Why Rahul Gandhi should dump Bengaluru steel flyover project and save Congress - Firstpost
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Why Rahul Gandhi should dump Bengaluru steel flyover project and save Congress

Dear Rahul Gandhi,

Six years and 23 days ago, 21 September 2010, the foot bridge at Commonwealth Games village collapsed. A total of 23 innocent people were injured and but the bigger blow was dealt to the Congress Party, which is yet to recover from that collapse. It was later marked as the 'beginning of the end'.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Fast forward to 2016. Congress party has no large state left where it governs other than Karnataka. We are it.

No other place to showcase good governance. No other place to win the trust of people. This is it.

Unlike many other states, Karnataka is blessed with a healthy balance sheet, high economic growth, a large number of taxpayers, not to mention the moniker 'Silicon Valley' of India that not only delivered IT gold for the country but is home to the most exciting startups that will propel future growth of our economy.

Karnataka is a pioneer in introducing the third tier of governance. Local bodies were empowered and the decentralisation helped make things better. Not anymore. The mayor is a figurehead and the corporators are mostly contractors with garbage trucks or water tanks. Unlike other states, Congress party rules both the state and city. And yet, we are a study in how not to run a world class city. Our corporation is nearly bankrupt and the MLAs and ministers cannot let go of the cash cow called Bengaluru.

Bengaluru has given so much to our country. Bengaluru is crumbling under its own weight. The lack of political will is killing it. The utter lack of imagination, reckless attitude of the state government in tackling urban challenges sends a clear signal to the voters and taxpayers. The massive influx of population that brought jobs and prosperity also led to a complete collapse of civic infrastructure. There is no water, potholes free roads are a rarity and we've been busy changing our nameplates from 'garden' city to 'garbage' city and we are now on the verge of calling ourselves 'Steel' city for no good reason, unlike Jamshedpur.

The government decided to put its might behind a mega project called 'Steel Flyover' instead of any number of things that actually make a difference to ordinary citizens.

The single biggest issue in Bengaluru is traffic. No one disagrees with this. You should talk to your friends in Bengaluru, ones without any police convoy, and find out first hand. The traffic congestion not only affects livelihood, we are also asthma and allergy capital of India, pollution levels peaking as 1,000 new vehicles get registered every single day. Nearly 50 lakh people use the BMTC, our government owned city bus service. Our bus fares are THE HIGHEST in the country. The city grew by leaps and bounds but the bus fleet went from 2,000 to 6,000 in the last 20 years.

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We have an amazing rail network within the city 120 km long with 12 stations. Suburban train - we call that 'namma railu' can work wonder with a fraction of the cost by leveraging this hidden gem. Yet, this project has been dormant for years stuck between various departments between state and center.

Airport needs better connectivity, yes. But this steel flyover is certainly not the solution for anyone other than VIPs. Experts opined that without throwing away Rs 1,800 crore, the same route can be made faster by improving bottlenecks achieving the same result as the flyover.

All is not lost. One of the biggest strengths of Bengaluru is the active presence of a large number of civic activists and peer-recognized experts in urban planning and governance such as Naresh Narasimhan, Ashwin Mahesh, Satya Prakash Varanashi, S Vishwanath, Prakash Belawadi and several others. They are successful in their careers related to urban planning and design, and equally passionate about Bengaluru. Yet, there is no meaningful public consultation where they could have shared their opinion on such critical matters of public interest. The MPC was totally side stepped and even the vision group that GoK itself set up was not consulted on this matter, leading us to wonder why there is so much secrecy and urgency on this particular project!

Unless you act now, to stop such ill-conceived ideas that put a blot on your lone big state and focus on governance and deliver visible results, you will not be in a position to seek votes, especially from Bengaluru city, that is going to send a whopping 28 MLAs to our Vidhana Soudha come May 2018.

If the Congress party fails to listen to the overwhelming voice of Bengaluru voters, the VIP steel flyover saga may well turn out to be the end of the end.

The author is a member of the Citizens Against Steel Flyover, Bengaluru.

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