MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: There are four great paradoxes about the long awaited elections to the Brihan Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) being held now.
While the rule “of the people, for the people, by the people” should be paramount in any election, for all the three main parties in the ring, the BBMP polls seems to have become all about strengthening their political and financial clout.
Nothing more, nothing less.
PARADOX # 1 The democratic credentials of the BJP, Congress and JDS (in alphabetical order) in providing a civic government for the people of Bangalore, and the people falling under the umbrella of “Greater Bangalore”, are totally questionable.
It is these parties who, in tandem, have been responsible for the delay in the polls, which were due in November 2006. It is these parties which deprived Bangaloreans of their right for self-rule of the civic body, which is guaranteed by the Constitution, thanks to the 74th amendment.
For more than three-and-a-half years, the citizens of Bangalore have been needlessly condemned to put up with the rule of bureaucrats for no fault of theirs. This unfortunate state of affairs would have continued had not the judiciary rapped the political cabal on their knuckles.
The chief villains of this anti-democratic piece are the JDS and BJP.
It was during the days of the H.D. Kumaraswamy government, in which the BJP was a partner, that the move to postpone the poll was taken. This was done in the name of creating a “Greater” Bangalore by merging the neighbouring eight town municipal councils with the erstwhile Bangalore Municipal Corporation (BMC).
The BJP simply demurred.
When it came to power and when it was its turn, the BJP government of B.S. Yediyurappa compounded the matter further by deferring the elections in the name of delimitation of the constituencies and went on merrily with the game, till the highest court in the land put its foot down firmly.
Now that the polls are on, the BJP is valiantly putting a spin over its scandalous role in subverting democracy and has not exhibited the slightest remorse for its role in a patently anti-people conspiracy.
PARADOX # 2 The three parties have also conspired, directly or indirectly, in denying urbanites in Karnataka as a whole and Bangaloreans in particular of all the other safeguards guaranteed by the 74th constitutional amendment, the most important being the strengthening of the urban local bodies.
Governments run by the three parties, individually or jointly, have in unison ignored the scheme of decentralisation enshrined in the Constitution, and have simply not bothered to put into practice the prescribed two-tiered system of ward committees along with the elected corporation.
The two-tiered system is something akin to the three-tiered system prescribed for the rural areas, the rationale being the participation of the people in the decision-making process from the bottom-up.
If the Constitutional provisions are to be given effect to in both letter and spirit, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) would have no place in the scheme of things, with the municipal corporation getting the entire responsibility.
PARADOX # 3 The concept of decentralised administration through the empowerment of the urban local bodies is anathema to these political parties.
At no time do the parties talk of giving more powers and sharing resources with the urban local bodies. Quite to the contrary, they are always ready to withdraw whatever powers have been given to them at the drop of a hat, for whatever pretext they can come up with.
The boss of Bangalore is not the mayor, as we are generally prone to believe.
The real power-centre is the minister in charge of Bangalore development / urban development minister. The poor mayor, who has only a one-year term, is always kept on tenterhooks and has only a subordinate, non-executive role to play in the development of the City.
All along it is the party in power at Vidhana Soudha, and the MLAs and MLCs who call the shots, not the mayor or the elected councilors, who find themselves too overawed by the muscle power displayed by the government at timers. Or, are willingly complicit in the subversion.
PARADOX # 4 The concept of development of Bangalore or “greater” Bangalore is quite hazy if not totally non-existent in the minds of all the parties and their leaders.
They only seek to dazzle voters and the media by loosely talking of the “crores of rupees” which are available for spending without even having a ghost of an idea on how it should be spent and on what.
The parties have been unable to show us or put into place, an agreed blueprint of development, which will be implemented over the next couple of decades, which any party coming to power in the government and the corporation would be able to adhere to.
Question: Should voters trust these parties, and their nominees, who have hardly any concept of decentralized urban administration, where the stake holder has an important role to play?
Photograph: Masks of various leaders of the three parties on sale at a store in Jayanagar in Bangalore (Karnataka Photo News)