Bengaluru: Congress MLA NA Haris was recently in the eye of a storm when his son Mohammed Nalapad allegedly assaulted a fellow guest at an upscale restaurant in the heart of Bengaluru. The incident may have been a reason why Haris’ name didn’t find a mention in the first list of Congress candidates fighting the Karnataka polls this time. Despite the odds, Haris is confident of getting elected for a third term. Excerpts from the interview:
The Congress did not announce your name in the first list of candidates for the Assembly elections. Does this indicate that it was not keen on issuing you a ticket? Haven't you been put in an embarrassing situation because of this?
The decision is that of Congress party. The party always has its way of giving out the tickets. Maybe it has taken a stand on how to do that. All the leaders had committed to me that the ticket is happening and there is no issue. That is the party's decision and I cannot question that.
Tell us about the work you have done in your constituency (Shantinagar).
This was a reserved constituency for almost 25 years before I became the MLA. Doing something from scratch is easy, but redoing an old thing is very difficult. We faced a lot of issues. Almost 95 percent of the infrastructure including roads, sanitation and footpaths had to be redone. My constituency is in a low-lying area through which a lot of rajakaluves (storm water drains) are running. When it rains anywhere in the city, this area is flooded. After Independence, none of the rajakaluves had a retaining wall, and we fixed this problem. It’s almost in the final stages now. That’s a major achievement. In five years, I have used the MLA funds only for development of schools. A lot of poor people live in my constituency and I had to convince them to send their children to school.
What are the areas where your constituency needs improvement?
As far as infrastructure is concerned, I think we have done the maximum. I want to focus more on education — preparing the next generation. There are lots of government schools in my constituency. I want to upgrade them so that the poor and the lower middle class can access quality education. The best of the hospitals are also in my constituency, but the poor still have to suffer sometimes to get quality healthcare. There are two maternity homes (in Shantinagar and Jogupalya) where there is space for development and I want to upgrade them into 30-40-bed hospitals. Safety and security is another big concern everywhere. We are going in for CCTVs throughout Shantinagar constituency. We want the entire area to be under surveillance, we want these cameras to be connected to the police stations. With this, a lot of issues can be automatically controlled.
There is talk that not much development work was undertaken by you. For instance, you laid the foundation stone for a community hall three years ago. But it’s yet to be completed. Don’t you think these will influence voters?
Making allegations is very easy. To do work is difficult. Every inch of my constituency is known to me and I am clear about every work that is happening. We demolished two community centres and started the work. The budget allocated was very less for that. We were told that we could not construct basement parking. I objected to that and said we will get it redone. We wanted mechanised parking to be available. Hence, we are increasing the height of the basement. Hence, the community centre is getting a little delayed. But we will get the best community centre in this area now at a very reasonable price — that is my fight. The tender is also ready. Work will start just after the elections and should be completed within a year. I agree there is a delay, but I don’t want to compromise on quality. I don’t know how long I will stay an MLA, but my work should stay for a long time.
There are as many as 24 dyeing units in Vinayaka Nagar, causing much inconvenience to the residents. How will you solve the problem?
Most of them have shifted and the rest have been asked to move. These dyeing units are not a factory setup, but have families living there. We came up with solutions wherein water released after dyeing would be let into a tank (not drainage) and collected by an agency that will treat it in its unit. We even had a meeting with the KSPCB (Karnataka State Pollution Control Board). Major industries have already been shifted. Government has allotted land for these communities as well. Until then, we have ensured that the polluted water is collected in tankers and treated.
You played a key role in demolition of quarters constructed by the BBMP at Ejipura for the economically weaker sections. Don’t you think you were on the wrong side?
You don’t know the exact situation. There were 1,520 houses already allotted to people by the Slum Board, which were built very badly. They started collapsing and many people died because of that. Later, the government called for a public-private partnership tender. All this happened before I became the MLA. After the building collapsed, the residents built huts around the area and started living there. Lots of illegal occupants started building houses there. There were around 2,000 huts, and all kinds of anti-social activities were taking place. People were living in deplorable conditions and they approached me with safety concerns. I spoke to them and convinced them to shift from there so that new houses could be built. Somebody had to take action. We have got 900 houses built for illegal occupants — not allottees, but poor people who were living there at Sulikunte. And 1,520 houses were going to be built at that spot. That work is going on now.
Your opponents, during the campaign, are focusing on your son’s actions. How much do you think this issue will have an impact on your vote bank?
People will look at the work I have done and they are going to elect me back. I have a personal connection with every voter in my constituency. Voters will take a call based on that. The Opposition has nothing to say about the work I did in the last 10 years. About my son’s episode, I have already left it to the law of the land to take its course. Whoever has done wrong, he should be punished.
Is this the end of your son’s political career in Congress party?
The party will decide on that. I am a true Congressman and I would like to remain in this party till my last breath. So, my party will take a call on that and I have no issues with that.
AAP has fielded a strong candidate against you. What is your take on the opponents?
The people of this constituency are with me. I have done a good job. For ten years, I have worked 24x7 and my work speaks for itself. I am available for people and I am active in the Assembly. I don’t think any contender, big or small, makes a difference. I am hopeful that people will elect me for a third time.
(Prajwala Hegde is a Bengaluru-based freelance writer and a member of 101reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters)
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Updated Date: Apr 27, 2018 17:42:25 IST