Citizens from gated communities enter poll arena, to ensure they have a say in democracy

What does one do when one's area suffers from basic infrastructure problems? These citizens just want to be in the system, to change it for better.

Sampath Ramanujam (fifth from left) and Lingaraj Urs (second from right) alongwith other members of BWRCA. Pic courtesy: BWRCA FB Page

Two residents of posh homes in two Gram Panchayats in Whitefield area are gearing up to actively participate in the GP polls scheduled for June 2nd, 2015. This would not have been news, but for the notion that elite people living in gated communities pay least attention to local affairs.

With only ten days left for the polling day, two members of gated communities in Whitefield area have filed their nominations to contest the election from Seegehalli and Kannamangala gram panchayats in Whitefield. Sampath Ramanujam and Lingaraj Urs, who hold key positions in IT firms, are all excited to get into grassroots politics.

Living in Whitefield area where majority of population (almost 60 percent) reside in gated communities, the duo feel the necessity for gated communities to play a larger role in panchayats, which is mostly dominated by local villagers.

Representing the Bruhat Whitefield Residential Community Association (BWRCA) under the guidance of urban expert and founder of Nava Bharat political party R K Misra, Ramanujam and Urs have filed their nominations on May 21st and are looking forward to fight the election.

When Citizen Matters asked the reason behind their decision to contest the panchayat polls, Lingaraj Urs, Managing Director at Genisys Technologies, said that there is a tremendous gap in governance which needs to be filled. “Looking at the poor quality of infrastructure in the villages we often wonder where does our tax money go? Since Kannamangala GP has large number of apartments and villas that are regularly paying tax to the panchayat, we want to know how is it utilised, and we wish to channelise it in a proper way,” he says.

Profiles of contestants

Lingaraj Urs

Age: 51
Resident of 10 Downing, Kannamangala
Education: Commerce graduate from Loyola College, Chennai
Profession: Managing Director, Genisys Software India
Origin: Mysuru
Ward: Ward 4, Kannamangala GP
Family: Wife and two daughters
Focus:: Infrastructure, education, health and waste management

Sampath Ramanujam

Age: 33
Resident of Sai Garden Apartment, Whitefield
Education: MCA and MBA
Profession: Software Engineer
Origin: Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu
Ward: Ward 4, Seegehalli
Family: Wife and 6-year-old twins
Priorities: Apply new ideas for comprehensive development of the GP

Another candidate Sampath Ramanujam, who has been active in public life since college days, considers it as an opportunity to get involved in the system and bring the necessary change that he would like to see in the panchayat. “I am hopeful that people support me as I have built a good rapport not only with gated community members, but also with the villagers.”

As he hails from Tamil Nadu, quite naturally, one would suspect his ability to converse with villagers for the lack of communication in Kannada. But, Sampath proves you wrong. Beaming with pride, he says: “I can fluently talk in Kannada since my wife is a Kannadiga, and I am the resident of Bengaluru since ten years.”

Citizen engagement with panchayats, key to development

BWRCA, which has been actively participating in various community initiatives in and around Whitefield, decided to engage actively in the Gram Panchayat polls this time. Following the delimitation, three GPs come under BWRCA, including Seegehalli (3 villages), Kannamangala (2 villages) and Doddabanahalli. The total number of seats in Seegehalli is 13 and in Kannamangala is 11.

“Since a majority of the apartments and villas are located within Seegehalli and Kannamangala panchayat limits, we decided to get involved in election in these two panchayats,” says R K Misra, who spearheads the initiative. He is of the view that the involvement of gated communities in panchayat activities will help the panchayat members, villagers as well as the gated community members.

“Often panchayat members can not demand anything from officials due to lack of communication. Though we pay tax, many of our needs such as footpath, street light, effective waste management are not met. It is high time that priorities should be changed for the full-fledged development of a panchayat, and we are placing one step forward in this direction,” he states.

In fact, Seegehalli is considered as one of the richest panchayats due to huge collection of tax from large number of apartments. “We had conducted a tax collection drive in association with the Gram Panchayat two months ago and succeeded in collecting Rs 42 lakh tax in a day from a gated community,” he says.

To add feather to its cap, Seegehalli Gram Panchayat has won Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puraskar for the year 2015 as a token of appreciation for its outstanding performance through effective Gram Sabhas, especially in respect of improvements in the social and economic structure of the village.

Voters to be asked to exercise their right

Venu Reddy, BWRCA member who is actively involved in the election process, said that apart from fielding candidates and campaigning for them, another task is to encourage residents of apartments/ gated communities to exercise their franchise in GP polls without a miss. “Though there is a willingness among the panchayat members and office-bearers to perform better, they certainly lack the much-needed expertise. We would like to share the expertise that we believe, will be beneficial for the development of the Panchayat,” he said while appreciating villagers for maintaining good coordination with gated communities.

Echoing his opinion, another BWRCA member Sanjay Kataria said that it is better to involve in the panchayat activities and understand the system, than merely sitting idle and complaining about problems.

However, they all do not forget to mention the support extended to their initiative by the villagers. “Villagers who have seen our activities towards betterment of the panchayat in the last few years, too have liked the idea of our participation in the election,” says Misra.

