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I was at the debate ‘Candidates Meet Citizens – Bangalore South Constituency’ organised by Bangalore Political Action Committee (BPAC). I reached there well before the event started. Half the auditorium was already filled up with media and the candidates’ campaign crew.
Gradually the hall filled up with citizens and of course, party workers – I guess the show of strength at a forum meant for citizens is important, especially if you need people clapping and whistling when there is a pause after a conjunction so the citizens sitting there think you said something important.
The format was simple. BPAC would ask the candidates their views on important issues and each candidate had to respond. After this, questions from the citizens would be fielded and the candidates had to respond.
Here is the gist of what they spoke:
Views on urbanisation and urban Development:
Ananth Kumar – BJP:
He spoke about what happened in the past, what he did as a part of the A B Vajpayee government. He attributed most of Bangalore’s big development projects (Metro, flyovers, KGIAL, water from Cauvery) to himself. He also mentioned he was happy to give money to Nandan Nilekani’s Nirmala Toilets in the city (Nandan Nilekani-headed BATF proposed Nirmala toilets). He then changed his direction to what he and Narendra Modi could do to the city – power plants, commuter rail and even bullet trains.
Nandan Nilekani – INC:
1) He said he envisioned “water for everybody” and looking at regenerating the city’s water / water bodies (through rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and rejuvenating lakes) as the city could not depend on Cauvery alone.
2). Transport grid for the city – an integrated system of the BMTC, Metro, autos and commuter rail
3) Jobs for people – he felt as he had expertise in many fields (Infosys, BATF and Aadhaar) he could achieve this goal by getting more funds for the city.
Ruth Manorama – JD(S):
Ruth Manorama touched on many issues in brief:
1. Need to look at governance not issues alone because it is not about urban development alone but urban management. Eg. Wall to wall construction by one’s fancy is not acceptable.
2. Her Urban Management agenda would be an inclusive city for everyone. Equal opportunity for everyone as equality is missing in this city
3. Slums are not ‘shadow areas’, help them become a part if the mainstream. This is the way to make Bangalore a world class city.
5. Safety of Women – women need to be safe everywhere, on the roads, at home and at work irrespective of whether she was working in an IT firm or not, whatever the time may be.
6. Transparent accountable, participatory development.
Nina P Nayak – AAP :
1. 1/6th of Karnatakas population in 1/250th of its area. So there is a need to build satellite towns with the right infrastructure, water, power etc.
2. Transparency and accountability for all money received by the city in public domain.
3. Decrease pressure on Bangalore by developing other towns
Issue they will raise in Parliament regarding the city:
Ananthkumar – BJP:
1. Once again dwelt in the past. Compared the A B Vajpayee government to Manmohan Singh government. Mentioned rectification if Narendra Modi came to power.
2. Issue of the Country’s security – Pakistani and Chinese intrusions and Bangladeshi immigrants.
The programme was stopped at this point due to sloganeering by the crowd
Nandan Nilekani – INC:
1. More funding for the cities for more projects for urban India – water, solid waste management and transportation
2. Anti corruption Agenda – Systematic solutions to stem corruption
3. Job creation
Ruth Manorama – JD(S):
1. India will be free from violating right of a woman and she will see this implemented
2. Police reforms to be implemented
3. 33% Women’s reservation to be implemented
4. Urban management to control urban development so it is a paradise city for all and not just the rich
5. Implementation of the 15 programme agenda for minorities to bring them into the mainstream
Nina P Nayak – AAP:
1. As AAP, to ensure Jan Lokpal bill is passed in its true spirit
2. At a city level, make funding transparent and accountable
3. Focus on manufacturing industries – not only IT so even a 10th standard pass would live in dignity
4. Children’s safety – ensure more than only the current 8.7% of the budget is spent on children. Quality development is required because children’s development is nation’s development
After the first question was asked, the first candidate, Ananth Kumar responded. As soon as Nandan Nilekani uttered the first English word, some sections of the crowd did their usual ‘speak in Kannada’ disruption. They were placated and the debate continued. I think this time was used ‘wisely’ by the party workers who were miffed that their candidate was interrupted and the next time around when Ananth Kumar went on a Narendra Modi chant, the disruption was uncontrollable and the discussion had to be stopped.
It was evident that the sloganeering was staged, the two key parties being responsible. One could see party seniors sitting in the front seats gesture to their hangers-on in the rows behind. Initially calls of “chappale thatti” (please clap) for the speakers seemed to distract the disrupters enough for the discussion to continue. Later, the calls changed to “Bharath Matha ki,” that too did the trick for a few minutes and eventually the National Anthem brought silence to the hall and the crowd dispersed thereafter.
I spoke to several citizens who had heard about the debate through different sources. Citizens from Basavangudi, Konankunte, Jayanagar, J P Nagar, Bannerghatta Road and BTM layout. The ones I spoke to before the event told me about their expectations.
Chandrashekaran, retired DGM of Canara Bank, said that elections are a chance once in five years when you have a choice and chance to correct yourselves if you made a mistake the time before.
A group of citizens from BTM layout were there just to listen to all the candidates on a common platform. Anitha and her friends had come with an agenda, to ask the candidates specific questions and were very disappointed the debate never got to that point.
I also happen to read sometweets and Nandan Nilekani’spost on the event and I realise each individual hears what a candidate says and then makes it subjective to suit themselves. Citizens wanting to make an informed choice have to attend such gatherings themselves and from whatever little is said, make an independent decision on who will be their voice in the next Lok Sabha.