Politics is rarely a sought-after career for many. It may be because of non-exposure — or sometimes overexposure — that people tend to steer away from politics.
Growing up, I was told politics was like entering sewage, with the initial intention of cleaning it but then getting comfortable with murky waters and the stench.
But since then, I have realised that it’s not all that bad; in fact, it is an integral part of who we are and the society we live in. Understanding politics can help bridge that gap of understanding.
Although it could be difficult to start somewhere, many citizen groups and collectives actively help educate people about their duties and basic rights.
The Bangalore Political Action Committee (it refers to itself as B.PAC) claims to be one such citizen’s group that aims to create a direct connection between citizens and politics.
B.PAC and its efforts in political awareness
B.PAC, led by prominent citizens of Bengaluru — social activists, business leaders, and entrepreneurs — focuses primarily on upgrading the city’s infrastructure, spreading awareness on good governance, ensuring the safety, rights and security of residents, and spreading awareness on sustainable mobility, while identifying and supporting civic leaders.
With a small team and multiple volunteers, B.PAC has curated many programmes to help facilitate and accelerate multiple causes in the city.
“B.PAC is an organisation formed with the intention of improving governance in Bengaluru by bringing all stakeholders — citizens of Bengaluru, political leaders, civic groups, administrative officials and media — on a single platform so that we can have a comprehensive and mutually acceptable plan for the city’s betterment,” said TV Mohandas Pai — who was once on the board of Infosys and the company’s CFO before going on to start the Akshaya Patra Foundation, and is currently the vice-president of B.PAC.
“And we have achieved that to a large extent in the last decade through our various initiatives. We hope to continue and do more,” Pai told South First.
Being the change they wanted to see
Revathy Ashok, managing trustee and CEO of B.PAC, spoke to South First about the reason for starting the organisation.
“A group of leaders from various spheres of life felt that there were many problems in the city (Bengaluru) and there was an outcry about it, but no one was looking for solutions. B.PAC was started with the intent of having a more proactive approach and creating problem-solvers,” she said.
“Bengaluru is a big city, and we felt that the citizens are too far removed from the political leaders. To reduce that gap, we set up this organisation to bring together like-minded people who want to solve issues in the city,” Revathy said.
B.PAC has two arms. One is the research and advocacy arm, and the other is to create capacity for political leaders and civic leaders to grow — also known as B.CLIP.
“There are many political parties and we work at the core of all of them; therefore, there’s always scepticism towards us. At times, we are questioned on our political stances or said to be not activist enough. I think there will always be that criticism and I think that’s okay,” said Revathy.
“But, on the whole, we realise that the political system is here to stay, and we have to work with them if we want things to move. Our goal is to continue to engage with all the political parties more constructively,” she added.
Civic Leadership Incubator Program
The B.PAC Civic Leadership Incubator Program (B.CLIP) is its top-tier initiative that intends to train and encourage talented citizens who set their hearts to bring change in the city by holding municipal corporation elections.
“We are working on critically essential aspects that can make Bengaluru a better place to live in,” said B.PAC president Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, who founded the biopharmaceutical behemoth Biocon.
“We are building grassroots leaders through our B.CLIP programme, building civic leadership, supporting participatory democracy by working with elected representatives across political parties, supporting women and child safety initiatives, environmental sustainability, constant research-backed advocacy with the government and parastatal agencies, and doing extensive survey-backed research on Bengaluru’s mobility issues,” she added.
“During elections, we take up electoral awareness initiatives to inspire more people to vote,” she told South First.
This initiative by B.PAC boosts new and younger talents, and educates them regarding public policies, the administration of municipal corporations, the political landscape, and election campaigns.
Speaking to South First, B.CLIP mentor Ananda Gundurao said, “We are aware and clear that unless we change the politics of the city, things won’t change for the better. We want to work at a level where we can make a change and the Civic leadership programme was designed and curated for budding political leaders to meet this purpose. We are not aligned with any political parties so leaders from any political affiliations are allowed to apply.”
Several of the individuals from the B.CLIP programme are elected leaders and/or hold some position in political parties.
They include Congress MLA Soumya Reddy from the Jayanagar Constituency and BJP corporator Sampath Kumar.
Many members like Bheem Raju, Lalithamba, Jayraj Mandayam, Iqbal Sharif, Peter Samson, Abdul Aleem, Uma Santosh, Meenakshi Ravikrishna, and Ravi Kumar are working with different civic groups without any political affiliations.
The flagship programme has had over 365 B.CLIP civic leaders, of whom 258 are men and 107 are women. The representation of B.CLIP civic leaders across wards is 148 out of 198 wards.
Other initiatives of BPAC include the Civic Hub programme to assist B.CLIP in selecting the participants who are determined enough to establish a change.
B.SAFE was a safety-oriented initiative supported by B.PAC, intended to abolish crime against women and children. It engages all the stakeholders to stand up for the rights of women and children while spreading awareness to the community.
Chitra Talwar, who mentors the ambassadors for the B.SAFE programme, told South First, “Initially, we started several initiatives at government schools to raise awareness, but we needed a community engagement programme on B.SAFE. We started our flagship programme B.SAFE Constituency under B.SAFE. We picked up two constituencies, to begin with, and eventually plan to extend it to other constituencies.”
B.MOBILE was launched with the planning commission for safety and protection travel modes. The project ranges from working on research, policy advocacy, and stakeholder awareness in the areas of sustainable mobility, pooled mobility, non-motorised transit, paratransit, and infrastructure.
The research and advocacy work done by B.PAC is widely accepted and acknowledged by local government bodies and industry.
Election Habba (Festival) is an initiative launched by B.PAC to spread awareness of the nation’s electoral process to the citizens.
It intends to employ active participation of all stakeholders involving citizens, local communities, civic societies, corporate associations, welfare associations, and candidates of the democratic process so that they could work in collaboration while sharing their interests.
B.PAC has been involved in many different verticals since its inception in 2013 and now it has plans to include the startup community.
Talking about the future plans, Revathy said, “We are involved with many communities but we still find that one set which is completely outside the system is the start-up community. They form a large part of the crowd of this city, but they continue to remain separate from civic activities. We’re trying to see how we can engage, maybe having more conversations with start-ups that are using technology to solve various civic issues. So that’s where we are in our journey.”
She concluded by inviting citizens from all walks of life to volunteer for the betterment of the city.
“B.PAC is not an organisation run by one or two individuals, but is rather a collective platform where citizens can come forward and collectively work for the good of the city and in a very proactive forward-looking solution-oriented manner. So inviting any civic-minded person who wants to contribute back to the city in some way with whatever skill sets they have, and we’ll be delighted to work and bring them into our fold.”