Madiwala lake looks placid on a hot afternoon, even though hyacinth and garbage seem to be overtaking it from one end and a cluster of high-rise buildings are choking it from the other. Two aged fishermen casting a net from a coracle in the lake’s midst look anachronistic.
Urban assembly constituencies defy definition and BTM Layout more so than most. It is a jumble of old and new Bangalore, with dusty working class clusters, slums, sparkling upper middle class enclaves and commercial establishments. Prefixes like “Sandra”, “Palya” and “Mangala” are linguistic markers that hark back to a different world.
Chances are that you will draw a blank if you ask a random pick of people in BTM Layout area abutting the lake what the three letters in the name of their locality stand for. (Incidentally, the area was carved out of Byrasandra, Tavarekere and Madiwala and so the name.)
BTM Layout has in the last 10 years become a preferred location for the IT crowd because it houses several small firms and is fairly close to the Electronics City, resulting in skyrocketing of real estate value in clusters like Koramangala and BTM Layout. This has brought with it issues ranging from land scams to perennial traffic woes.
At the other end of the spectrum, people in clusters like Ejipura, Jakkasandra and N.S. Palya grapple with issues of congested living spaces, drinking water problems and the fear of their area too becoming “prime”, resulting in them being pushed further away from the city.
Migrants form a substantial part of the population in both these worlds that live alongside each other but rarely meet except in the employer-employee capacity. People from North and North-East are quite visible both as white collar and blue collar workers, besides people from other southern States, resulting in a colourful mix of languages spoken and cuisines offered by hotels big and small.
The election being fought in this vast urban agglomerate has sitting MLA and real estate baron Ramalinga Reddy from Congress pitted against BJP candidate N. Sudhakar Reddy (son of Jakkasandra corporator) and J. Ramesh Reddy of Janata Dal (Secular). Ravi Krishna Reddy, a software engineer and writer, is contesting from Lok Satta.
Unlike in 2008 when the contest was close between Mr. Ramalinga Reddy and the ultra-rich G. Prasad Reddy of the BJP, the election scene is “dull” this time, say residents in most areas. “There are no formidable candidates against Ramalinga Reddy and it has made him complacent,” says S. Lokesh, a 15-year resident of Adugodi and an auto driver. Lok Satta volunteers are the only “visible” campaigners, he adds.
Traditionally a Congress constituency, Congress holds five wards here and BJP three. Voting percentage here was close to 47 in 2008 but only about 43 in the subsequent BBMP elections. “Residents” here are not necessarily “voters” either because they are new migrants or because elections and politics are not their priority.
Though the area wears a veneer of cosmopolitanism, factors like caste are clearly not out of the reckoning. It is perhaps no coincidence that most political parties prefer to field candidates from the land-owning Reddy caste who wield a substantial influence here.