Economic decentralisation will allow for better governance: Bhaskar Rao

Bhaskar Rao was given a ticket to contest the Assembly Election from the Chamarajpet constituency against Zameer Ahmed, a four-time sitting MLA.

As a career bureaucrat, Bhaskar Rao has donned many hats, including that of Commissioner of Police, Bangalore City. He started his political innings with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 2022, but after just 11 months switched sides to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In return, he was given a ticket to contest the Assembly Elections from the Chamarajpet constituency against Zameer Ahmed, a four-time sitting MLA, who also started in Janata Dal (S) before moving to the Congress party. 

The Chamarajpet Constituency with seven wards – Padarayanapura, JagajeevanramNagar, Rayapuram, Chalavadipalya, KR Market, Chamarajpet and Azadnagar – houses some of the oldest parts of Bengaluru. Legacy problems are dime a dozen. What are Bhaskar’s plans for its issues? We caught up with him at the start of his campaign to ask them. Like a seasoned politician, he refused to commit to specifics. A few excerpts from conversation. 

Fifty two new faces have been introduced by the BJP in these elections (including you). But it has been a revolving door with many tall leaders of the party moving out acrimoniously. How do you rate the chances of the BJP in these elections and will it hurt the party?

Everyone is highly aspirational and these things happen. But the BJP is a huge party, in fact the largest political party in the world- people will come and go, but the show will go on. 

How does it feel to contest an election as opposed to managing its logistics?

It is a new role, but it is a wider canvas. I served the people as a police officer and took premature retirement to serve the people in a different capacity as a public representative. Chamarajpet is challenging because the last time the BJP won here was in 1994, when Pramila Nesagri was elected. 

Zameer Ahmed, your opponent from the Congress party, is a four-time MLA. In your tour of the constituency what are the areas that need attention for development? 

Besides building an empire for himself, there is little that has been done in Chamarajpet by Mr Ahmed. Ours is an old area, which became the underbelly of Bengaluru. These were the heart of the commercial areas of Bengaluru, which saw it grow to Chamarajpet, Basavangudi, Malleshwaram, and Kumarakrupa to accommodate the underbelly, which has remained like that and become more problematic over the years. At the very outset, the hygiene levels here are pathetic. People sit, eat and sleep next to drains. Disease and malnutrition are prevalent. There is a lack of schools, hospitals, and anganwadis. There is unplanned development and no roads and these places also shelter anti-social elements. Nobody chooses to be an anti-social element, but the poverty here has forced them to choose this path.

Chamrajpet constituency map
Chamarajpet constituency map

The current public representative has been here for about 18 and half years and every year about Rs 1,000 crore is given to the constituency. Where has that money gone? The flyovers are made by the state and national governments. 

On paper, we found a lot of claims for schools, hospitals, roads etc. The multi-speciality hospital in the constituency has not come up in the last five years. If money has been spent, show it. This is where people like us come in. We have worked in a disciplined environment where everything is monitored annually.

What has been your experience while interacting with him as a bureaucrat? 

He wasn’t my minister. (But as the transport commissioner..?) He does have several criminal cases against him though, including ones against the transport service he runs. There is just no governance or a procedure for redressal of woes because he is not accessible as an MLA. 

You spoke about governance… what do you think is the job of an MLA?

It is a three tier system of governance and the local body elections have not been held for a while (your party has been in power in the state)… yes. We are lawmakers. The administration of water, sanitary issues, electricity are taken care of by the corporators. Elections have not taken place in the local bodies and I don’t have to get into the details – against or for. You all know the reasons. If the MP needs to deal with drinking water issues, then it is not doing justice to his office. The role is quite clear and we need to work accordingly. 

So what will you prioritise in your constituency should you win from here?

We need to put governance practices in place. If an atmosphere of development is there, the rest of things will fall in place. Schools, hospitals etc, which have state and central government grants will be put in place.

Do you support the decentralisation of Urban Local Government bodies?

I am a strong advocate of decentralisation of governance. But decentralisation of politics is not enough. Decentralisation of economics is very important, which is not the case now. The mayor should be economically empowered to make decisions. 

Chamarajpet is one of the oldest areas of Bengaluru with legacy problems. Despite repeated attempts – through a master plan etc, there were a lot of attempts to address its legacy problems. How would you manage to balance modernising the area while maintaining its history?  

Chamarajpet is a historical area with a history of 120 years. There is a lot of scope to keep our history alive here. We don’t have control over private residential buildings, unlike European countries. But I have always been advocating the creation of a Heritage Commission. We have a lot of heritage buildings that can be preserved.

You have argued that Bengaluru doesn’t have a traffic problem, but a transport mobility problem. You have also been a champion of last mile connectivity and sustainable transportation. But how do you protect the most vulnerable road users like the cyclists and pedestrians, when the odds are stacked against them? 

The security and safety of citizens on the road is not the responsibility of the police alone. The BESCOM has the responsibility of fixing street lights. The BBMP has the responsibility of ensuring good roads and footpaths. It is a collective responsibility. 

So who is the biggest hurdle in creating these basic facilities? Politicians or bureaucrats? 

The atmosphere of governance has to be set into motion by the government of the day.

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