris, there is conflict of interest as he owns his businesses and also because of the recent Ejipura EWS eviction. Beyond that, we did not have the capability to go through allegations and reports against each candidate," B.PAC says.
What this means for candidates?
For candidates, the endorsement largely seems to be a way of reaching out to the educated middle class, especially the IT crowd. Narendra Babu says, "It is difficult to reach out to IT people otherwise. When we go to campaign, they are working."
KJP’s Michael Fernandes who has been endorsed, says that it is a bonus point since the selection was made not on party lines, but based on individual candidates’ profiles. "It is a recognition since B.PAC is also working independently for Bangalore." Fernandes says that B.PAC is putting details of endorsed candidates in their website. "Visitors to the site will get to know about my work and vision for the constituency. The public debates B.PAC holds, will also help me reach out."
For Vijayakumar, it is the credibility of B.PAC that might get more people to support him. "The endorsement is prestigious, and will get people to think about why we were selected – especially the educated voters who want good governance and no corruption."
The fund itself did not seem too important to candidates. B.PAC had funded candidates on the premise that public funding of campaigns will reduce corruption. For assembly elections, candidates are legally allowed to spend only Rs 16 lakh for campaigning. But usually crores are spent to bribe voters and get support.
Fernandes says that Rs 5 lakh is a token amount, but that it still helps. Narendra Babu says, "Even if it is a small amount, it is hard-earned money, and hence a good thing." Vijayakumar, on the other hand, says that the funds are actually helpful for him since he is using only his personal funds for the campaign otherwise. He claims that he has not asked anyone, including his party itself, for funds.⊕