A historic city election on the cards

Citizen Matters is organising two election debates/meet-the-candidates interactions in your area – one for BTM Ward (176) and one for JP Nagar ward (177). Both events will happen on the weekend of March 20-21.

March 28, will be a historic day for both Bengaluru and the High Court of Karnataka.

For 3 1/2 years, the city did not have its own government and that will soon change. If the High Court had not put its foot down repeatedly, we may have seen even more postponements.

For a number of reasons this election may turn out to be a watershed in city politics.

First, in 2010, Bengaluru is a vastly grown and messed-up city compared to 2001 when the last elections were held. Problems of all kinds – water supply, transportation, encroachment of open spaces – have multiplied, even as elite citizen assertiveness has risen, both on the net and on the ground. Noticably higher political participation in Bengaluru was witnessed during the 2009 (Parliament) and 2008 (State Assembly) elections.

This election marks perhaps the first time ever that over 6000 voters have been mobilised as a block of voters by the Smart Vote citizens group in Koramangala. This is a signal to candidates of the mainline parties that the ‘more-educated-lot’ of our society are not going to be at the ringside of real politics for ever. Worthy councillors will need to take all of this into account and furthermore be willing to think of their roles as local policy makers from the very day s/he enters office.

Second, this time around, our wards are smaller. A typical ward is now only around 2 sqkms in size, making door-to-door campaigning easier. As a result, so-called ‘clean’ candidates (whether running on party tickets or independently) supported by residents associations and apartments fancy their chances more. Third, in many wards, as we have noted in an earlier editorial, anyone who can legitimately put together a few thousand votes stands a very good chance to either win or at least disrupt the set patterns of vote capture. Independent candidates — especially those who want politics itself to reform — have always been written off.

But this city election may be first ever real chance for the so-called ‘clean’ candidates who run good campaigns, to win. On the other hand, they may receive threats from ruffians, goons and crime lords asking them to withdraw. If you support them, your support will help them stand their ground, and change may come.

Fourth, if the Congress or JD(S) wins a majority, there will likely be regular confrontations between an opposition-led Bengaluru council and the BJP-led state government for the rest of the latter’s term. Some of this may be good and may result in the city snatching more power for itself from the state.

As a key sidelight, if the oppposition takes control of the city council, it remains to be seen how much real enthusiasm emerges in the state cabinet to push through the Bangalore Regional Governance/Bill 2010. If the BRG Bill is passed unmutilated, it will take away more power from the state and give that to the city’s elected leaders, a good thing.

And finally, all this analysis notwithstanding, even if ten ‘clean’ candidates win, they could shake things up in their wards, in the council and for political parties.

Our recommendation is the same as before: please meet your candidates, ask them questions, send us your emails on your conversations with them, and go out and vote! With wafer thin margins a real possibility this time, every vote is going to count.   ⊕

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