Volunteers from a citizen activist group, Million Voter Rising interviewed candidates contesting in the Karnataka Assembly elections from Mahadevapura constituency. Below is the transcript of the interview with Indian National Congress candidate A C Srinivas:
Video courtesy: Sunil Gupta, Whitefield Rising.
Can you tell us a little about you and your family?
I am the son of a school headmaster. I was born in Chokkanahalli village of Bangalore. I have studied B.Com. While serving in a Government job, based on encouragement from my village people to take up service of the society, I got elected as a member of Gram Panchayat in 1990.
After about 5 years, I served as vice-president and president of the GP. Later in 2005, when elections came up again for GP, village people demanded my family should serve in the GP and hence my wife contested, unopposed and was nominated chairman.
At the same time, Zilla panchayat elections came up. People demanded that I should serve in the ZP and got elected as ZP member. Two months later, I was nominated to the Vice President post of Bangalore ZP by party and people. Later I served as ZP president also.
I have served in Bangalore ZP for about 5 years, overseeing the functioning of about 130 GPs. During this time, I have focused on improving education, agriculture, water, roads, cleanliness and strengthening women welfare programs
My main focus had been roads and improvement and upgrade of government schools. After that I have held general secretary post in my party
In 2013, I contested on a Congress ticket for the Mahadevapura Assembly seat. With just 15 days of campaign, about 104000 citizens voted for me and I lost the election by just 6000 votes
Though I lost the election, I have gone around all parts of this constituency for 5 years to understand very well what are the problems faced by its citizens. Even before getting elected from here, I have understood this constituency’s problems.
I have worked to bring the benefits of my state government’s welfare programs to our people. [Because of] the current MLA, I could not do more for the people.
You have said you are from a farming community. Then how do you understand and connect with the needs of a city?
Though I am from a farmer’s family, it is an educated family. Having grown up in a city and after having served in the ZP, I have studied and acquired knowledge on urban development and city problems. I have also served as a member of Bangalore City Yojana.
You have not been visible in any public initiatives taken up to resolve civic problems faced in Mahadevapura. Why is that?
I have definitely participated in public initiatives, but I could not be part of any government program or its implementation as I did not have power to do so. But, I have travelled around and have good knowledge of problems and troubles faced by people in all the areas.
You say you did not have power. You have your party colleagues as elected corporators in this constituency’s wards. No ward meetings were called in those wards. Neutral ward committees have not been formed. Sadaramangala Lake has not been fenced. New public facilities – like public toilets, parks, etc. – have not been sanctioned. In such matters, why have you not used your influence to get work done here?
I have seen these questions raised by Whitefield Raising earlier. I have tried getting answers. I am told that ward meetings have happened, the lake fencing has been given attention, but I understand that, due to the opposition of the local corporator, the lake fencing matter has run into problems.
In this area’s 8 wards 4 are with Congress, we have 1 Vidhana Parishad member, 1 city development minister from Congress, 1 chief minister from Congress. In spite of all this, one BWCC waste segregation site could not be alloted. What difference will you make?
In this area, we have a BJP MLA and BJP MP. If any work has to be done by corporators or even a state minister, it is not possible without the cooperation of the local MLA or MP. The MLA here has not extended any cooperation. For any program implementation, even if a state minister were to come to inaugurate, the MLA would create roadblocks. The responsibility is on the local MLA for all this. If he had talked to our state government or any minister, about problems here, my party’s government and chief minister, District minister would have worked on resolving them. Full responsibility for this is on the local MLA. He should have given his attention. My government would have done the required work here. It has done a lot of other work.
In case BJP forms the state government here, how will you, as MLA, work for the development of this constituency? How will you work with the BJP corporators in this area?
When I was the VP and President of the Zilla Parishad, the state government was run by BJP-JD(S) coalition. During that time, I have met Yeddyurappa 4 times, won his confidence and have raised funds for the Bangalore ZP. Good work can happen from one’s capability and efforts, irrespective of which party is in power. MLAs have the power to take up problems, approach the government and work for development. Take for example, Siddaramaiah. He has implemented projects in areas in BJP and JD(S) constituencies as well. Mahadevapura development suffered due to the local MLA not approaching, not talking to the government.
