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Actor and activist Prakash Belawadi is also a member of BPAC – Bangalore Political Action Committee. He had been a candidate in the last BBMP elections in 2010. This time he has helped moderate many ward level debates for Namma Bengaluru Foundation. He responds to some questions related to the upcoming BBMP elections.
During the national elections, you supported BJP and Modi. Given the performance of the last 5 years of BBMP, ruled by the BJP, would you still do the same?
No way. Yes, I voted for BJP because of Modi in the Lok Sabha polls. In the BBMP polls, Modi is not a factor.
Are you supporting Loksatta this time? Reasons?
I believe we must find an alternative to the corrupt big parties. There is really no difference between them in their culture of politics, which is based on patronage, venality and sycophancy. I’m not secular or socialist, which at least two of them are. Or, in truth, I don’t really understand these words. I don’t even understand ‘Hindutva’. So, a new party with a new political culture.
What are your insights, after conducting so many ward-level debates for Namma Bengaluru Foundation? Do you think the candidates know their voters well? And vice-versa?
I can only tell you the obvious, that people in the outskirts are eager for change and you can see the quickening, the awareness that they have been denied their share in the prosperity that this city enjoys compared to other towns and cities. In the city centre, voters are not that fired up. They are cynical about BBMP anyway and these polls, especially. They don’t believe the council will last long given the plans to divide the municipal administration. In some wards, the voters seem to know the candidate well, especially in negative terms! I think the reservation and rotation system makes it hard for voters to keep a connect with their corporators. But I must say we were pleasantly surprised to find many candidates who understood their ward issues and were able to articulate them, with practical solutions.
What do you root for in this election?
1) Freeing the municipal administration from state government control with an effective mayoral system;
2) Rational devolution of funds;
3) Real decentralisation down to the ward level, with widely represented ward committees that meet regularly to prioritise works at the local level, with the involvement of experts and transparent audits of both implementation and costs incurred;
4) A Vision for Bengaluru, with a plan to integrate the planning and functioning of parastatals finalised with the widest possible consultation;
5) A panel of experts to design projects, rather than politicians and bureaucrats coming up with knee-jerk solutions; and
6) An ombudsman system to address public suggestions and complaints.
BJP workers in one ward asked for support, saying as Venkaiah Naidu is the Urban Minister, he will help with development in our ward. Congress claims roads improvement happen thanks to CM’s Nagarotthana scheme. You know the challenges with patronage mindset. Can ward elections be conducted in a non-partisan way with candidates asking for votes on their own merit?
Modi announcing special packages for Bihar, Naidu promising influence with Modi, Siddaramaiah seeking votes in the name of the state government and due to his control of fund release… all these are, like you say, part of the patronage mindset. I’ve been suggesting at ward debates that the voters of a ward, with their local experts and elders, should draw up a ward plan, on a timeline of five years, and ask the candidates to implement them, regardless of who wins. Or find the candidate best equipped to deliver on the plan. I think that’s the way to go.
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