The delay in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) elections has led to many problems for companies and citizens.
It is nothing but a routine morning for the workers at Bridgeicon IT services in Jeevan Bima Nagar. One of the members of the company said that some weeks ago, a power cut at their office affected their work for a couple of hours.
“Off. Everything—fan to computer systems. Work too, but only for a few hours,” an employee at Bridgeicon IT services said on anonymity. “At times, we face water shortages too. And we have raised complaints about the same to the concerned authorities. We have also addressed these issues to the corporators. But I have no faith in them,” he added.
Abdul Wajid of the Indian National Congress (INC) and corporator from Manorayana Palya echoes similar concerns. “The delay in elections affects the common man more than anyone. Other than them, companies are also affected as their functioning is disturbed,” he said.
AL Shivakumar of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) and ex-corporator from Chickpete said that the business of construction companies in his ward was affected by the delay. “After some delay in the contracts with the authorities, the company which earlier used to charge Rs. 20 lakhs for a project would now charge crores. My ward faced losses due to delay in decision making but after that, they came up with a charge that was five times the price of the original cost,” he added.
Gayle Kurtzer-Meyers, an experienced writer who writes about financial markets said, “A delayed election can indeed disturb the financial status of a municipal corporation. A significant delay disrupts the operation by disrupting the continuity of budgets for the current and following years. In an election each candidate comes to the platform with a specific mission in mind which often includes how money will be assigned. In a delayed election investors put financial decisions on hold in fear of the market becoming volatile. The impact would be felt throughout the municipality,” said Meyers.
An official from the State Election Commission on anonymity reflects the same concerns. “Presence of the corporator in the ward can help the companies resolve issues and hence facilitate in their work process,” the official said.
Voters’ and business’ problems
Meyers adds that the delay affects the citizens too. “The impact of financial decisions being put on hold creates apprehension with markets. People are hesitant to spend in an unknown environment so important expenses, projects and contributions take a hit,” she said.
From Bengaluru’s perspective, Harsha Kumar, a citizen from KR Puram ward explains various problems. “Only specific vote banks areas are improving just before the elections. Just before the elections a group from each party goes to find out the voter details and this has been happening for a long time. The general public need equal treatment,” he said.
When it comes to delayed elections affecting businesses, Anil Kumar (name changed) a businessman in Bengaluru has mixed opinions. “Small business owners and road side vendors face maximum problems. In Bengaluru, some agencies or other dig-up roads everyday. Sometimes, Airtel or Jio would dig-up roads in front of a business establishment for their cable works. After their work, they would not close properly. Often, these companies do not listen to these business owners. This is where the corporators come into picture when they help the local businesspersons by addressing the issue to the companies,” he said.
Kumar explained that contrary to this, a corporator would not work efficiently. “Let’s say that people from Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Limited (BESCOM) dig up a road and after that there is dust everywhere. Getting rid of the dust is the role of BBMP officials in the area. But the local corporator would call someone from the Public Works Department (PWD) to do the work,” he said
From the perspective of a shop owner, this running battle between the corporator and the various government agencies will go on, he added.
A report highlights the importance of BBMP and councilors for citizens. “If I had to put it in a nutshell as to why the absence of a Council will make a great deal of difference to us (people), I can do that in two words – accountability and access.
Your garbage isn’t being collected; the road in front of your house is in shambles; the monsoons have wreaked havoc – you don’t get to call your corporator anymore. Regardless of who has been in power, the local governance of Bengaluru has been a turf war where the citizens have been the losing party. We have seen this play out before. We are the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg which is slowly having its neck slit,” the report noted.
“Metropolitan city councils have larger populations and responsibilities which some fail and some succeed to address,” said the official from the State Election Commission.
Why the delay?
The BBMP has been without an elected council since September 2020. The elections, were scheduled in 2020, but were delayed due to the pandemic. There was also a need to redraw BBMP wards.
The Karnataka High Court on December 4, 2020 directed the State Election Commission to schedule the polls for 198 wards within six weeks. But with the new BBMP Act, the government wants to increase the number of wards to 243 from 198.
“After every national census, the BBMP has to reorganize the borders of the wards. Since census for 2021 were delayed due to the pandemic, the reorganization of the wards and the elections are delayed too.
Holding elections on the basis of the old census would not make sense and be fair for the corporators,” said the official from the State Election Commission.
Recently, the Supreme Court rejected the Maharashtra government’s attempt to reserve 27 per cent seats for other backward classes (OBCs) in local bodies. It said that the interim report by the state backward commission recommended reservation for OBCs over lack of rationale and absence of contemporaneous data.
HB Rohini, a lawyer practicing in the Karnataka High Court said the delayed election is politically motivated tools. “Elections are delayed for several reasons. Sometimes, politicians purchase people in their ward by giving them freebies and money. This practice has been going on for years before the elections. Sometimes, they delay elections to practice this,” she said.
For India, as a democratic, this practice makes it a democracy not of, for, and by the people, she added.