Koramangala candidates count on votes from lower income groups

Koramangala ward residents got to interact with all their ward councillor candidates under one roof in a debate organised by SmartVote and the Koramangala United Citizens Council.

Running for the post of corporator from Koramangala are four women from reserved Backward Caste ‘A’ category. So come March 28th, the residents of Kormangla ward will have to choose from P Bhagya (BJP), Kokila Radakrishna (Congress), K Malathi (Independent) and Dr Florence (JD(S)) to represent them in the Council.

All the four women came together on one platform to interact with the residents of their ward on March 21st at National Games Village, Koramangala. The event was a debate organised by SmartVote and the Koramangala United Citizens Council (KUCC).  Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde was invited as a special guest.

Candidates from Koramangala

The four candidates from Kormangala (from left): P. Bhagya, Kokila Radakrishna, K. Malathi and Dr,Florence) participate in a debate before the BBMP elections. Pic: Navya D’Souza

More than 200 residents attended the event and they were asked to write down their concerns and hand it over to the organisers so as to incorporate those during the debate. During the debate, the candidates unanimously declared that they would step down if they failed to fulfill their duties and promises (this, only after vehemently insisting that such a situation would never arise).

Candidates seem to have long begun their campaigns to convince the voters to vote in their favour. They seem to be knocking on the doors of the people from the lower income groups to seeks votes. K Malathi (53) said, "The educated refuse to vote because they have lost faith in the political system. So it becomes important for us to reach out to the slum dweller." To this P Bhagya (46) added, " I will go to the slums because those are the people that I truly represent. I have always worked for them and will continue to do so."

Not a surprise

But campaigns directed towards low-income neighbourhoods do not surprise anyone. SmartVote, a movement in Koramangala that aims to bring the educated and the higher-income groups to the polling booth, has garnered huge support from the residents.  But even the organisation has accepted that candidates will try to, mainly, get the lower income groups to vote for them.

Prithvi Reddy (40) a member of SmartVote, said, “Unfortunately, the candidates are doing the expected thing and possibly the right thing. Even though we have had a phenomenal response from the middle and the upper middle class, the fact is that they may not even vote because they don’t really need the government." He further added that it is harder for the candidates to get them on-board. "We have also reached out to the lower income groups and we have asked them to make an informed decision because it affects them the most and so awareness has been created. And I think that’s the biggest difference that SmartVote has brought about.”

"Poor will not be forgotten"

The candidates’ agendas, should they be elected, focussed on similar areas that are of concern to the educated and economically stable residents. K  Malathi, a novice in the political arena but with 15 years of experience in social work, said, "I will, as a corporator, see to that rain water projects are implemented, lung spaces in the ward are increased, and that pollution is brought under control."

P Bhagya, a former corporater from Audugodi, insisted that the poor will not be forgotten. "Of course, basic amenities like water, sanitation, education concern everybody. So every member in the ward will benefit." Dr Florence, who is a counsellor for the Young Women’s Christian Association, said, "As a doctor, I feel that maintaining standards in hygiene in all areas of the ward is extremely important so as a coporator I would like to work on this aspect."

Dr Florence, however, said that being a woman works to her advantage, "As a woman, I think I can do a better job. I think interaction and understanding between the corporator and the people is very essential. And as a woman, I think I am equipped to do this better."

To be able to contribute to the decisions made at the Council that would affect them, KUCC is looking to push the 74th amendment that recognises ward committees but has to be brought to reality by State legislation. While Dr Florence and K Malathi said that they would work towards bringing the 74th amendment into reality, P Bhagya was of the opinion that there was no real need for this legislation as it just a matter of working with the people and for the people. But all candidates promised that they would work closely with the KUCC and bring out timely reports that would detail the work done in the ward.

Citizens encouraged to vote

Lokyukta Justice Santosh Hegde

Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde makes a point. Pic: Navya D’Souza

Though many residents expressed their unhappiness with the answers provided by the candidates, Justice Santosh Hegde encouraged them to vote, "Even if you do not find the right candidate, make the effort to vote.

"If your chosen candidate fails to fulfill her duties you can teach her a lesson in the next election. We have wronged the country by not voting for so many decades it will take a while to right this wrong. But we have to start somewhere!", he added. He had a word of advice for the candidates too, " Never forget that you are only public servants."

In response to Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde’s query on whether they would accurately declare their assets every year, all candidates promised to do so without fail even though the law does not insist on it.

Confident of winning

Candidates are confident that they are best suited for the job. K Malathi in an earlier interview with Citizen Matters said, " I got involved in social work after my son died around 15 years ago. As a social worker , I have worked extensively with women from the local income groups and have helped them become independent."

Kokila Radakrishna (49) who won the Zilla Panchayat elections in 2005 from the Kolar District told Citizen Matters that there is a need to plant more trees and increase the green cover in the area, " Koramangla faces huge traffic jams everyday. So it is important to construct under-passes and flyovers for the decongestion of traffic." She also talked about her experience on a different level, "At the Zilla Panchayat, I have brought about great changes at the rural level and have worked to bring about self-dependency among the people. Also, I am a local…I have lived in this area all my life. I truly understand what this ward’s problems are, what the people are going through and what needs to be done for the people."

P Bhagya thinks that her experience as a corporator gives her an edge. "When I campaign from door-to- door, I feel that people are welcoming me back", she said in an interview with Citizen Matters.

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