BTM Layout has a new candidate this year, who is out to make a dent in the vote share of major parties. Two budding journalists, Shravya Sharath and Gauri Mullerpatten, spoke to him on behalf of Citizen Matters, to understand his pitch and views on various issues.
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You are a first time candidate in the Assembly elections. People of BTM don’t really know much about you. So could you give us a brief about your background?
Absolutely! It’s not that people of BTM don’t know me. I’ve been here all my life – I live this area. I’ve been a Bangalore boy, Koramangala boy all my life. I love this place too much. We have a good number of people who know me here and also my Alma Mater, Christ University is here and Krupanidhi College is here, where I happened to do my first year of Pre-University College. Along with that, there were a lot of tournaments, social activities, NGO activities that I would take part in BTM layout constituency like Ejipura, Madiwala, Lakkasandra, Jakkasandra, Adugodi, Koramangala, BTM layout.
Through my stint as an IPL anchor, as MC Abbas, and a TED Speaker, people did get to know me. I was also interviewed in TV and media, so that’s when people happened to know me. Apart from that, we did an excellent visibility campaign about a month back before the Code of Conduct, we had about 100 big hoardings of mine all over the place, all over the hotspots, junctions areas. And there are also these ¾ lamp posts about 5000 posters. That worked the trick with the people. Along with that, we’ve been doing a lot of door-to-door visiting, campaigning in the area with the volunteers. So, that’s working pretty well.
How do you think your previous experience in media is helping you with your campaign?
Media has been fantastic and I’m very proud to be a media person. I’ve done my Bachelor’s in Journalism from Jain University, I was a gold medalist there. I did my Master’s in Christ and I was the topper there. So that really helped me. Also, my international doctorate from Kiasa International University. That’s why I became Dr. Syed Abbas from MC Abbas and now it is Aap ka Abbas. So Aap ka and Aam Aadmi Party ka Abbas. The transition has been brilliant.
Media people see both the factors: the intrinsic view and the outer view. So, to me, when I look at it as a media person and as a candidate, as a politician an an outsider- so it gives me a 360 degree view. It’s always good and you know now, I’m getting to face such young budding journalists such as the two of you and so many others. So, I’m used to it. It doesn’t heckle me or I don’t get nervous but instead I get very confident. I play to my strength as this is my ball game, this is what I’m all about. So, it’s been brilliant, awesome, superb, fantastic, anymore adjectives?
But do you think that this will help you with your functioning as an MLA?
Absolutely! I’m quite a literate I can say, when it comes to social media. On Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – half of my life is spent there. I’m driving the youth and telling them to go out and vote, mobilising them, help them get voter ids. And that’s 18 and above which is a big chunk of people who can go out and work. I can save a lot of money since I have good relations and rapport with people in the media. So I can request them to do something and even otherwise. So, there has been great encouragement from our fraternity people. Of course, it’s been fair and square.
Along with that, again, I’m a first generation politician. Nobody in my family has been affiliated with politics. So there’s a instant connect with the people. I’m like any of you out there who loves to go out, have a good time, chill with friends, have a nice time, go for a movie and all of that. So that helps me connect with the youth very well. And I can understand what kind of problems the youth face with college, or admissions or submissions, or even attendance problem and so on and so forth. So, that’s pretty much my forte.
What is your vision for BTM? And how do you think you’ll be able to bring about a change here?
What I am looking forward to do in BTM is there is a lake in BTM in the 3rd block which is dried up completely now. The people of Koramangala were shocked. Because it was clean, green and neat. Thanks to Aam Aadmi Party and AAP ka Abbas volunteers, from morning till about quite a time in the afternoon, we got there with our gloves and cleaned out the whole of the lake.
What I am looking at is this initiative and campaign called “Cleaner, Greener BTM”. So that is what we are going to strive to do. Along with that, Ejipura ward faces a lot of water seeping into the houses. During the rainy season, there is a drain, water fills up, and gets into the houses. That drain needs to be realigned. The water segregation sector needs a lot of funds and that’s where most of my funds will go. Into thousands of houses, the water comes in. All the drainage, sewage water and all of that. That I’m going to work on.
Along with that, there is a lot of congestion of traffic near the Sony World Junction, BTM Circle Junction, Devegowda Junction, we need to work on these. Setting and digitising the whole signaling system, that is also one thing that I’ll be working on. Along with that, BTM constituency has eight wards and every ward will have a Grievance Cell where any resident can come in, address their problem, any problem and within 24 hours, we will hear you, address you and give the solution and clear out the problem. That is one of the things I’m going to try.