Look at JD(S) constituencies – Pulakeshi Nagar or Zameer Ahmed’s area or nearby Bommanahalli having BJP’s Satish Reddy as MLA – he was my ZP colleague – see how much work they have done. Or Yelahanka’s Vishwanath – a 2-time BJP MLA – good work has happened. State government has funded those areas well. Here in Mahadevapura, complete failure is because of local MLA and not government.
In this area there are several cases of government/public lands, lakes being encroached – for example, there is a stream flowing next to forum value mall but due to the construction of a restaurant there, there is severe flooding in that area during monsoons. What is your stand on these matters?
I have info on all these cases. From 2008 to now, in Mahadevapura area, there have been several cases of encroachment of government lands.
Land has been granted to outsiders, establishments, etc. – for example, a high tech club has come up in Gunjur on government land. secondly, there is one Suresh Reddy, a BJP leader – he has been granted public land by MLA Arvind Limbavali for giving up a piece of his land to build a public road to his farmland – is that justified? There are hundreds of such cases. The BJP MLA has not protected public land, not protected lakes, nothing. The state government has sanctioned lot of funds for development but due to lack of proper utilization of such funds, Mahadevapura has not been able to develop lakes or roads.
How will you attend to these?
I have a good understanding of how lakes and roads should be developed. When I was the Bangalore ZP member, I have given special attention to lakes. Lakes were desilted. Zilla Parishad used to spend a lot of money on desilting. When lakes are desilted, it starts holding more water. All nearby borewells will also get more water and this will help agriculture. I have good knowledge in this. If I am elected as MLA, lake rejuvenation will get major attention, development of lakes will help in many ways – reduces pollution, water scarcity will reduce, help people walk around. I have more dreams for Mahadevapura. Today it has become a concrete jungle. I will strive to achieve at least 30% of greenery, add gardens and protect forests. Today, it is difficult to live here due to concrete all around.
Will you be able to publish goals and milestones for those focus areas – lake development, protection and addition of greeney, etc. Can you publish your manifesto?
Yes, I have a manifesto ready. I plan to meet those goals within the first year itself – protection of government land, forest land, lake development and improvement of all bad roads, widening of roads, building bridges if roads cannot be widened, building of footpath. I plan to bring TenderSure roads to Mahadevapura. Plants and trees are being damaged. I will stop that. Pollution and cleanliness. Garbage problem will be fixed. We have too many mosquitoes and stray dogs. That will be my duty. Today we are able to earn and purchase many things in the store but we can’t purchase air and water in the store. Providing those will be our duty, the duty of the elected bodies. We get elected to do all these.
We have two questions. First, you said you have experience with lakes. Please elaborate on that with an example
There is a lake right next to my village – Chokkanahalli – do visit it – check its development. Siddaiah was Commissioner of Zilla Parishad and I was VP. I wrote a letter to him seeking the lake’s development. He took over the maintenance of that lake and a few other nearby lakes under BDA, though it would not be under its jurisdiction but still that happened. There is a lot of benefits from lakes – drinking water, walkpath around it, greenery can be grown, reduces pollution.
There is a forest in kadugodi. Can it be developed similar to cubbon park, lalbagh? Planned layouts like Jayanagar have lalbagh. But, Mahadevapura which has 4 times more population, needs a large park – for walking around, for fresh air. It needs a park which is as big as Lalbagh and Cubbon Park put together. What is your opinion?
In my dream for Mahadevapura, I wish to have a park like Cubbon Park and a stadium like Kanteerava Stadium, here in Mahadevapura. A big public library will be beneficial to the public. That is my goal.
You have a goal to achieve those within your tenure.
Yes, definitely. I am sure Congress will come back to power. In case it doesn’t, even then, I will use my ability – God given – and experience to do all these.
Ward committees having unbiased, neutral citizens are required for good work to happen in a constituency. There is an allegation that such committees don’t exist in wards where your party colleagues are corporators. After getting elected, how will you set this right?