Ex-president of Seegehalli Gram Panchayat Suresh Babu’s words supports Misra’s views. “We have not treated the elite class members living in our villagers as outsiders, nor have they treated us so. They frequently visit the panchayat office, submit complaints, offer solutions, etc. In fact, they have helped us to collect donations to construct a three-storeyed government school building in the village. We welcome their entry into the foray of gram panchayat,” he said.

It is a matter of less than 15 days to know whether this different breed of candidates will make it to the panchayat.

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  1. hari prasad says:

    It good welcome move from the Gated community to participate in Panchayat elections,but i am worried about the aspirations and purpose of people joining. I can not comment about Urs as i dont know him, but i know the other candidate who had been ex-president (Sep 2013- Jan 2014)of sai garden society , He messed up our society into complete mess,the audits were lying un attended for 3 years, IT returns were not filled, it had incurred a loss of 3.2 lacs for the sai gardens society, There was scam in managing the cash in tune of 2.7 lacs. With such credibility i am not sure , he is the right candidate. Is Mishra Ji making the right choice. I hope he is wise enough to choose his candidate.

  2. Abhi says:

    Please keep society politics within the society. Making an allegation publicly is not a good idea that too when citizens like us are getting into active politics.

  3. hari prasad says:

    This is not an allegation, its an proven fact, There are many more allegations which could not be proven, like forgery of voter ID’s for B-PAC representation, Misuse of Position etc as long as these can not be proven it will remain allegations, but the above stated facts has been proven in the EGM and very well known in the sai garden society,
    Gated Community is part of society we live in,its no different, we should have courage to say the facts and accept the fact.
    ….“I am hopeful that people support me as I have built a good rapport not only with gated community members, but also with the villagers.”….
    Rapport with in Gated community is a question mark ??? for sure…..

    I encourage people like you to enter,but we should also curb the people who don’t have the right attitude for serving the people and just want to be there for Name and power. I will sincerely encourage the people who has ambition to serve the people.

    This is not a allegation to discourage people who are getting in to active politics but factual statement for the restoration of faith in the democracy by means of putting the facts on the table.
    I am not making any Statements/Allegations against Lingaraj Urs as i dont have any factual statement and i sincerely support him. This is good enough to say that it is not an allegation but a truly a proven and recorded fact

  4. Ashutosh says:

    Yes we need good people to enter politics. We need to keep checkout such people. Thanks for providing factual information.

  5. Chennapa says:

    A person who was not able to provide justice to a society of 300 people how can he serve a ward….its seems an oppertunistic agenda. It seems he wants use this platform for his selfish personal agenda. I deeply condemned the intention….

  6. Bharath says:

    Sampath is black listed from his own society, and people there dislike him due to his is selfishness. The panchayath should also have a policy of blacklisting!!

  7. Mahesh T says:

    It is unfortunate that only people who have self agenda are entering grass roots politics. We need a leader who can serve for community, but surely not the one who has misused the public funds, the one who can not serve in his home society what will he serve for others. I am sure people will do their homework before selecting the candidate.

  8. Suujal R says:

    Ask him:
    – to showcase what good work he has done during his tenure despite the no. of issues troubling society. (compared to the later committees (took over from him) who have done commendable job than that during Sampath’s tenure)
    – to convince his own society members before he elevates himself to ward-level.
    – to explain himself on all irregularities exposed during the period of his tenure and why he was blacklisted from contesting society elections.
    – many more questions to follow, answer these three first!

  9. Sampath Ramanujam says:

    Dear friends,
    I completely refute the spirit in which these allegations are made. This seems to be an unjustified negative campaign against me, now that I am standing for a public office. It seems that there are also hard copies circulated with similar intent. The mentioned matters have been clarified in Sai Gardens AGM, but it is being brought up again to defame me. I invite Citizen Matters/BWRCA/BPAC to inquire into these allegations and find the truth. Meanwhile, I will continue with my positive campaign for Panchayat Elections and request everyone to take their time to come out and vote on June 2nd.

    If anyone has any specific query or feedback for me, please call me on 9663033699.

  10. Sridhar says:

    Lets not get Society politics here just to spoil Sampath’s image. He has voiced a strong opposition when the society committee has cut down about 37 trees with out informing anyone. That should not be the reason to create misconception among public.

    Closed door meetings by few and concluding that he has done something wrong is not correct.

    Please let some goodness prevail.

  11. Sridhar says:

    Mr. Lingaraj Urs & Mr. Sampath Ramanujam Wish you good luck and hope you will make a difference to the society.

  12. Chennapa says:

    Good to c the above clarifications n justifications…no one can’t surpress the facts…people should understand how it feels while writing 100 emails to different owners n providing regular updates in Wps…that was not publicity stunt…and not defamation…Mr. Sridhar where you went those days…where your thought process was running when for 10days saigraden was running on diesels. It is very easy to raise fingers but execution requires a lot of guts n effort…and definitely not interested in bad politics let it b in society or GP….let’s serve the people n respect the people then expect to earn the same…all the best “The BEST President”….

  13. Sridhar says:

    I had always supported for the good work and objected for anything that is not correct.

    One needs to be fair even in dis-agreements and should not indulge in mud slinging.

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