Ground Report: About guarantees, accessibility and performance of State vs Centre in Bangalore Central

Survival is the larger reality thousands of poor people face every day in the Bangalore Central parliamentary constituency.

ByNolan Patrick Pinto | Mahesh M Goudar

Published Apr 20, 2024 | 6:14 PMUpdatedApr 21, 2024 | 11:32 AM

The Congress has fielded Mansoor Ali Khan, son of former Union Minister K Rahman Khan. He is facing sitting MP PC Mohan from the BJP.

The BJP is trying to hold on to the Bangalore Central parliamentary constituency against a resurgent Congress. It consists of eight prominent Assembly constituencies in the city.

The Congress has fielded Mansoor Ali Khan, son of former Union Minister K Rahman Khan. He is facing sitting MP PC Mohan from the BJP, who won this seat thrice from 2009 onwards.

In the 2023 assembly election, the Congress won five out of the eight assembly segments. Out of the five seats, there are ministers in the state government who won from here, such as Power Minister KJ George, Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao, and Housing and Wakf Minister Zameer Ahmed Khan.

Incumbent MP PC Mohan is confident of retaining the seat. He claims to have worked for the constituency and been accessible to the people at all times.

The BJP holds the CV Raman Nagar, Rajajinagar, and Mahadevapura assembly segments. Mohan is banking on the support of alliance partner JD(S) to send him to Parliament for the fourth time.

In the 2019 election, Mohan defeated Congress candidate MLA Rizwan Arshad by 70,968 votes. He had won by 1.37 lakh votes against Arshad in 2014. In 2009, Mohan defeated HT Sangliana by close to 35,000 votes.

This parliamentary seat also has several educational institutions, residential neighbourhoods, and the Mahadevapura IT corridor.

Related: Communal issues and BJP

What voters want

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” These words resonate deeply in the life of Devaraj, a 63-year-old daily wage worker navigating the bustling streets of Bengaluru.

Despite his unwavering dedication to providing for his family, Devaraj finds himself ensnared in the clutches of poverty, a relentless adversary exacerbated by the scourge of inflation.

Amidst the tumult of financial challenges, Devaraj has remained steadfast in his commitment to his three daughters’ education. Through the labyrinth of government schemes and scholarships, he has endeavoured to pave a path of opportunity for them, a testament to his enduring hope for a brighter future.

Yet, despite his tireless efforts, the spectre of poverty looms large over his nearly six decades of life in Bengaluru, casting a shadow that refuses to dissipate.

Devaraj told South First: “I weave coconut leaves for functions and events. The proprietor pays ₹25 for weaving one coconut branch. We manage to weave around 30 to 40 branches in a day. I will get this work only during the seasons and look for domestic work on the remaining days.”

“Amid this, I educated my three daughters, who are happily married. I couldn’t overcome poverty because my family lives in a rented house in Bengaluru, and prices of essential commodities, such as cooking oil and gas, rise every year,” Devaraj added, blaming the government for not controlling rising prices.

His narrative serves as a poignant microcosm of the larger reality faced by thousands of people living below the poverty line in the Bangalore Central parliamentary constituency.

The members of the Cubbon Park Walkers’ Association, expressing concerns over Cubbon Park’s conservation, hinted that they would vote for the party that vows to protect and develop the park.

Also read: Govt bows to people’s pressure

Environmental outrage

Cubbon Park, nestled in the heart of Bengaluru, is an oasis of greenery amidst the bustling urban landscape. Sprawling over 300 acres, this lush expanse is a retreat for nature enthusiasts, joggers, families, and anyone seeking solace from the city’s frenetic pace.

However, the state government’s recent proposal to build a multi-storey building inside the park has sparked massive outrage from environmentalists, activists, and Bengaluruans.

This development has increased concerns about the conservation of this over 150-year-old park. Activists have demanded that the candidates vouch to protect and preserve its sanctity.

Cubbon Park Walkers’ Association President and Activist Dr S Umesh Kumar told South First: “I have dedicated my life to save Cubbon Park. For 14 years, I have been fighting to save this park. Under the smart city project, the government claims to have spent ₹28 crore to develop the park.”

He added, “In reality, no development work has been carried out. MPs must visit the park and ideate for its development, utilising the grants appropriately. If we raise our voices, efforts will be made to suppress our voices.

