Saturday, September 30, 2006

BMP: Time for change

BMP: Time for change
Deccan Herald

Will the Greater Bangalore merger rein in better administration ? Or succeed in making the City cash-rich by sheer virtue of its size - 148 wards? The answer is a big no. Not unless, every citizen makes an informed choice of his/her elected representative, say citizen groups.

One look at the profile of elected representatives of the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike’s Council leaves a lot to be desired. Out of the 100 councillors, 13 councillors have not completed schooling, 30 are SSLC pass, 21 have cleared PUC, while only 25 are graduates. Two post-graduates and nine professionals including civil engineers, lawyers and a doctor is almost a pleasant surprise.

Is a City’s future dependent on the quality of its elected representatives? The growing challenges of the IT-BT City can be tackled by only educated and pro-active councillors, say experts.

According to Samuel Paul, Public Affairs Committee, winnability of the candidate is the only criteria for any political party. PAC, which has conducted citizen awareness programmes and scrutinised the background of the candidates in the 1996 Parliamentary elections and the local body elections is promoting the concept of informed choice of candidates.

“When parties don’t give a commitment of fielding only worthy candidates, the other way to tackle the problem is to build an informed electorate - citizens, who will reject the undeserving candidate. But, this too, might solve only half the problem, as people are given a limited choice by the parties,” explains Mr Paul.

“Basic education is a must. But in a democracy you cannot deny anyone a chance to contest elections. Worse still, we have candidates with criminal backgrounds contesting polls. One of our studies shows that 25 per cent of the candidates fielded in the Parliament elections (1996), had criminal cases against them,” he laments.

Dr Neeraj Patil, an Indian doctor, who is now the elected Councillor of Lambeth (London) says, “Quality and competence of elected representatives is reflected in the City’s development. It bothers me no end to note that even illiterates are allowed to contest.

“In the West, there is a system of filtering out prospective candidates. Every political party subjects the aspiring candidate to a written test to assess his knowledge of the laws, local body governance, his constituency profile and issues and a general knowledge, current affairs and problem solving ability. They also face the voters at public meetings before being selected as the candidate. Only the best can contest!”

“The gift of gab alone does not make a lawyer, as one has to digest volumes of literature on laws and acts to excel in his field. Same is the case with every profession. But what are the qualities and standards set for politics?” asks Patil.

The catalysts for any change in a democratic set-up happen to be the political parties. But sadly, the political stand on the issue remains divided. Dearth of candidates, reservation policy and caste politics are major hurdles, say Party leaders.

The forthcoming elections might see some major changes though. The JD(S) has decided to raise the bar for all its prospective candidates.

Says Nanjundappa, leader of the Opposition in BMP Council, “The Party has decided to field candidates based on their social work and experience in the Ward. However, we will insist on SSLC, as higher qualification will be a hindrance to deserving candidates in some of the wards with poor literacy and education. My engineering background has helped me understand many technical details in the engineering works. The officers or the contractors cannot take you for a ride when you are well informed.”

Mr Nanjundappa also rues the fact that many candidates are mere dummies, who have a family member or a relative calling the shots. “Sadly, we have dummy women candidates, as parties try to please a male partyworker, who was denied a ticket. Moreover, the shortage of good candidates surfaces when the reservation category changes in the ward. It is also because the educated class keeps away not only from politics but also exercising their franchise,” he adds.

However, BJP members maintain that education has little to do with leadership. “We recognise the contribution of the member to the party and his or her experience in social work, before choosing him as our candidate. Even the most educated person might fails to perform,” contends AH Basavaraj, BJP corporator and leader.

Corporators’ Report Card

The Bangalore Mahanagara Palike has 100 wards and the below table shows the break-up of corporators with varying educational qualifications.

8th Std or Less 13


PUC/Diploma 21

Graduation 25

Post-graduation 02

Professional 09

Total 100


Public Affairs Centre (PAC) - a non-profit organisation dedicated to the cause of improving the quality of governance in India, has involved itself in several electoral Intervention programmes between 1996 and 2005.

PAC quotes - “The quality of governance in a democracy is assessed by its elected representatives. It is observed that several ills plaguing the society are attributed to those in power namely the politicians and the bureaucracy. On one hand, the political institutions seldom reflect the mandate of the people and therefore lack legitimacy. On the other, it is felt that the root cause of the crisis is also the apathetic, indifferent and illiterate citizens.”

In one of its many initiatives, PAC had launched a Citizen’s Manifesto, urging all political parties to commit themselves to a set of issues that matter the most to citizens. The manifesto emphasised a set of eligibility requirements for any candidate like:

*Proven track record of community services,

* Submission of property / income tax returns,

* No standing criminal or corruption charges,

* Being a resident of the constituency,

* Following the code of conduct laid down by the Election Commission


Education gives confidence and better understanding. Some technical aspects, estimates need to be studied. I personally feel apart from experience, seniority, education qualification should be made one of important criterion for selecting a candidate, especially since we are talking about a world-class city like Bangalore. The issues here are definitely larger. Sadly, not many professionals are willing to enter politics. This misconception that politics is ‘dirty’ should change.

BG Mangala


My engineering background has helped me understand many technical details. The officers or the contractors cannot take you for a ride when you are well informed. Moreover, it is time to set high standards for the people’s representatives, as the City is facing modern day challenges and is still evolving. It is important to have pro-active candidates rather than dummies and more professionals to take the plunge into politics.

BR Nanjundappa

JD (S)

The Congress Party gives priority to candidates with popularity and experience in social work. We have a separate cell for doctors and advocates who are willing to contest the elections. This gives an opportunity to professionals and helps representthe various sections of the society. However, we still cannot insist on a degree, as the minimum qualificationbecause not many educated women are coming forward and professionals stay aloof from politics and city’s development too.

H Ravindra



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