Definitely, that will be examined. Not only wards with my party corporators, but I will arrange regular, monthly meetings of all 8 ward committees. I will invite citizens from RWAs and local people to be on the ward committees, take their suggestions and understand issues and how to solve them. I plan to do this.
Mahadevapura has a lot of lakes, eg Bellandur lake, Varthur lake, many other small lakes. Layout plans are being sanctioned. Do those layouts, apartments have access roads? UGDs for taking away sewer water? Is treated water flowing in them? Isn’t untreated sewage flowing directly into our lakes? How do you plan to solve this issue?
The problem here has been due to corrupt officials from last 10 years. They are being kept and protected by the current MLA here. Those officials will not scrutinize the plans. They will approve anything if they are paid off. MLA will protect them. For example, sometime back based on a complaint from Whitefield Raising during a visit by our minister George, one official by name Venkatesh was transferred out the very next day. But the local MLA got him back within 24 hours. Yes, my party government is there but if the local MLA recommends, then government has to do it.
I may not have answered your question fully. The reason for Mahadevapura’s deterioration is interference and negligence from the local MLA and corrupt officials not kept under check. They have been giving out too many permissions without proper scrutiny. If the MLA had been good, our area would have developed well. Apartments are being built very fast, IT-BT companies are coming up fast but basic facilities and matching infrastructure have not come up – roads, water, electricity, sewage connections, parks have not happened – they are still how it was in year 2000. Meanwhile apartments and IT-BT companies have grown 200%. – with no parallel growth in infrastructure. That is why we have such a big problem here today.
Why did you not question all this lack of growth during these 10 years? Why did you not complain against a non performing MLA?
I have written several letters to the government. That is why a lot of funds had been released for our area by our chief minister. Just for one-time village 130 Cr had been released. I ask Mr. Limbavali – what has happened to that money? How has it been spent? Mahadevapura got the highest amount allocated anywhere in Bangalore. Why has no work happened? Next, Cauvery water has been sanctioned, but pipes are not laid in BJP corporator areas. Congress corporator areas the pipelines have been laid. For major roads, 200-300Cr had been given. Where has that money been spent? There is a road problem in Hoodi due to railway track. Why funds were spent there, in a problem area, rather than where roads were needed and could be built properly?
When the Bangalore development minister and chief minister are from your party – Congress, could you not wield influence for good work to happen in Mahadevapura?
I can’t influence granting of funds. It is the local MLA who has to write to the government. That is the protocol.
Next question – Based on how previous voting has happened across different areas, problems like discrimination in developmental work between areas, nurturing vote banks, ignoring areas without vote banks – how will you resolve these problems?
In 2009, BBMP reorganized wards. But it was not done correctly, like 23000 for one ward and 75000 for another ward. It was done for Limbavali’s convenience and not on any scientific basis. Bellandur 70000, Marathahalli only 29000, this is not right. Next month, I will work to get the wards redone. That should help balanced development. I have another plan – The BBMP will not be able to serve our wards in Mahadevapura. I plan to ask for a separate BBMP for Mahadevapura zone, with its own mayor to serve us. Only that will help our area grow and develop. I have this on my manifesto. This is for the east zone of Bangalore. Our government has a plan to have 3 BBMPs for Bangalore and has sent this plan to central government. President has already signed it and this will happen after elections. This will ease development a lot.
It is well known that the tender award process for WHAT? and road construction involves corruption. What is your action plan for making it transparent and speedy?
This corrupt process exists due to the officials in Mahadevapura who have been here for the last 6 to 10 years. First, I plan to change them. Mahadevapura has reached this bad state of affairs due to them. After that, contracts have to be transparently given to those contractors who are known to do good work – I have this on my manifesto.
For securing votes, parties and candidates distribute sarees, cookers to voters. What is your stand on this?
In this constituency there are poor and destitute people. I have to somehow help them. Right? How do I help them? I can’t give them money. At least if we give them one bedsheet, they will remember us. Bedsheet could cost Rs 300? If a cooker is given, they will use it to prepare food. That is the intention – to help – and never to secure their votes.
