It was a Lok Sabha byelection fought and won by fulfilling a basic,daily need. In the Bangalore Rural Lok Sabha constituency in the suburbs of the city,winning Congress candidate D K Suresh offered the people a straightforward deal- bottled drinking water dispensed through innovative water ATMs.
Suresh,the brother of Congress leader D K Shivakumar,set up 33 water ATMs,dispensing kiosks attached to reverse osmosis plants at the backend. For a one-rupee coin,the plant dispensed 10 litres of mineral water and for a two-rupee coin,20 litres. In the market,a 20-litre drinking water container costs around Rs 40-50 and it is even more in the rural areas.
At a place,where drinking water was scarce and pinched the pocket the plan worked wonders. Suresh and Shivakumar said the water ATMs proved to be the key difference in the fiercely-fought August 21 byelection,which formidable JD(S) candidate Anitha Kumaraswamy,of the Deve Gowda family,lost by 1,37,000 votes.
Water has risen very quickly to the top of the demand charts for politicians,so the water kiosks would have certainly impacted the election, said Rohini Nilekani,who heads the non-profit Arghyam,which focuses on water issues.
The DKS brothers,as the two are referred to,had a clear poll campaign. Our promise was simple: if the prime minister,the chief minister and MLAs can drink bottled water,the villagers should have it too, said Shivakumar,an MLA from the region.
The people are thrilled and line up daily to collect water in the cans that the brothers have supplied to them for free. Of course,the cans prominently feature the name of Suresh. Our water cans are in their homes,our names are on the cans,every day they see the names,they drink the water,they remember our work, said Shivakumar.
Suresh said the groundwater in many villages here is toxic and has unacceptable levels of constituents like fluoride,arsenic and chromium.
In the next few months,the MP-MLA pair plan to have at least 10 water ATMs in each taluk. That would be perfectly timed for the crucial Lok Sabha elections due in 2014.