The unprecedented “resort politics” and serious political negotiations with the speculation that crores of rupees are being spent to take over the reins of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, is proof that while the civic body may be cash-strapped for delivering services to citizens, it is a cash cow for those holding power.
Though BBMP has an average annual revenue of around Rs. 4,000 crore, its 2015-16 budget was worth Rs. 6,728 crore. The State government, in its 2015 budget, allocated Rs. 2,500 crore for BBMP projects apart from an additional Rs. 1,000 crore announced during the recent polls.
While Congress and BJP may see it as a prestige battle, it is clear that there is more at stake for those holding the reins of power in the BBMP council which gets to handle these funds annually over the next five years.
For instance, sources say that there have been several cases where being a BBMP councillor is considered to be more “lucrative” than even to be an MLA from a rural constituency. This despite the fact that an MLA gets Rs. 2 crore fund, which is 100 times the Rs. 2 lakh that each councillor is allocated.
The reason is the huge number of projects and funds that would need a councillor’s support or clearance and hence the possibility of “kickbacks”.
For instance a common demand of Independent candidates, eight of whom are being wooed by BJP and Congress, and have been taken to a resort in Kozhikode is to chair a standing committee and be with the side that wins the mayoral race.
Unlike the standing committees in the Assembly or Parliament where it is more like an advisory body, BBMP has 12 standing committees that award contracts for projects, a major source of corruption. Standing committees in BBMP blur the line between the executive and the political parties in the BBMP council. Nearly 130 of the 198 councillors in the last council were members of these 12 standing committees.
Independent candidates and even party councillors are also said to be lobbying for the chairmanship of “specific standing” committees like ward-wise works and road works considered to be more lucrative.
Civic body full of scams
The Rajendra Kataria Committee report on financial irregularities in BBMP from 2007 to 2015, records scams worth around Rs. 4,000 crore, which is presently being probed by the CID. The fake bills scam of 2013 itself was worth around Rs. 1,500 crore.
Money is being made by siphoning off funds from the projects executed, overlooking revenue and overlooking violations or regularising them. But there are greater kickbacks in the invisible corruption in providing clearances overlooking violations and revenue.
V. Ravichandar is a Member of BBMP Restructuring Committee.