It is not right to distribute at this time…
I have distributed before and not now
Many citizen friendly projects have been stalled in this constituency due to opposition from certain groups of people. Elected representatives, officials and police are scared to go against such groups. How do you be plan to complete such projects? Are you ready to risk your vote banks when you go against such groups of people?
I have no hesitation to work. My priority is to work for people and not for officials. Officials come and go. I have two specific projects in mind for Mahadevapura – 1. To ban plastic 2. To stop display of flex banners. There are many other happenings, I don’t wish to mention them now. I will stop them once I am elected. Give me just 1 year, not 5 years. You will know my capability in 1 year!
Let me rephrase my question – Say there is a colony, having a lot of your voters, occupying a land which is needed for road construction or building a drainage. Will you be able to get that land risking the loss of that vote bank?
I don’t need to lose the vote bank, not the road project will need to stop. Such people are mostly illiterate and hence they need to be convinced. I have experience in interacting with people for 15 years. If they have issues, I will resolve those. I will not compromise public projects
When Limbavali was MLA during 2003-2008 BJP govt time, he was able to get 1400 cr grants, but during 2008-2013 Congress govt time only 900 cr was granted. why that difference?
if there is a claim that 1500 cr were spent during 2008-2013, that comes to about 250-300 cr per ward. where was that much money actually spent in every ward? My Congress corporator Udaya Kumar brought 50 cr in 2.5 years and improved Hagadur. Independent corporator brought in 40 cr and improved Marathahalli. Limbavali has not spent money!! Roads have the same potholes! mahadevapura has not improved one bit since 2008. no progress, same bad roads, same polluted lakes.
How will you bring transparency to how funds are spent – whether 200 or 20 cr? if a highway project is being done, we see a board that mentions how much money is being spent, when it will be completed, what is the specification, etc. will you be able to bring that kind of transparency here? should that not come through ward committees?
For any development work, sub committees are needed. suggestions need to be taken from people. an MLA alone can’t do much. we will need suggestions committee, sub committee, etc. 900 cr were released by my govt to BBMP members. many projects have been undertaken. Limbavali has released one book now where all projects mentioned have actually been done by my govt or BBMP members, none by him. he had granted 5 cr for works, out of which 4.95cr was for bus stops and 5L for roads. this bus stops have come up in places where there are no buses running, carry his photos, they have been built to only carry his photos. for example at chikkanayakanahalli on Sarjapura road, there are 3 bus stops but no bus goes there! ask him why such unnecessary works have been done? why is he wasting funds? only to publicize his name!
Can you please share details expenditure in such projects, with us?
Yes definitely. I have written to our district minister and District Commissioner. I will give those details. we will get the info. via RTI. everyone has the right to know those details.
There is an allegation from Limbavali that a digital library building was done during BJP govt time but its operations have been stalled by Congress govt. in Siddapura he has tried to get a hospital but Congress govt has not allowed that to happen. funds are not being released for improvement of varthur and Bellandur lakes. what do you have to say about this?
Has Limbavali ever spoken to the chief minister or district minister about funds for the digital library? has he spoken about it in the assembly? or put in an application for it? No! it is his duty but not done. he will only make false allegations now. does he have any proof of what he had done? second, about the hospital – I have spoken to our health minister – he says he has invited Limbavali at least ten times to come to the inauguration of hospitals in Siddapura and mandur but he does not come. Limbavali does not like my govt ministers coming to Mahadevapura. he does not want to see the completion of Congress govt’s projects.
In this matter, what action have you taken? have you tried to mediate for a solution? How much funds has the stars govt released to mahadevapura in the last 5 years and how does compare with other constituencies?
Mahadevapura is a big area and is like a mini India having all sorts of housing – slums, rural and high end apartments. I have studied the problems of slums for 5 years. the MLA here has to work in different ways. after getting elected, the MLA had to serve all classes of the society. he had to have a clear plan to develop this area. instead of boasting to the people about becoming chief minister, home minister or party president, a two term MLA could have progressed this area a lot, made it a #1 area in the state – he had no such plan. there was no library or ground in this area.
