Things are heating up in Karnataka as we enter the final week of election season. In Mahadevapura constituency in Bengaluru, BR Bhaskar Prasad, a prominent Dalit activist, is contesting for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and will be facing two-time incumbent MLA Arvind Limbavali of the BJP and Congress candidate AC Srinivas. With Mahadevapura facing severe government apathy and struggling for basic necessities like water, electricity, good roads, health-care services etc, his entry has given a new dimension to the electoral fight.
Speaking to TNM, BR Bhaskar Prasad throws light on his election campaign and the promises his party is making to the constituency.
Mahadevapura is suffering from an acute water crisis and residents from some areas like Hoodi village claim that they are only getting water for 2 hours once in a week. BR Bhaskar Prasad says, “This problem is not limited to Mahadevapura but is in the entire city. In large apartment complexes, water is provided by water tankers. A comprehensive plan, involving citizens, elected representatives and state government, needs to be made to find a permanent solution. The same approach is applicable to other issues also. For example, there is no hospital in this region. The health-care problems have risen sharply. The drainage system is pathetic and there is a huge outbreak of mosquitoes, leading to malaria and dengue. One of our major focus areas will be health of the people.”
Traffic has become a routine feature of the city’s residents and have added hours to their daily commute time. Furthermore, metro work has thrown the traffic situation out of control. Explaining his plans to tackle this menace, BR Bhaskar Prasad said, “Our plan is forming the ring roads, which will absorb the traffic. Officials from National Highway Authority of India, State highway authority, local municipal corporations and Public Works Department have to sit down together and come out with a joint plan which will be beneficial to the public. So, our approach will be based on collaborations. We will also consult experts who are working in this domain and find the best solutions.”
The plight of the Bellandur and Varthur lakes have finally caught the attention of the media. Residents in the vicinity of the lakes complain of foul odors, harmful gases in the air, amongst other problems. In addition to the already existing problem of the lakes frothing and catching fire. Taking a similar approach to this issue, the AAP candidate said, “We will reintroduce people participation and involve experts who have worked in the field of lake rejuvenation to come up with a plan. Our priority would be to preserve the lakes within the constituency.”
Increased voter awareness
Bengaluru has a bad reputation of urban voter apathy. The voter participation has been considerably low. However, these elections have witnessed determined efforts by various civil society members and organizations to create voter awareness and encourage people to vote. When asked if such efforts, especially by Mahadevapura-based groups like Whitefield Rising, will help the fortunes of his party, he replied in affirmative and said, “Absolutely. In fact, yesterday, we had one meeting with the citizens’ groups. I see a lot of awareness among voters. Especially in Mahadevapura, there is a substantial chunk of educated voters who are aware of the problems and solutions, which is really appreciable. Because of internet, the voters are aware of the great work being done by our party in Delhi, and hence, we are betting high on them. We have a great chance to win from this constituency”.
Fighting media and public perception
The seat of Mahadevapura is considered a BJP-stronghold and the party is trying to make it a hat trick of victories in this constituency. On the other hand, Congress is going all out to seize an anti-incumbency wave, evident with Congress MP Shashi Tharoor campaigning for the Congress candidate last week. BR Bhaskar Prasad claims that the media has not been giving his party due attention and publicity. He said, “Dr. Kishore Mandhyan, a former IAS officer and political advisor to Ban Ki-Moon (former Secretary General United Nations), is endorsing and campaigning for me. He was a colleague of Tharoor and has been roaming along the constituency but the media has no time to cover him. We have a lot of support from the intellectual class also but media is biased and not showing all this.”
On criminal cases
AAP has always claimed to stand for clean politics which makes it surprising to see its candidate having multiple criminal cases against his name. BR Bhaskar Prasad has six criminal cases filed against him, some involving serious offences under IPC 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 384 (extortion), 506 (criminal intimidation) etc. Being defensive, he claims, “I have been fighting for the people. I launched Chalo Udupi movement and many other campaigns in the last few years. These cases were filed against me during those movements. In Bijapur, a 13-year old girl was raped and I organized a rally to protest it. But police and other parts of the government machinery were directly or indirectly involved in the case and the police filed cases against me. This is how things happen in our country. All these cases are of this type. The irony is that Amit Shah, the BJP president, was involved in so many cases but now, he is out of them all. It is all about power. It is a shameful thing.”
Comment relating to judges
In an interview last month, when asked about the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by the Supreme Court, BR Bhaskar Prasad had commented, “The judges who made the ruling are people who believe in religious discrimination”. When TNM asked him to explain such serious accusations against sitting Supreme Court judges, he became defensive and asserted, “I don’t want to comment on it but fundamentally, we believe in the constitution, the judiciary and the judges and respect them. Whatever the comment was, it was within the framework of these laws and regulations. The comment was taken out of context and hence, misinterpreted.”