Bengaluru: The highest number of criminal cases in the city and a thriving real estate mafia plus the burgeoning software sector-KR Puram has earned a reputation for itself in Bengaluru, good or bad in the past decade. And equally colourful is its MLA-Congressman Byrathi Basavaraj, known for his closeness to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his abundant wealth.
Not very well known to city residents a few years ago, KR Puram in North Bengaluru has today become a much sought after place due to the boom in Information Technology and software companies. The constituency is one of the highest tax paying areas in the city and also a high revenue generating area.
Numerous multinational companies have established shop here and the fast-paced growth has landed the constituency in a mess as there is no proper plan in place to regulate growth. Add to that the huge rise in the influx of migrants and the slums and shanties which dot the whole place and KR Puram has its cup of woes overflowing.
The real estate mafia is what stands out amid this mess and its rising influence has led to an increase in litigation particularly land encroachment cases. The government has often turned a deaf ear to plaints from the common man due to political influence. There are civic problems aplenty here too-water scarcity, sanitation issues, power disruption, the ubiquitous traffic mess and the flooding during the monsoon, all of which have not been addressed properly despite people complaining umpteen times.
Local MLA B.A. Basavaraj, fondly called Byrathi Basavaraj, contested for the first time in 2013 and won with ease,while the BJP’s Nandish Reddy, a former MLA, who was equally popular, fell by the wayside unable to match Byrathi in resources or his extensive campaign. The MLA has loyalists in every corner, seeing his money and muscle power, even hardcore BJP supporters have joined Basavaraj’s ‘army’ if one may call it that.
The JD (S) too has entered the fray here, fielding its candidate, D.A. Gopal. Meanwhile, Mr Reddy and his supporters have already begun their campaign by pointing out the flaws of the Congress candidate. This time, it’s not going to be a walkover for Byrathi going by the mood building up in the constituency.
As for civic problems, they multiply when the rains come which makes life miserable. Sushma Jain, a doctor and a resident of Ramamurthy Nagar said, “Forget about water and electricity problems, politicians should visit our area when it rains and see our real plight. The storm water drains are choked with garbage and the rain water has no way to drain out resulting in water logging with the drain water entering houses. None of the politicians are bothered about our situation. Why should we be forced to drain out sewage water entering our houses every time it rains?”
As for power supply, once there is a slight drizzle or wind, people have to contend with power cuts which may continue for upto three hours. “Irregular power supply is a huge problem which we face almost every day. These days, people are learning to live with the problems because they know it is no use complaining to anyone,” she added.
One reason for the apathy to the common man’s problems is the thriving real estate mafia with few daring to stop these people who claim to have strong links with politicos. Sukumar Narayan, a resident of KR Puram and a software engineer says, “Our constituency see the highest number or criminal cases filed in the city. Anyone who has political influence thinks he rules the area and threatens people around. We can say it is a haven for illegal activities and anti-social elements,” he added.
But there are people who claim that Byrathi Basavaraj has done quality work by laying roads, bringing in Cauvery water supply and many more benefits. “He is a peoples’ leader and is still the favourite candidate because he reaches out to people. There are many examples- when people visit his office or house to complain, he has always ensured that their problems are solved on the spot. We need people like him,” said Gangaram, a resident of Devasandra.
Going by the trends emerging in the constituency, there are no clear winners right now. As the campaign hots up and the issues concerning the people come to the fore, the fight for the voter’s mind is sure to intensify. Will it be Byrathi or Nandish Reddy? That’s a question KR Puram’s citizens will have to decide and they are giving no clue of which way they will vote.