I wrote to the CM and a 33 cr funds for a ground have been allotted in the last budget. Metro has grown from 6 km during BJP time to 36 km in Congress time. there are two lines being added in our area 1. silk board to KR Puram and 2. byappanahalli line will run upto Whitefield. 14 roads have been identified in the budget to be upgraded. funds are released after my discussions with the CM. traffic here is in a mess. a 2 time MLA should have had a blueprint for this area’s growth but that was missing.
What is your dream for mahadevapura? what are your 3 top projects for it, how will you present them for approval and accomplish them?
First, will be development of lakes and greenery which are critical for man’s living, parks, forests. second, will be removal of garbage in mahadevapura. third, will be roads – this area has no footpaths, people are walking on the roads and accidents are happening. roads have to be widened 40ft should become 60ft. if not possible, build bridges. traffic is a problem, parking is being done on the roads causing jams. these are main problems. next we should have sufficient cauvery water in mahadevapura.
The problems you have mentioned – lakes, water, roads, etc come under BBMP. as an MLA, what will you ask for in the assembly?
From our laws, nothing much can be done without the cooperation from the MLA. laws are made in the assembly and they have to be followed by the BBMP. for the BBMP to function, the MLA had a big role. assembly decides how much funds to be given to BBMP, the MLA is also a member of the BBMP. MLA had the same rights as the corporators. MLA has to win the confidence of the corporators, irrespective of party, provide them support and allow work to happen
What ambitions do you have – become a minister or get a position, etc to do work?
Yes a position is required to do work. I have already enjoyed the state cabinet rank in the past. Bangalore ZP president has state cabinet rank. I am not for position alone. I have come to serve and to do that a position is needed.
How are you different from all other candidates standing for election from this constituency?
I am a clean politician, I have not come to make money. I have come to serve people. an elected member should give time to the people of the constituency to be able to serve, interact with officials and make sure work is happening, this should be a dream. if AC Srinivas is elected MLA, he will be known in either one of two ways – someone who worked or sometime who did nothing.
I want my name to be known as an MLA who worked. I have such a name in my village as a gram panchayat member. so also in the town where I won the Zilla Panchayat election. when I was a ZP member I brought out a scheme to build an overhead tank for every town. law was an hindrance – town with less than 500 population can’t have an overhead tank – I got the law changed – laws are for people and not the other way around – I got tanks built for towns with even 250 people.
You are saying that you are clean. But, the whole political environment today is corrupt. How will you fight it when there is so much of corruption?
I will definitely strongly fight corruption. I have experience doing it. Though I had lost the last election, I have gone around Mahadevapura for development more than the elected MLA. I have never interfered in any land dispute case here. I have never tried to influence or deal with police, tahsildar or DC office. You can enquire around about me. Ask the Tahsildar if AC Srinivas has ever interfered in any land dispute case or meddled in land case. My party was in power but I have never harassed real estate developers or extorted money or demanded funds for election in 2013. I have never done that nor demanded bribes. Nor will I ever do such things in future.
You are saying you are a non corrupt politician. Your father has been a school headmaster. You have served gram and zilla panchayats for many years. You have been involved in agriculture for years. But, your declared assets are 86Cr. What has been the source income for your assets?
My family had land and we have lived in Bangalore. I sold my land and I have built a business selling and buying land. Land that was bought for 10L, today it is worth 10Cr. What do I do? Land prices have been going up year by year in Bangalore. My assets have been built with such land business. I have declared all my assets. I spend in elections from my earnings and assets. There are others who declare their assets as 0, but they spend 30Cr in elections. How is that possible? Where are they getting that money from?
How much do you plan to spend in this election?
I don’t plan to spend a Rupee more than 28 Lakhs. My supporters may spend but I don’t.
Mahadevapura is a reserved constituency. What are your plans to specifically benefit the dalits in this constituency?