And of course, all my constituency colleges like Jyothi Nivas College, Christ College, Reddy Jana Sangha College, St.John’s Medical College, Krupanidhi College- near these colleges I will have pink Hoysalas every hour to patrol the area and stop crimes against women. Zero crime. I want to be a crusader because whatever I am today is because of my mother’s blessings. There is a saying (In Hindi), “Every difficult path becomes easy when you have the blessings of your mother”. It’s all because of my mother’s blessings that I have reached this place in my life and so, I am going to stand by it no matter what. I will ensure that there is no eve-teasing, there are no jokers out there doing wheelies outside these colleges.
And also these 24×7 Hoysalas should be patrolling anywhere and everywhere near these area so that my constituency becomes top-notch. When I become the Home Minister and when I become the Chief Minister, I will ensure all this is kept in place accordingly. Along with that, the drainage water system alignment, smart voter card generation for my people and of course, I also want to set up medical health camps. Medical health camps for senior citizens, for kids, for women and for everybody.
The other thing I noticed when I went to the parks to campaign is that there are a lot of citizens without income and they don’t have any children. They ask me for help. So, I wish to work on income generation for them. If they could work for 4-6 hours and get a good income to take care of themselves. So that is also one thing that I’m working on. And most importantly from the youth front, I think there needs to be at least one youth representative in the Assembly. Without that, it won’t work and it’s very very important. Even one youth representative in the Assembly can shake the whole system. It has huge power in terms of vote rights, in terms of youth rights, I will stand by the youth. If you see, 65% of India is below the age of 35. So 65% of us, youth, constitute the majority of the population.
You are not the stereotypical MLA candidate. You have no background in public service and you are younger than most of the politicians today. Do you see this as a disadvantage?
Not at all. Experience comes as you go along and I look at it more in the learning way. And of course, experience comes as months and years pass by, but my age is not at all a disadvantage. In fact, I am more energetic, more efficient, (laughs) I can run faster than them at least physically. So that way, I am physically fit and mentally fit and I look at it this way: The earlier you start, the better it is. Even in my career, when I was about 16-17 years, I started hosting events, emceeing events. So that really helped me pay off my school fees college fees, to get anything I wanted. So starting young always helps you in the long run. If you start young, you have many more years.
People say politics is for people who are 40,50,60 years of age and have a lot of money. I don’t agree with that system. Politics is something more challenging, it should be more fun. Actually, it is something made for the betterment of the people. We should look at politics like that rather than having such views about politics that politicians always want to make money. Let me ask you- What if the three most corrupt politicians were on a ship and the ship sinks. What will be saved?
Shravya: The nation..
Yes, wow! The nation will be saved! And I think young people should join politics because we are like fire. Right now, the Millenials are on fire. They want to make something well off out of their lives and that’s a big thumbs-up.
So, AAP does not have a significant part presence in Karnataka. So why did you choose AAP?
It was very simple for me to choose AAP because it is non-corrupt. Google, do you research, nowhere will you find AAP into scams like the other parties. AAP is honest governance, clean governance and honest politics. And, of course, the way our leader, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal shook the capital of India, Delhi. Congress, BJP and every other party was there but he shook the power system there and led the Aam Aadmi Party, became the Chief Minister. That is something that makes us believe that even we could replicate the same thing in Karnataka. Also our State Convenor, Prithvi Reddy, I happened to see his speech at the Harvard University. I was taken aback. I was like this is brilliant. So when I saw leaders like these and the clean governance and honest politics, there was nothing else to look. There’s no money involved here, no nepotism. In other parties, an MLA’s son becomes the MLA, an MP’s son becomes an MP. There is no place for honest deserving people. But AAP gives a chance, they applaud talent and welcome talent. That is why I chose AAP and AAP chose me.
So what do you think are the 3 main issues in BTM which need immediate focus? How would you bring this change?
Yes, the three main things are traffic congestion, the water realigning system and the garbage problem. These are the three main things that we are focussing on. For the garbage problem is “Cleaner, Greener BTM” campaign, the response has been absolutely fantastic. All the resident welfare associations, the apartment complex people have applauded us and we will continue this everyday. We have volunteers spotting those places, telling us at the Grievance Cells if there is a problem. Any kind of problem and we will sort it out. The water realigning system for the sewage water getting into the houses during the rainy season, that would cost a lot of budget – a lot of crores. But if that plan is implemented, then this issue will be solved. About the traffic decongestion, digitization of signals and trying to make the roads broader, that will take care of it.
So what would you commit to do in the first 3 months if you get elected?
In the first three months, I would of course thank everyone for choosing me and the best way to thank all my voters and everybody in the constituency, to send out a thank you note to all of them and tell them that we will begin our operations at the soonest. I will set up the Grievance Cells in every ward where they can address their problems. I would also keep in touch with all the eight corporators, keep them in hand and tell them the jobs that need to be done. So, I’ll open my system up.
