As Bengaluru recovers from the aftermath of heavy rain over the last few days, citizens and activists are pointing to the need for elected councillors, saying their absence in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is now creating a distance between citizens and the city corporation.
Citizens are not aware of whom to contact during distress as officials are non-responsive, while there have not been councillors from the last two years. Not just this; according to residents, earlier, when the elected corporation was present with the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor, they use to hold several meetings regarding rain preparedness and go to the ground and work. But officials have not been doing this, allege civic activists.
“Without elected representation, the grievances of citizens are not reaching the municipal body. This is also one of the important reasons that Bengaluru was not able to handle the rain-related crises very well this time. The redressal mechanism by bureaucrats is not doing well as they are not answerable to people. Only elected representatives are answerable and they (councillors) know that people give them power. Hence, they work for the people,” said Tara Krishnaswamy, founder of Political Shakti and Citizens for Bengaluru.
The previous BBMP council's term ended in September 2020 and for almost two years, the city administration is run by bureaucrats. People have to depend on officials and when they are not responding, they are knocking on the doors of MLAs. “During the Bengaluru flood situation, bureaucrats did not respond and people, without any option left, reached the MLAs. If there was an elected municipal body, the councillors would handle the situation. This only shows that it is high time the BBMP elections were held,” Ms. Krishnaswamy added.
Urban poor need councillors
Former councillors also feel that they could have handled the situation better by coordinating with various agencies in their respective wards. A former councillor from the Congress said, “We councillors are elected by people, and we have to be helping the people who have elected us in fear that if we don't address their grievance, we will lose the next election. But bureaucrats have nothing to do with the people; they only think of pleasing their superiors. This is only enough to say why we need an elected council.”
He further said that the intention of the 74th Amendment of the Constitution, which gives power to the local government, has also been forgotten by the government.
The councillors represent the municipal ward and it is their duty to raise and resolve civic issues within the ward. Many former councillors have also helped people even when not in power during the flood-like situation in the city, said a former BJP councillor. “We don't have power, but we had to respond to people's calls during the rain fury and make necessary arrangements from our pocket. Why we are doing this to help people and also win their trust in us,” he said.