There are many dalits here in Mahadevapura. From year 2008, their condition has worsened a lot. Before that during Congress time, dalits were given land & houses. Borewells & community halls were built. Since 2008, nothing was done for their benefit. They got no loans, no jobs. There are about 1 Lakh jobs in Mahadevapura but no locals have been able to get them. Crime rate has gone up due to unemployment. We need to create jobs, for the locals. They are resorting to crime as they have no money. This is a highlight of my manifesto – helping the locals economically – like getting them contracts, getting them jobs in apartments and IT/BT companies of the area, I can get them benefits extended by our govt. The govt has kept aside Rs. 27000 Cr for helping dalits but not 5Cr have come to this area. The MLA could have got those funds to help dalits here. Their colonies have not improved at all. For example – Dinnuru. It is still like how it was long back, not improved. Not just dalit colonies, all colonies have this problem – no development.
We have one last question – it is about the 711 acre forest land in Dinnuru village. The forest department is fighting to keep this a forest. Sometime back a plan emerged to use that forest land to build a residential township for legislators. What is your stand on this issue? Will you fight to preserve the forest? How will you compensate the local people there?
According to the information I have on this issue – the local people have filed cases on this plan. They claim that the land was allotted to them. There is also a claim that it was allotted to KDB. Government claims that is is govt land. Forest department claims it is forest land. So, there is a lot of confusion about the claims on this land. I have not seen the land documentation. After seeing the document and if it is true that it belongs to forest department, then I will definitely preserve the forest status on that land. If it is government land, I will see what the way forward is. Secondly, in Mahadevapura, there are lots of apartments but there are thousands of people who do not have khata and OC for their properties. I have spoken to the ARO and RO many times about giving the khatas to the people but that has not happened. This is high on my agenda – After getting elected, I wish to conduct a Khata drive where I will take the officials to the people – their apartments and villas – to get their khatas ready on the spot – for all those projects that have OC – legally built properties.
So, after your election, you will completely stop illegal construction?
Yes, it will definitely stop. I wish to mention that the current MLA, who has been in office for 10 years, has not done anything good in terms of Mahadevapura’s development. It is growing very fast but its fast growth is not matched with building of basic infrastructure that it needs. I have not seen basic work happen. My request to people is – please change! 10 years have been enough. Give me one opportunity to serve you. I will show in one year’s time how I deliver. See my work. You have seen 10 years of the current MLA – nothing has happened. Give me just 1 year – I have 15 years experience in working for the city’s betterment when I was the Bangalore city yojana samithi member during my ZP president role. I understand how a city’s problems come up and how such problems can be resolved – I have the experience. Plus, I will listen to the suggestions of local people – I am aware of very knowledgeable people living in Mahadevapura – I will request them to join suggestions committee, to get their advice and how to proceed in resolving issues, how to take Mahadevapura ahead on the development path – to make it an excellent area – that is my dream – the areas under Mahadevapura have a rich history – Whitefield, Marathahalli, Varthur, all the IT/BT companies, etc. – people even in America know about Mahadevapura – Whitefield.
When President Trump’s daughter visited Hyderabad, she spoke about Whitefield but PM Modi has never uttered anything about Whitefield. An American mentions about Whitefield but here there is no concern about how to develop. There are such problems. Give me an opportunity to serve Mahadevapura – I wish to turn it into an excellent model city with all modern facilities – Please support me in this election & vote for me so that I can serve you all. Namaste!
If we see the master plan, there are lots of problems because the required infrastructure is not there – no pipelines, no roads, only permissions to build apartments and villas have been given. Will you call for a complete stopping of new permissions till all the infrastructure is put in place?
100%. There is a masterplan on on side, then officials on the other side. All problems started with construction proceeding without any masterplan. Due to that basic infrastructure – electricity, water, roads, nothing has been possible – all these problems started from year 2008. The responsibility of this lies on the local MLA. We can question all these.. First, he was a Minister in his party government. Still he didn’t do useful work, later he has been MLA with my party in power but he never raised a question in the assembly. Never has he raised a question about Mahadevapura development! Never has he tried to meet the CM about developmental work.
If you see assembly proceedings, he asked questions about Bellandur and Varthur lakes, it is recorded in the minutes.