Sunday, January 17, 2010

Clean BBMP is vital for a clean B'lore

Clean BBMP is vital for a clean B'lore

E Raghavan

Barring one last ditch attempt by some activists, reportedly from the BJP, to derail the election by challenging the reservation of wards in the Supreme Court, it looks like the BBMP will finally have a democratically elected body soon.
Between now and end of February, there will be enough excitement in one strata of the political establishment cutting across all political parties. Those whose political fate is entirely dependent on voters in Bangalore city will obviously be busy; they have been busy for a while after the high court set a deadline for the election.
Election to the BBMP will have little impact on the overall polity though, if the ruling party in the state does badly, it would dent its image for a short while and affect it in ways we may not fully understand — distribution of patronage, for instance — but have little impact on its fate at the state or the national level. Municipal elections can be highly partisan and bitterly fought. But by its very nature it has little chance of changing the contours of state politics the way assembly elections can change the shape of national politics.
This time around, there will be some major differences in the election. Unlike the earlier municipal body, the BBMP will have 200 elected representatives which would make it more or less as big as the legislative assembly in size. It would nearly represent a fifth of the state's population. It would, therefore, be right to assume that this election is pretty important because delivery of civic services to an extremely important constituency — Bangalore has always been one — makes or mars the fate of political parties. If the city turns against a political party, there is little chance the party would do well elsewhere.
Another major departure from the past will be the cost of this election to candidates much more than political parties. As the three key players, the BJP, the Congress and the JD(S), have pointed out, money-bags who have fattened themselves on the real estate market are quite willing to fork out large sums of money just to secure a ticket. Some aspirants are reported to have offered one crore rupees for this, leaving some city legislators aghast. Political parties may cry foul but, at the end of the day, all of them will have accommodated many such aspirants. It was so in the case of the assembly election and it would be equally true now.
Against the role of money power, the interest shown by resident welfare associations and other civic organisations to inject some value and purpose into the electoral process is not likely to make a huge difference. The intention of many to campaign against corruption and to make grassroots politics meaningful is pretty good but will not be able to breach the system that is in place.
That does not, however, mean that those interested in greater transparency and better delivery system through continuous public participation in the process should give up the fight. The revulsion that most citizens feel towards a completely corrupt and seemingly hopeless system will, some day, cause a churn and, hopefully, bring about change. Just as political parties keep fighting for spoils of power, civic-minded individuals and the community at large should engage the political establishment in a battle for better governance. For the present it might appear to be a one-sided battle. It is not that hopeless if citizens are willing to stand up and be counted. For a clean and green Bangalore, a clean BBMP is vital. That is a campaign that should go on relentlessly.

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