What would motivate a white-collar professional to abandon his career for civic polls? “A high degree of incompetence, complete lack of intent and lack of integrity combined with apathy towards the city as far as elected representatives are concerned,” replies Srikanth Narasimhan.
Srikanth, until recently, has been known as the general secretary of Bangalore Apartment Federation (BAF), a collective of 500 big and small apartment complexes in Bengaluru. Today, Srikanth is donning a new avatar, as the co-founder and a core party member of the Bengaluru Nava Nirmana Party, a new political party focused only on Bengaluru and its municipal governance. The party will fight its first elections in the upcoming Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) civic polls, due to be held in April.
“When I interacted with other active members of some citizen groups, I received similar feedback. We have all been able to accomplish a few things to an extent, but at a larger level, we felt governance is in tatters. So we needed to solve this,” he says.
There were suggestions to choose competent, professional Corporator candidates with integrity and get them to contest as independents. “But we realised that, as independents, you cannot punch your weight against the big parties. That is when we decided to float a party that is focused only on the city and its civic governance, for and by the citizens of Bengaluru,” Srikanth tells TNM.
The Bengaluru Nava Nirmana party is a consortium of different citizens’ groups in the city. “The charter of our party states that we can only contest the municipal elections and not the state or central elections,” he says, reiterating, “Our ideology is grassroots governance that has an impact on the day-to-day aspects of our lives, including garbage, stormwater drains, water, sewage, potholes, playgrounds – that is where our focus is.”
The party will have considerable representation from a cross-section of society, including heritage activists, civic activists, pourakarmikas, street vendors, and shanty dwellers.
“In fact, the first manifesto of our party is focused on pourakarmikas. We came up with the manifesto only after having discussions with activists and volunteers who have been closely working with the pourakarmika unions for a long time. We will also come up with manifestos for apartment dwellers, street vendors, and all other segments of society,” he explains.
The party will also bring out different manifestos focused on specific functions of the civic body such as waste management and drainage.
Currently, he says, they have candidates in 50 to 60 wards in the city. On February 29, the party will release the list of its first set of candidates.
While promises and manifestos are not new in the country’s or state’s politics, Srikanth says transparency is one aspect the party can confidently promise the people. “Irrespective of how many of our candidates win, our Corporator candidates will hold the ward committee meetings, not just because it’s mandated by law but also to ensure all strata of society are represented. Every quarter, there will be a revision of funds spent and yearly, we will release progress reports at the ward level,” he says.
According to Srikanth, while one can’t expect instant solutions, their Corporators will involve the citizens in the locality to prepare a list of short- and long-term issues that need to be tackled.
In the long-term, the party also wants to bring other parastatals – like the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Limited (Bescom) and Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) – to come under the ambit of the BBMP alone, to ensure greater accountability and congruence among the different agencies.
“We are here for the long run as alternative politics, which is clean and committed to the city,” he says.