Bangalore: The victor of the battle for Bangalore will significantly determine who holds the winning stakes in the Karnataka polls to be held in May because the number of constituencies in the state’s capital has increased to 36 from 16 after their boundaries were redrawn based on latest population data.
“The party that wins these seats holds the key to power,” says K. Chandrashekar, Congress party legislator from Basavanagudi, a constituency in south Bangalore, who was also once the city’s mayor.
“Development of Bangalore will be an isue,” says P.C. Mohan, a Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, legislator who has twice represented Chickpet, a city constituency.
Besides Bangalore’s 36 seats that include eight in its suburbs, all urban centres in the state have added one seat each. This means the number of rural seats have decreased since the total number of constituiencies remains at 224.
This has forced political parties, who traditionally have been wooing rural voters due to the significantly higher number of legislators they send, to rethink their election strategy. The elections in three phases will begin on 10 May with results on 26 May.
Although the main parties—BJP, Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S)—have raised the pitch for rural votes through sops such as free television sets and power, and subsidized rice, they are also talking of storm water drains, decongesting roads and sites for housing in Bangalore.
“It is high time the city comes on the agenda. Karnataka’s future is linked with Bangalore’s growth,” says T.V. Mohandas Pai, director and head of human resources and training at Infosys Technologies Ltd. Over one-fourth of the 91,187 employees of Infosys work in Bangalore. The technology sector alone employs nearly 675,000 people.
Lok Paritran, a political party launched in 2006 by four alumni of Indian Institute of Technology, plans to focus on Bangalore and contest all the 28 seats in the city.
“Bangaloreans pay the highest taxes but they are the least served by the government,” says Lok Paritran’s state president B.T. Naganna, who will also contest this election.
Bangalore transformed into a metropolis from a city of public sector undertakings and scientific research institutions in the last two decades due to the mushrooming of information technology firms. However, infrastructure such as ro-ads, public transport, and utilities has not kept pace with the exploding population, numbering over 6.5 million now.
Public protests around the turn of the century led to the establishment of the Bangalore Agenda Task Force, or BATF, to oversee the city’s development. However, the BATF was dismantled soon after the 2004 polls that saw the state’s first coalition government, which said it’s focus would be on rural development.
Perhaps this time round, India’s silicon city will get a better deal from its politicians.