A meeting of city legislators and Members of Parliament convened Tuesday to discuss the proposed construction of a controversial steel flyover remained inconclusive, with BJP staging a walkout, accusing Congress of “threatening” and “scuttling” its voice. The meeting was convened by Bengaluru Development and Town Planning Minister K J George in an attempt to take public representatives from the city on board, by informing about the actualities of the project, which has been witnessing demonstrations both for and against it.
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Alleging that George and Congress MLAs did not allow them make their point, BJP said the meeting was a “drama” and the party’s honest attempts to give its suggestions were scuttled. The Rs 1,761 crore steel flyover to link Basaveshwara Circle to Hebbal to improve connectivity to Bengaluru international airport has come in for flak from civic groups and political parties on cost and environmental concerns.
BJP legislators came out of the meeting hall, shouting slogans against the government. “We had come to give our suggestion. When we were giving our suggestions George and Congress MLAs started shouting with an intention to shut our voice,” Former Deputy Chief Minister R Ashoka told reporters in Bengaluru.
He said whenever they tried to give suggestions, comments were passed. When Suresh Kumar (senior BJP MLA) was speaking, he was called a ‘magic box expert’ and when Rajeev Chandrasekhar (MP) spoke, they told him to go before the court where he has filed a petition against the project, he said. Stating that consultants, contractors and even the date for the groundbreaking ceremony has already been fixed, he said the meeting was called to try and cover up the project “that is stinking with allegations of corruption”.
Terming the meeting as a “drama”, Suresh Kumar said their intention was not to entertain any serious objections or points that would go against their “favourite” steel flyover. “This government is bent upon going ahead without listening to the sincere concerns of the citizens. We will plan our next course of action.”
Earlier, suspended JD(S) MLA Gopalaiah had walked out of the meet, demanding that Bengaluru Development Authority, that is managing the project, to first compensate those who have “sacrificed their property for various developmental works in the city”.
On BJP’s charges, George said they gave many suggestions in the meeting. “What has happened is they have already decided against the steel flyover. Their leader now is none other than Rajeev Chandrasekhar. Whatever he says, BJP follows it,” he said.
On Ashok’s charges that government was hiding the cabinet decision to collect toll once the project is completed, he said, “It (steel bridge) is part of a bigger elevated corridor which is about 120 km, this 7 km is part of it.” Stating that government may have to collect toll for 120 km elevated road for finance and funding purposes, George said, “We are not going to toll now (for 7 km), but when we go for 120 km, we will discuss and take decision.”
On the high maintenance cost the flyover may require, George said it would be prefabricated and galvanised with a chemical. There was no need for maintenance for 20 years. Anti-flyover groups under leadership of ‘Citizens for Bengaluru’ which is galvanising public opinion on the proposed project through online petitions and signature campaigns, have also petitioned the Karnataka Governor on the issue.
Unfazed by protests, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had earlier defended the project, calling it “totally transparent” and had clarified that the escalation in cost was due to two years delay in tender and steep increase in VAT on steel. It is estimated that 812 trees will be felled for the project.