Campaign in poetry, govern in prose.’ That was the consummate politician New York Governor Mario Cuomo’s credo, back in the day. Needless to say, the IT capital gets neither. No prose. Certainly, no poetry! And a little bird is now telling me, a poll campaign is nearly upon us and that if the rivers fill up, and the drought ends, and the farmers in the district can breathe again, the chief minister could call elections early.
Or will he wait for Gujarat to play itself out? Clearly, that fight and the one for the Congress' prize - Karnataka - will be far dirtier than anything we’ve seen before. And this time, the DeMo that defanged the Samajwadi in UP, no longer a weapon of choice could come back to bite the BJP in the face.
Here at home though, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah may have to write this city and its 28 seats off. Completely. No amount of poetry or prose is going to resurrect Bengaluru from the hole it has descended into.
You could blame it on the weather, of course. But you have to acknowledge - the weather is just the symptom, not the disease.
It’s barely a city anymore! The unceasing, relentless cycle of small doses of sunshine followed by buckets of rain these past months has turned it into a sea of swirling sludge and sewage that rises out of the drains and floods our narrow roads and into our homes - especially in the newer, unauthorized layouts - as it clogs the traffic and sucks up and sweeps away the unsuspecting to an early watery grave. Us. The ordinary folk. We're the ones who have no choice but to go about our daily chores without the benefit of the buffer that the men and women of privilege enjoy, tucked away in their cocoons. For the rest of us - mothers, daughters, college students, daily wage labourers, commuters, office-goers, it’s a misery. Heart-rending, that the daily average is now four to five deaths a day!
I have sat in traffic at various junctions in the city through the weeks as the heavens opened up. And it has been relentless! Clearly, the Ramalinga Reddys and K.J. Georges of this world breathe a rarefied atmosphere that is far removed from any one of us. Watching Mr. Yeddyurappa trying to step over a huge puddle in his regulation whiter than white ensemble, accompanied by a battery of BJP leaders, not one of them, dressed for the rain, said it all – this must be the first time that these men and women whom we elect to high office have ventured out of their VVIP homes, that are sanitized and kept in pristine condition, while the rest of us have to pick our way through hastily covered potholes given a once-over with uneven jelly, navigate the open drains, the broken pavements and past fallen tree branches at our doorsteps; Every road and junction is a nightmare.
You worry about not just whether you could lose control of the vehicle you’re driving, but whether you will hit the girl on the scooter in front when you negotiate that pothole, or whether the BMTC bus will cannon into you when you brake or slow the car to negotiate the craters that was once a road. That, my friend, is the ugly reality.
Get rid of the chauffer and get behind the wheel, gentlemen, and see what it’s really like to be a commuter in Namma Bengaluru.
Making it worse, is the manner in which politicians of every political persuasion are now using the city’s distress to score political points off each other. What will it take for this political football over Bengaluru to end? When Siddaramaiah goes on a city round, (please don’t believe what the mayor and the ministers in charge, are showing you, Mr CM), can Yeddyurappa be far behind? Or other lesser luminaries?
First off, the false promises and the lies must end. The 15,935 potholes cannot be filled within ten days. Fact of life? Our city roads are built by contractors who have everything to gain and nothing to lose by using sub-standard material, building roads that will crumble to dust again in six months, so that they get the contract to re-do the very same roads, over and over. That’s the story, through successive governments, be it Congress, JD (U/S), BJP.
And regardless of who’s in power, right from the ward representative who fronts the politician, to his BBMP corporator cohort and the MLA, the MP, and the minister have consistently looked the other way, washing their hands off the multitudinous faultlines that are always blamed on the faceless and crooked contractor. Who knows how high up the ladder, the payoffs go!
The CM’s plan to white-top the crumbling roads must have all the goons in a white rage!
The reality is also this – Bengaluru, in recent times has not seen these kind of rains. At least, not for the last thirty years or more. This was what it was like when we went to college and walked through the muck in Shivajinagar and got soaked in the downpour, racing to catch the last bus home. Has nothing changed? Well, the muck has gone forth and multiplied! Instead of one bus shelter that leaks, we have hundreds left half-done, open to the skies.
Instead of diverting resources to the Indira Canteens – however laudable– the focus has to be public transportation and the infrastructure that goes with it.
Instead of having a BMRTC and a BBMP, report to a minister who is at odds with the other minister, why not have the civic body report to one supervisory authority that is empowered to call the shots.
Instead of one top heavy body like the BBMP to oversee an entire city – 198 wards with some wards having a population of as many as 50,000 people - let us be practical, and have the division of the BBMP into the smaller, more manageable units that we need. A step towards a Greater Bengaluru! Or better still, scrap the BBMP altogether!
Imagine, living in a city that hosts one of the oldest scientific institutions like the IISc, home to the best brains in the country and not tapping them to advise us on roads and underpasses, that they've built with such skill!
And Mr Governor, it's time for you to rise above partisan politics and put the city first. The bill to trifurcate the city body is sitting in the Presidents's office - ignored by Pranabda. President Ram Nath Kovind who is due here on October 25 must be brought into the loop.
Bi-partisan politics makes for great headlines, but when people are dying because the city cannot safeguard its inhabitants, then, it is time for Bengaluru to cut the political umbilical cord and look for an alternative. Should the onus of running the city rest with apolitical citizens, not involved in the electoral tug of war, that it has now descended to.
We, the citizens of Bengaluru, deserve much more than this. We should be wooed with both - poetry and prose....