With a little more than a month to go before Karnataka votes for a new state government on 12 May, the three major parties at play — Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) — are in the process of creating a separate manifesto for the state capital, Bengaluru.
The state capital, comprising 28 Assembly constituencies, has become a centre of attraction for the BJP, Congress and JD(S) as 20 percent of Karnataka's voting population (88 lakhs) resides in Bengaluru. According to the Economic Times, members of the three parties have been gathering data and information for the 'Bengaluru manifesto' for the past three months.
This is the second time parties are drawing up a city specific manifesto in Karnataka. During the 2013 Assembly election, both BJP and Congress published a 'Bengaluru Manifesto' detailing what each party would do for the city if they were voted to power. The JD(S), however, has never published a separate manifesto for Bengaluru.
The BJP did this in 2014 ahead of the Lok Sabha polls and released a Delhi-specific manifesto promising full statehood, decreasing power tariff by 30 percent and controlling inflation within one month, if voted to power, according to an Indian Express report.
However, there isn't any trace of city-specific manifestos released in other states during state elections in the recent past.
This year, the Karnataka Congress also plans to release a district-wise manifesto as well, including one for Bengaluru Urban, which largely comprises the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). "We have had over 15 meetings so far with various stakeholders, right from town-planners to IT professionals, water management experts and elected representatives in the city," BL Shankar, vice-chairman of Congress manifesto committee told The Economic Times.
In December 2017, the Siddaramaiah-led government also released a logo for Bengaluru, the first such designed for any city in India, in an attempt to create a brand identity for the city and to act as a possible counter to the issues of traffic, pollution and poor infrastructure plaguing the city, reported Mint.
The report also states that the BJP plans to develop constituency-specific manifestos for Bengaluru, instead of a single overall one. The saffron party's micro-manifesto strategy is not new. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, former BJP chief Rajnath Singh had asked workers to develop a manifesto for each of the 543 parliamentary constituencies in India, as per the Mint.
The stakes are high in the upcoming election in Karnataka, especially for the Congress which is fighting to retain control of the one of the only two states it is in power in the country at the moment.
Apart from Bengaluru being the state power centre, here are a few reasons why the BJP, Congress and JD(S) are pulling all stops when it comes to the city:
20 percent of voting population
Twenty percent of Karnataka's voting population of 4.9 crore lives in Bengaluru, and most of the Assembly constituencies in the city come under different BBMP zones. Urban voters are wary and cynical of political parties and believe their new-found love for the city is only "election-centric", according to another Economic Times report. While the voting population is large in number, the voter turnout is often low. During the 2013 Assembly election, only 57.38 percent of the people voted from the city. Parties such as BJP, Congress and JD(S) would want to make sure they do not lose out on voting numbers due to low turnout.
Run up to 2019 Lok Sabha polls
The battle for Karnataka is one of survival for Congress, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi envisioning a "Congress-mukt Bharat". An electoral loss in Karnataka could marginalise the Rahul Gandhi-led and make it difficult to stand up to the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
According to The New Indian Express, state JD(S) president HD Kumaraswamy claims he can bring the party back to power on its own strength. However, chances are JD(S) would be content to settle for the role of a "kingmaker" if the polls throw up a hung Assembly.
Polluted lakes, garbage pile-ups irk city residents
The ever-increasing pollution in the lakes of Bengaluru has been a sore point for the present Congress government. In the last five years, the Bellandur Lake has caught fire several times, forcing residents and civic activists to take up the issue with the government time and again. Following the NGT ruling last year ordering all industries discharging effluents into the Bellandur Lake to be shut down, the state government was compelled to act swiftly.
However, it was not the first time that the NGT directed its ire at the Karnataka government. It had taken objection to the state government interpreting its May 2016 order of maintaining a buffer zone around lakes from 30 metres to 75 metres; it also pulled up the various government agencies for not stopping sewage discharge into the lake and for not following its earlier orders to clean up the lake after the fire in the lake in 2016.
The Congress party dodges the blame by saying the previous governments, led by BJP and JD(S), were responsible for the current state of the lakes. This creates ample opportunity for the BJP and JD(S) to swoop in and promise better environmental policies, waste-management system etc.
Poor water quality, inadequate supply plague Bengaluru
According to a recent survey conducted by Association for Democratic Reforms and DAKSH, respondents in urban areas in the state rated water quality and supply to be the most important issue for them. According to an analysis by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for 2013-17, Bengaluru topped with most water bodies having chemical pollution, reported The Hindu. Experts also say that the city is heading for 'Day Zero' like Cape Town where taps would run dry.
In the pre-election budget, Siddaramaiah announced new schemes worth Rs 2,441 crore for the city, which included development of storm-water drains, pedestrians walkways, lake development, water connection etc, according to The Hindu.
With civic problems such as the above plaguing Bengaluru, the BJP, Congress and JD(S) are keen to make capitalise and ensure they don't lose out on urban voters in the city.
Voting in Karnataka will take place on 12 May, with counting of votes to be done on 15 May.
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Updated Date: Mar 29, 2018 14:28:41 IST