Deccan Herald
Gayathri Nivas

The new corporation council will be short on experience as most candidates fielded by political parties are greenhorns.

The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike election later this month will be its first after the monolithic civic body’s jurisdiction was more than doubled with the addition of some city municipal councils, a town panchayat and surrounding villages. The expansion not only necessitated fresh delimitation of wards but also the suffix ‘Bruhat’ was added to its name signifying its mega size. The earlier City Corporation had only 100 wards as against the present total area of 852 sq km comprising 198 wards.

Apart from the 198 corporators to be elected, 28 MLAs, 11 MLCs and three MPs representing Bangalore city get automatic membership, taking the total strength of the Corporation to 240 members. In terms of numbers, the corporation will virtually overtake the Karnataka Assembly, which has 224 plus one nominated member.

Bangalore is, perhaps, the only undivided city corporation of its size in the entire country as the elected bodies of most other major metros are broken up into more than one administrative unit. Naturally, administering this monolith will pose quite a challenge.

Though a senior IAS officer is generally posted as commissioner to the corporation, and at least eight joint commissioners will assist him, the framing of policies and programmes is the task of elected representatives, which calls for public contact and experience at the grassroots level.

Sadly, the new corporation council will be direly short of such work experience as nearly 80 per cent of the candidates fielded, even by the major political parties, are more or less greenhorns. Compounding this problem is the fact that the state government rescinded its plan to directly appoint a mayor with a five-year term and empower him/her as a virtual city chief minister.

The intention behind the proposal was to fast-track Bangalore’s infrastructure development to cope with its burgeoning growth. Though tactical, it fell through as BJP’s influential city MLAs did not fancy a ‘super-city father’ overriding their own powers. These MLAs had even stalled the BBMP election in every which way until the courts intervened and set a deadline for the government to hold the polls. All these manoeuvre have left the ruling BJP a divided and disgruntled house, the impact of which will bear on the council’s functioning.

Congress hopes

Taking advantage of the BJP’s downside and the party government’s failure to tackle some of the city’s glaring problems like bad roads, chaotic traffic, pollution, etc, the Congress is nursing hopes of taking over the reins of the corporation, at least by forming a coalition with the JD(S). As a preparatory strategy, it has fielded some ‘old hats’, including a few former mayors, who party seniors believe will prove handy if the Congress is voted to power.

The BJP, which has been facing bankruptcy charges, is not letting Congress have it easy. The party is spending roughly Rs 2 crore a candidate, it is said. But its poor track record is its bane and may cost the party quite a few wards even if it manages to cross the halfway mark in the 198-member House.

Poll expenses

The opposition parties are returning the challenge at least in terms of spending as quite a few crorepatis are in the fray. The exact amount of poll expenses will, however, remain a guesstimate as an analysis of Lok Sabha 2009 election expenses based on returns filed by candidates, reveals: 19 per cent candidates who contested elections didn’t even file expenses; the average election expenditure of candidates of all parties is between 50-55 per cent (or less) of the prescribed limit of Rs 25 lakh; only four candidates have shown expenses exceeding the limit; when analysed partywise, most candidates of the major parties reached nowhere close to the maximum expense limit prescribed; when analysed statewise, in none of the states the average spending reached even 50 per cent of the limit; only 30 candidates spent between 90 per cent of the expense limit (ie 22.5 lakh) and the maximum limit (ie 25 lakh).

The average election expenses of the candidates partywise show that average spending of BSP candidates was Rs 6.2 lakh, of Congress Rs 13.7 lakh, of BJP Rs 12.5 lakh and of SP Rs 8.9 lakh.

An analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch shows that placing limits on election spending is unrealistic, as it simply pushes parties and individuals to scout for advantages over their competition by finding new ways around those limits, by legal or illegal means. So, the least we can expect is to ask for deeper scrutiny of expenses and accountability of political parties.

Political parties do not have a god-given right to exist. If parties cannot get enough voluntary support from the public, they hardly deserve to be bankrolled by increasing sums from the taxpayer.

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