“Neither the government nor the horticulture department responds to our concerns. There are corrupt officers in this park. The government must ensure that sincere and committed officers are deputed here.”

He stated that this park alone ensures fresh air to the entire populace of Bangalore Central.

For many of its citizens, Cubbon Park and Lalbagh are major lung spaces of Bengaluru Central.

“I have not seen a single government that voiced its desire to conserve it. We cannot fight it single-handedly. The MPs concerned must fight for it. We must conserve it for the future generation,” Umesh has appealed.

Related: Need business-friendly atmosphere

Traders’ GST woes

People from the Business fraternity have expressed concern over the complications in the Goods and Service Tax (GST) portal and point out the rising traffic and water woes every year.

Businessman Dinesh Charan tells South First, “There are a lot of complications in the GST portal. They are imposing tax (GST), then TCS (Tax Collected at Source), and again TDS (Tax Deducted at Source). Our sole demand to the government is to simplify the GST for easy tax calculation.”

He also appealed to the government to address the rising traffic concerns in Bengaluru and improve infrastructure for medium—and small-scale industries.

Businessman Jeetu Ponnappa BS also says, “The major issue in Bengaluru Central is traffic. We are facing a lot of issues. Reaching the airport from Bengaluru city takes one and a half hours. We need to address the traffic issues, which we have been facing for the last 10 to 15 years.”

Meanwhile, businessmen in Chamarajpet, Gandhinagar, Shivajinagar, and Shanthi Nagar have stressed the need to improve infrastructure for medium—and small-scale businesses such as electronics, automobiles, and the fabric industry.

Related: Pressure of  relentless migration

Matter of survival

Chamarajapet’s Gowramma, who runs a tea shop, tells South First, “I am living in a rented house and also run a tea shop to make a living. Tea shop is the only source of income for me and my family. The cost of living is increasing every year in Bengaluru.”

“The prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed, becoming costly for the poor. The gas price was less than ₹500 in 2014, and now it has breached ₹1,000. The cereal price has almost doubled. How should the poor survive if the government fails to control the price rise? How can they lead a happy and tension-free life?” asked Gowramma, who gave a high-five for the Congress’ guarantees.

When asked who the incumbent MP of the Bangalore Central seat is, she was unaware. “I have been running this shop for the last few years but have never seen a parliamentarian visiting this area. They come only during elections and disappear after they emerge victorious.”

Techie Sanjay Kumar, a resident of Rajajinagar, told South First, “The cost of living is increasing every year here. After the Metro opened its service in Whitefield, house rents increased in several localities. The advance that owners demand is too high.”

Also read: Promises a fearless fight for rights

What can voters expect?

Congress candidate Mansoor Ali Khan is confident there is a pro-Congress wave on the ground and that the performance of the state government, along with the five guarantees, will help him win. He was campaigning in Domlur and HAL when South First met him.

While campaigning, he says that people talk about basic issues that have not been looked into by the incumbent MP. “There is a problem with, for example, today we are standing at 37/38 degrees. Bangalore never used to be like that. So, people are concerned with how Bangalore has become. The green cover and the infrastructure have gone. So, these are the issues and basic education and health care they discuss.”

However, is all well internally amongst senior party leaders with his candidacy? On the day of his nomination, important leaders were conspicuously missing from the scene: Shanthi Nagar MLA NA Haris, Ministers BZ Zameer Ahmed Khan, KJ George, and Dinesh Gundu Rao. Even the political secretary to the chief minister, Naseer Ahmed, was not present.

Mansoor rubbishes the disunity angle as a rumour. “I don’t know how this got picked up, maybe because of sensationalism, news or tweets. But I’m 100 percent sure all the MLAs are with me, all the contesting candidates are with me, and the Congress party is united. And I think the nervousness of the other camp has led to this rumour.”

BJP candidate and incumbent MP PC Mohan was campaigning with his supporters in the Chamarajpet area. He was canvassing door-to-door, seeking local residents’ support for his re-election.

He tells South First, “For the last three times, people have blessed me, and I have worked in the constituency. I was accessible to my people, and I have done what was required for my constituency. The last ten years of Narendra Modi ji’s government and as a parliament member, what I brought to Bangalore, all together, I am going to take to the people, and they will bless me for the fourth time.”

He added that public transportation and lake rejuvenation would be his primary focus at the time.