As I gain the momentum, I will do all of these and of course, I will celebrate with all the people in my constituency, we’ll have a nice ceremony and I’d like to welcome everyone with open arms and immediately as it sinks in, I’d like to begin the journey of a successful leader and of course, an honest citizen and an honest politician. I know it sounds like a oxymoron but nevertheless I would like to strive to do that. But, yeah, work begins at the word go. The day I take my oath, it begins.
What is your take on corruption? Do you think it is avoidable?
Corruption is definitely avoidable. It starts in a simple way, where if one of us is going by bike and there’s a cop stops us, we try to give him Rs.100 or Rs.50. I think we should stop there. Corruption is definitely stoppable and our Delhi Government is proving it. Trust me, it will work like magic. The world we live in will be a much better place. So, yes, corruption can be definitely stopped but it’s not just politicians, but we also have to stop giving out 10, 15, 100 rupee notes or the bigger market money like Rs 50,000 or 1 crore. We should stop giving them. Then we can hold them (cops) by the neck and make them do their jobs. So yes we can avoid corruption. We’ve proved it in Delhi and we shall replicate the same model in Bangalore. And anyone found guilty of corruption should be given a strong sentence. Capital punishment is too much but they should be given a sentence, definitely.
Are you aware of an MLAs salary and allowances and do you think it is sufficient to carry out the duties of an MLA?
I do have a fair bit of idea, roughly. It is alright, its nothing humongous or very big. Mahatma Gandhi has beautifully said, “There is enough for everybody’s need but not enough for greed”. If that salary takes care of my needs, which I am sure it will, then it is enough. I will go by what the Mahatma has said and definitely it should suffice and should be more than enough. To me, money doesn’t appeal to me, fame doesn’t appeal to me, power doesn’t appeal to me. The goodness I want to do, the smile on the person’s face that appeals to me.
For example, when I went to visit a lot of slums in my constituency, there are a lot of people who are unemployed. These politicians come and give Rs.500 or Rs.1000 during the election time and finish. There is a Chinese proverb- “if you give a fish, you can feed them for one day. But if you teach them how to fish, you feed them for a lifetime”. So, I want to give them a fish for one day and also teach them how to fish, that is by employing them, so that they can feed their families.
There are a couple of things that changed which brought in a change in me. There was this slum and a mother who went to the neighbour’s house and got 10 ml of milk, mixed it with water and started feeding her 3 or 4-month-old baby. That really shook me apart. She was malnourished I think she couldn’t feed her son by herself. The next house I go, just boiling water, dal, salt and that’s all. They were all mixing it and eating it. We are all so privileged. So seeing these things, choked me emotionally and that’s when I decided to do social service.
Irrespective of the elections, I will continue my social service. Win or loss that is secondary, but I will continue to do good work. I’ll continue to help those people. There are a lot of people I met, some small youth leaders of the union, I got them jobs, internships college admissions. So that really helped them. They’re so thankful and they had tears in their eyes when they were thanking me. So, I’ll definitely continue this form of work.
How are you funding your campaign?
We are not like the other parties. We don’t have magnanimous budgets and illegal money. We are not corrupt and we are on a shoestring budget. There are good people who are donating for us. There are some friends, family who are donating, we’re putting in some of our savings. We are pooling in altogether and funding it. To us, we don’t fight the elections on money, we don’t run the elections on money. We do it by our hard work, by visiting door-to-door. That’s where I’ll beat the other party guys. By now we’ve done almost 20,000 houses. We’ve covered almost the whole area. So, yes, door-to-door is the key for us. We try and divide ourselves and go to each ward and then we switch.
So, if you win the elections, how do you intend on spending the MLA LAD funds?
I will ensure that every single rupee goes to health care and I’d like to bring in the system of Mohalla systems of health care like in Delhi. Along with that, I would like to improve the education system. In Delhi, the Government schools are better than private schools. I would want to spend on education, healthcare and employment most importantly. I would want to organise job fairs so that people who come in get jobs, specially those people who are Below Poverty Line. I would ensure that there is enough ration for everybody. I want to use the funds for the betterment of my constituency.
Finally, what is your pitch? Why should people in BTM vote for you?
It’s quite simple. We (youngsters) are the majority in India. Young India needs young politicians so youth representation is very important. And I think as I am the youth icon, they should vote for me. They should also look at the profile of the candidate. I have a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Master’s in Media and International Doctorate in Media. I’m a well-qualified, well-known person looking forward to do some great work. I am non-communal, non criminal – not a single case on me, and I am non-corrupt. I am honest and very kind towards people. I walk the talk and make my results do the speaking. I am not saying that after I win, I will do this or do that. I haven’t even won, but I’m still doing social service. I’m making sure the ration is reaching people, the people are eating food, people are getting jobs, people are getting admissions in schools and colleges. And that’s why I think, this elections BTM Layout constituency should and must give me a chance and choose AAP ka Abbas.