CM’s Bengaluru development plans yet to take off

The Chief Minister, despite recent moves at image correction, continues to be seen as too preoccupied to focus on the State capital

Besides complaints over funding, one of the biggest grouses Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa had to address during the recent meeting with party MLAs was of some Bengaluru constituencies receiving “step-motherly treatment” and they not being consulted on various issues. This was only bringing to the fore a long-held complaint against the Chief Minister – that he is too preoccupied to focus on the city despite holding the portfolio of Bengaluru Development.

Two moves

The Chief Minister made two moves over the last month to erase this image: notification of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Act, 2020, which is a dedicated law for the city’s governance; and ‘Bengaluru Mission 2022’, a time-bound programme to address the city’s challenges.

However, they are being criticised as being cosmetic and incapable of delivering on Mr. Yediyurappa’s repeated claim that he would “change the face of Bengaluru”.

Congress MLA Krishna Byre Gowda, who dissented in the legislative committee, said the Act “doesn’t address the challenges of the city’s governance either today or for the future” and argued it was only a tinkering of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976.

V. Ravichandar, a former member of the BBMP Restructuring Committee, says that the Act is “definitely better than the old KMC Act, 1976,” but argued that “the government has failed to push the envelope enough when it had the mandate to do so.”

Old wine, new bottle?

Bengaluru Mission 2022 too has received flak. Except for beautification of stormwater drains (SWDs) that has already run into opposition over “privatisation of commons”, almost every project listed is either ongoing or are long-pending proposals.

“There is not a single new project. It seems more like a public relations exercise by the government in the run-up to the civic polls,” said N.S. Mukunda, founder president of Citizen Action Forum. “Many goals in the mission are too generic. Unless we set specific targets with metrics, there will be no accountability,” he rued.

BJP MP from Bengaluru Central P.C. Mohan countered that even though some of them may be long-pending projects, Mission 2022 addresses four major challenges in a time-bound manner – improving commute, waste management, greening and citizen participation.

While this may be a matter of debate, these two moves have made little difference to the primary grouse of legislators from both the ruling and opposition parties – of not knowing whom to approach for city-related issues.

Mr. Byre Gowda said, “The Chief Minister, who holds the portfolio, is extremely busy this year especially, fighting the pandemic. There is no one else looking at these issues.”

Earlier, R. Ashok held charge as both city minister and Deputy CM. That the BJP high command made Dr. C.N. Ashwath Narayan, who is much junior to Mr. Ashok, the Deputy Chief Minister (DCM) had led to a game of one-upmanship on who holds sway over city affairs. This was a key reason for Mr. Yediyurappa retaining the charge of Bengaluru Development, sources said, which he has since refused to let go.

No ‘full-time’ minister

A disgruntled senior BJP MLA said, “Mr. Narayan, Mr. Ashok, BDA Chairman S.R. Vishwanath and the defectors seem to be the only ones consulted over city affairs.” He underlined the need for a “full-time minister” and hoped that this will be remedied in the eternally-awaited cabinet expansion/reshuffle.

In an attempt to address some of the criticism, the Chief Minister has now formed two committees, one chaired by himself that includes Ministers and bureaucrats, and another led by the Chief Secretary, to regularly monitor the implementation of Mission 2022.

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