Politicians of both leading and upcoming parties in the municipal governance framework of Bengaluru, are unequivocally in favour of making all the city-specific parastatal (state-owned) agencies accountable to the city Mayor. The matter was broached during an online debate on the new ‘BBMP Bill 2020’, organised conducted by the city-based non-profit, organisation, Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy. Leaders of the BJP, Congress, JD(S), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Bengaluru NavaNirmana Party (BNP) and Karnataka Rashtra Samithi (KRS) took part in the online discussion on whether the new bill by civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike will solve the city’s problems.
All leaders, except those from the Aam Aadmi Party, said that in order to make meaningful change in governance, state-owned agencies such as the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM), Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation (BMRCL) and the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) should come under the Mayor or the BBMP council’s authority.
The new Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Bill, which is set to be introduced in the state Assembly in March 2021, will replace the Karnataka Municipal Act, 1956 to govern the Bengaluru metropolis. The Bill, as it is, is deemed to be unfit on the administrative and structural fronts to govern the city. As opposed to the KMC Act, the new bill proposes decentralisation, integration of public participation at various levels of municipal governance and ensuring effective decision-making by municipal authorities.
At the online discussion on Wednesday, the parties were represented by Padmanabha Reddy, the former opposition leader from BJP in the council; Abdul Wajid, former Opposition Party Leader for the Congress in the council; R Prakash, JD(S) Bengaluru city president; Shanthala Damle, state co-convener of AAP; Srikanth Narasimhan, general secretary of BNP; and Deepak Nagaraj, general secretary of KRS.
On the issue of parastatal agencies coming under the Mayor’s authority, Wajid, a two-time corporator, said, “All civic agencies and parastatals should report to BBMP, similar to the model in Mumbai. This can ensure effective and smooth implementation of development work.”
The same was echoed by JD(S) representative R Prakash.
Srikanth of BNP said that bringing all agencies involved in Bengaluru’s development and functioning under one umbrella is part of the party's agenda and to ensure greater accountability and congruence in governance.
When urged by moderators, Srinivas Alavilli and Sapna Karim of Janaagraha, Padmanabha Reddy, by virtue of being part of the ruling party, promised to raise the issue even within the party forum.
Wajid said that while he supports the Bill, he doubts the timing and wants details of the Bill to be deliberated in detail. Wajid alleged that the bill is being introduced now only to postpone the BBMP council election further.
Currently, the details of the new BBMP Bill is being reviewed by a Joint Select Committee, which is led by BJP MLA S Raghu.
While the ruling BJP has touted the new BBMP Bill as a game-changer, the Opposition led by Congress has alleged it is a much watered-down version of the BS Patil Committee recommendations. The former Siddaramaiah government had appointed the BS Patil Committee to make wholesome changes to the city’s governance following the lines of what is followed in London and other global cities.
While the Siddaramaiah government had passed that Bill, it was not approved by Governor Vajubhai Vala. Incidentally, on the issue of these parastatal agencies being under the ambit of the BBMP Council, the BS Patil Committee had recommended the same.
Among the other pertinent issues that came up in the debate included the powers and independence of the ward committees, the proposed increase of Mayoral term and the constitutions of zonal committees.
Watch the whole debate here