Members of Civil Society Forum - a coalition of several civic rights organisations, released a citizen manifesto of issues at a public interaction held in Bengaluru on Friday.
The interaction was attended by representatives from Janata Dal (secular), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Communist Party of India (Marxist). However the two national parties – Congress and BJP – were conspicuously absent from the event in spite of being advertised in advance.
Among the key issues discussed at the interaction were the increase in public-private partnerships in healthcare, the need for recognition and land rights for slum dwellers, the diminishing powers of the Lokayukta and concerns of food and water security.
Senior JD(S) leader and party manifesto committee member PGR Sindhia spoke about the need to give land rights to slum dwellers. “We need to empower slum dwellers and ensure that they do not live in fear of losing their homes,” said Sindhia.
Slum dwellers in the state continue to live in difficult conditions with no ownership of land rights which means that they are often at the mercy of the government's whims and can be evicted from their homes at any time.
Meanwhile, AAP candidate Ashwin Mahesh pointed towards the party’s success in improving healthcare and education in Delhi, as proof enough of the party’s seriousness to compete in the Karnataka elections. “People in New Delhi are turning to government schools for education. People are also visiting government healthcare centres for surgeries,” Ashwin said.
He also discussed the diminishing powers of the Lokayukta in the state. “The original imagination of the institution of Lokayukta to be completely autonomous was correct. As a statutory body, it should not have to take anybody’s permission to carry out its prosecution work, otherwise the whole point of the system is defeated. The powers of the Lokayukta have certainly diminished and we all know it. We have to strengthen it,” he added.
AAP is contesting in assembly elections in Karnataka for the first time this year and has released a list of 18 candidates.
Meanwhile, CPI(M) leader GN Nagaraj urged that along with urban governance, rural issues should be a major focus area for political parties while they prepare their manifestos. He highlighted rural movements including the ‘Tax Satyagraha’ movement lead by activist and theatre personality Prasanna urging that handmade goods be taxed 0% under GST.
While the discussion of issues saw active participation of the three political representatives present at the event, the absence of Congress and BJP leaders weighed heavily. “I would have preferred if Congress and BJP leaders had sent one of their candidates to this event. We can discuss issues openly and the citizens can decide,” quipped Sindhia. He also categorically rejected the idea of JD(S) joining hands with the BJP in a post-poll alliance when he was asked a question by a member of the audience.