Fifth Metro: Bangalore, 1, 2, 3

Karnataka chief minister has seized control of the state’s biggest and richest civic body.

Written by Saritha Rai | Updated: April 27, 2015 12:39 am
bangalore IAs offices death, IAS ravi death, dk ravi death, ias officer death, india news, bangalore news, karnataka news, The klutzy 11th-hour manoeuvre has unwittingly pitted Chief Minister Siddaramaiah against the political opposition in and outside the state assembly.

The Siddaramaiah government’s superseding of Bangalore’s civic body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), in order to trifurcate the city’s administration has erupted into a full-blown controversy. The klutzy 11th-hour manoeuvre has unwittingly pitted Chief Minister Siddaramaiah against the political opposition in and outside the state assembly. After backing himself into a corner, the chief minister and his government have found it hard to explain this move in the Karnataka High Court. The court has now ruled that the government must hold civic polls within six months. But the legal battle itself may not end there.

Last week, the government overrode the BJP-controlled BBMP council mere days before its term was to end. The haste was ascribed to civic body rules that mandate that an election be held immediately (in this case, by May 30) if the council completes its term. But the rules allow for a six-month delay if the council is dissolved.

The government’s rationale for the sudden overriding was this: it was examining ways to improve the BBMP’s functioning by carving it into three portions to better manage Bangalore’s vast area and huge population. By displacing the elected body and announcing a trifurcation, Siddaramaiah has also managed to wrest control of the state’s biggest and richest civic body. So, while the BJP’s own government had proposed a trifurcation of the civic body when it was in power, it nevertheless cried hoarse and accused the Congress of trying to manipulate future elections by fiddling with the boundaries of constituencies to favour its own support bases.

For the chief minister, the move hinted at a more-immediate political import. By putting off the BBMP polls, he has bought himself a breather from facing a city election. The chief minister is on shaky ground on the poll front as his last outing did not go well at all. In the Lok Sabha election last year, the ruling Congress managed to win just nine seats out of a total of 28 in Karnataka. The BJP got 17, including all three seats in Bangalore city. Realistically, the Congress, which has gathered quite a reputation for meticulously ignoring and even neglecting Bangalore, could not have pulled off a victory in the BBMP election. Any defeat of his Congress party, even a BBMP poll defeat, would have diminished Siddaramaiah’s standing with the party’s central leadership and would have had his in-party rivals crying for his scalp.

The irony is that not all the flak for a dysfunctional city administration ought to go to the Congress. After all, the BJP has had a majority in the city corporation for the past five years. In that period, the 709 sq km,

10 million-plus city with a Rs 6,800 crore annual budget has become an even bigger mess with deterioration of basics like roads and drinking water supply. The city grappled with additional catastrophes from time to time. In the last couple of years, for instance, it has faced a garbage crisis — sans a proper disposal system, it cannot cope with ever-growing mountains of waste. Another example: over 100 villages in the city outskirts that came into the corporation fold seven years ago are yet to be given an underground sewage system by the city corporation. Even bigger swathes of the city do not have water supply and have to rely on privately run tankers. The city is like a full-grown teenager trying to squeeze into an infant’s clothing.

A hurried city trifurcation, without attention to requisite details like governance and administrative structure, is not going to help improve Bangalore’s livability. A 2011 trifurcation of Delhi’s municipal authorities has flopped and the city is now contemplating merging its three administrative bodies.

For Bangalore, though, the expert view is that trifurcation may itself not be a bad idea but it has to be preceded by putting zonal and municipal structures in place. A government-appointed expert committee on the BBMP’s restructuring has, in an interim report, suggested a three-tier governance architecture for the city, comprising ward-level administration topped by multiple city corporations and, at the apex, a regional government similar to the London model where several boroughs comprise the Greater London Authority overseen by an elected mayor.

Those who know the inner workings of the corporation say that just a third of the city’s budget is spent on itself. The rest is siphoned off in a variety of ways by politicians, bureaucrats and contractors. Trifurcating a bulky, unwieldy civic body may not be a bad idea per se. But without the right preparation and getting the required apparatus in place, it could well triple the corruption and leakages while multiplying its inefficiency.

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More From Saritha Rai
  1. G
    Apr 27, 2015 at 8:22 pm
    Bangalore is in a pathetic state right now. The corruption and maladministration of civic authorities and state government has led to this situation. Most of the roads have been dug up and then left as it is with big ditches, where water has filled up and these look deceptively shallow causing many unsuspecting road users to fall. Man covers are left open and often accidents happen where people (mostly children) lose their lives. Police let trucks in to the city during the day time and that causes major traffic havoc. It could take up to 40 minutes or even more to cover a distance of 100 metres. Traffic snarls can happen at any time of day and night. I have seen traffic snarls at 4 am in the morning in Bangalore. Autos, Taxis, buses, motorcyclists and private motorists break traffic laws with impunity without fear of being caught and penalized. It is a common sight to see people jumping red lights driving in wrong lane to get ahead in traffic jams and aggressive driving. There is garbage on the streets everywhere and sewage water flows in open nallahs to Bangalore's many lakes. These nallahs stink and these can be found in many so called posh areas of the city as well (for e.g. near the Leela Palace Hotel on Old airport road). Most lakes in Bangalore are stinking and a once beautiful city is now slowly becoming un-livable. The administration is totally non-responsive and does not have the political will to tackle its many problems. Drinking water supply is not available to large parts of the city and people depend on bore wells and tanker supply. Town planning does not exist and the moment you go off the main road in to side roads, you can see the utter lack of planning and haphazard urban development. Bangalore has the opportunity to be one of the finest metros in India; it has wonderful climate (air conditioned city) and a well trained professionally attuned potion. People are generally good natured and friendly. It is the administration and politicians who have let this city down. This trifurcation is nothing but a scheme to deflect attention from the administrative failures and create opportunities for more loot of public resources.
    1. K
      Apr 27, 2015 at 7:44 pm
      If all it is required to be divided (yes, it's a bonanza for politicians as three sets of them can now swindle the funds) keep the core Bangalore as one which existed prior to the merger of the villages, and the new south and new north can start with the merged villages on either side and beyond. All will have the required resources as the growing parts of the city will get registration taxes and property taxes with new construction activity and malls, and the old one with whatever it had in the past, and the new activity developing. The new south will have IT bonanza, and the new north will have all of the airport and the real-estate activity ociated with it. If proper leaders are elected all areas can grow, but there are too many bandicoots prowling around, and will swallow funds if the accounts are not monitored properly. How can a city function with over 5000 crore budget a year not audited for decades together? This has to be set right first to improve accountability.