Bengaluru: Newly elected Congress Mayor R. Sampath Raj and Deputy Mayor Padmavathi Narasimhamurthy talk to the press after winning Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) elections at the BBMP head office in Bengaluru on Sept 28 , 2017. (Photo: IANS)



Bengaluru. R Sampath Raj, Congress corporator from Devarajeevanahalli ward in Bengaluru, on November 30, 2012 had demanded that the BBMP Commissioner should declare emergency situation in the wake of piling up of garbage in the capital. That was the year when the garbage menace had peaked in the city. The situation is not much different now. The same Sampath Raj is now the 51st Mayor of Bengaluru, thanks to the continued unholy nexus between the Congress party and the Janata Dal (Secular). The post of deputy mayor has gone to Padmavati Narasimhamurthy of the JD (S).

Soon after becoming the First Citizen on September 28, Sampath Raj said he would ensure public participation in governance and bring considerable changes in infrastructure facilities in Bengaluru. He did not stop at that. He declared that the changes would be seen immediately. He went on a city rounds too as though he is unfamiliar with the city and its problems. His emphasis has been on two subjects – infrastructure and transparency in administration. He says that he wants to take people along with him in governance. If he really means what he says, then as a true Bengalurean his immediate task should be to ensure that garbage mounds are removed from every nook and corner of the city as well as dispose the same scientifically on a daily basis. The city roads are wet and diseases are spreading. How one wishes that he and the deputy mayor do not talk about infrastructure till streamlining garbage collection and dumping!

He says he believes in public consultation. So he should place before the tax payers of Bengaluru as to how much funds have been released by the government to the BBMP since the Congress came to power in the State. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has been claiming that he has released Rs 22,000 crore to BBMP in the last four years. Even a blind person living in this city will find it tough to believe this as the city lacks not only motorable roads but even stumble-free and encroachment-free footpaths. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has also announced that Rs 1,000 crore would be spent on white-topping roads. Why not the mayor explain as to where and how this huge sum would be spent when majority of the roads have become synonymous with craters? Instead of giving room for doubting him or his party government, the new mayor, who is a second-time councillor, should make public the details of the funds released and spent.
Every Bengalurean who has been honestly paying tax and cess has the right to know where her/his money is going. Let the financial statements of the civic body be scrutinized by the people. Let there be discussions, debates and question-answer sessions in public forums in this regard. If Sampath Raj is too busy in getting felicitated wearing his black gown, then at least he should make use of the BBMP website to host the financial statements. Whether or not he would do these two simple essential works, one thing he would be doing is often paying obeisance to JD (S) leader H D Deve Gowda. That’s what former mayor G Padmavathi of the Congress did as soon as she became the mayor. Like her, even Sampath Raj would have to remain ‘yours faithfully’ to the Gowda clan. Does he have any other option? No. But for the mercy of the JD(S), the Congress would not have been holding the reins of administration in the BBMP. The coalition has made the BJP, the numerically number one in the council, become the prime and only Opposition party. The JD(S) with just 14 corporators has been the kingmaker. But it is ironical that Deve Gowda and his son H D Kumaraswamy always talk in a different tune before shaking hands with the Congress. This time too, the senior Gowda kept saying that he is supporting the Congress to keep the BJP at bay, while his son, on record, opposed it. DRAMA and JD(S) The drama of the JD(S) usually does not stop after entering a power sharing pact with the Congress.
For example – in May this year, JD (S) MLC and businessman T A Saravana had staged a protest along with a party woman corporator against Congress MLA Munirathna Naidu. The MLA was accused of abusing three women corporators at a public function. Recently, Saravana led a protest against the Congress demanding details of the funds released and spent by the government through the BBMP to improve Bengaluru. He refused to believe that Rs 22,000 crore had been spent by the government. But the protest was ignored because both the parties knew the reasons for such political circus in public.
It is sad that Bengaluru has just become a cash cow for the government. The city, despite occupying hardly 0.4% of the total area of Karnataka, contributes highest tax revenue to the state’s exchequer. But the city has not got its due. Neither the government is making efforts to grow tier II and III cities nor is it focusing on addressing the ills of Bengaluru. It is difficult for the city to witness even organic growth. Substandard narrow roads, filth filled drains, poor public transport, unplanned housing sector and on top of it high corruption in government offices has made life in the city unbearable. But with no alternative city available to the capital in terms of employment opportunities, people continue to live here. It is not by choice but by compulsion. Escapism? Siddaramaiah on September 11 had told the media in Mysuru that his government cannot be blamed for the problems being faced by Bengaluru.
This he said after the city had partially marooned due to rains and overflowing drains. He said if the previous BJP government had improved infrastructure and cleared encroachments on drains, the city would have been better. Can Siddaramaiah afford to say these things after being chief minister for the last four years? Why the people ditched the BJP in 2013 to handover power to the Congress? Since the Independence, it is the Congress which has been in power for the longest period at the state as well as the corporation level. It is a fact that the BJP while running the corporation council for five years did precious little for the city. It is also a fact that the city has three BJP Lok Sabha members. But the BJP is not running the show here.
The moot question is, why did the Congress continue to ignore the city? Why is that Deve Gowda not questioning Siddaramaiah? Probably, Bengalureans would have remembered Siddaramaiah for decades if he had prioritised some major projects like the Namma Metro or at least removing all illegal encroachments from lakebeds and drains. The present dispensation has not been pro-active when it comes to giving a push to the Namma Metro project. None would have stopped the government from contributing substantially to the Metro work. A thickly populated area such as HSR Layout, Sarjapur, and Electronic City, which is spread over 800 acres, is in dire need of a mass transit. The government, instead of purchasing more and more buses for the BMTC, by this time should have encouraged BMRCL to spread its Metro network to these areas. Tax-payers of the capital have every right to demand safe public transport. Unfortunately, the voice is feeble in this city of migrants. And, the city planners and lawmakers continue to be oblivious to the basic needs of the people. So, how does it matter if the city has the 51st mayor and the 50th deputy mayor? The players have changed but not the commitment and mindset. With the legislative assembly elections just eight months away, one can expect only ‘fund-raising’ by politicians and nothing.

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