Friday, May 14, 2004

Goodbye Krishna!

So, yet another man dubbed a Hi-Tech Chief Minister has bitten the dust (This interview gives the impression he is not interested even if given the opportunity to be CM again). Political analysts have been quick to conclude that its the lack of development in interior Karnataka and the effect of the drought that has cost Krishna his place. However, I will not get into any of that and for the purposes of this blog, restrict myself to what this means for Bangalore.

When Krishna came in as Chief Minister in 1999, succeeding J H Patel's Janata Dal government, Karnataka had fallen off the investment map of the country after two years of lackadaisical governance. Krishna quickly worked to reposition the state as the premier destination for IT investment and staved off rising competition from the Naidu regime in Andhra Pradesh to conclusively establish Bangalore as India's IT Capital. From there on he went ahead and ushered in participative governance and set up the Bangalore Agenda Task Force to vitalize the city's infrastructure. He put in the right bureaucrats in the right place, Jayakar Jerome in the BDA and Jairaj in KSRTC, to name a couple, and gave them a free hand to implement the development agenda (today the KSRTC is the only profit-making state transport undertaking in the country and the BDA which was given up as dead today has cash surpluses in excess of Rs. 400 crores which are being poured back into the city's development. The BMP was the first city municipal corporation to move to a doubly-entry accounting system and the only one in the country to declare quarterly financial results).

He left no stone unturned to see that the International Airport project would take off. Unfortunately the machinations of the central government have been beyond his ability to fix. When it seemed that the mass rapid transit system would not take off in the avatar originally conceived he brought in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to formulate a new proposal. The Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor looks like it will finally see the light of the day. He encouraged several initiatives connected to the development of the city like Janaagraha by prodding reluctant government functionaries (like the corporation in the case of Janaagraha) to go along. Whether it was the rapid construction of flyovers at several places, completion of the outer ring road, new housing layouts, implementation of the Cauvery IV Stage water supply project, development of over 200 parks, rejuvenation of several lakes, self-assessment scheme for property tax or the improvement in the city's bus services, Krishna backed the respective organizations to the hilt. Admittedly, none of these efforts have kept pace with the galloping speed at which Bangalore is developing and have always fallen short but I would shudder to think of Bangalore's fate without these initiatives. Speaking in the context of Bangalore's development alone, while nothing that Krishna has done can be termed visionary, without a doubt he has been among the most progressive Chief Ministers this state, perhaps even this country has seen. The fact that 11 of the 16 assembly constituencies in Bangalore city elected Congress candidates (Roshan Baig nonwithstanding) is a pointer to the Bangalorean(not just me, the average denizen)'s satisfaction with Krishna's work.

Of course, Krishna is not a man without quirks. His penchant for wanting to turn all the playgrounds in the city into tennis courts or closing down arterial roads to develop gardens have been well documented. Nor a man without failures. His lack of decisive action against non-performing and corrupt ministers, total capitulation to the private college lobby in the Common Entrance Test fpr Professional College Admissions and little progress on augmenting power generation will be blots on his tenure.

What does Krishna's exit means for the city? Is it goodbye to the BATF, Janaagraha and all the corporate-government and public-government interfaces that have been built in governance? It it goodbye to the likes of Jayakar Jerome and Jairaj? The temptation to meddle around with all the good work that has been set in motion will be all too huge for any new regime that comes in. but hopefully in the interests of the city's long term future it will not undo the work that has been done or derail it but instead take it a to whole new level which will truly turn Bangalore into Singapore, a promise which Krishna was unable to deliver.


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