N.S. Mukunda Interview

‘Civic activism needs to adopt anti-establishment philosophy’

 N.S. Mukunda

N.S. Mukunda

Civic activist N.S. Mukunda, founder-chairman of the Citizen Action Forum, started residents’ welfare association activism with Abhyudaya, a forum of 42 RWAs in Padmanabhanagar in 2000. In an interview, he stresses on the importance of maintaining political neutrality.

You have been part of the RWA movement in the city for two decades now. Can you comment on its evolution?

Bengaluru is the only metro city with such a vibrant RWA and civic activism scene in the country. But politicisation of RWAs has robbed the movement of its innocence. Most of the RWAs are leaning towards the ruling party. In south Bengaluru, nearly 90% of the RWAs are tilted towards the BJP and in the east and other parts of Bengaluru, the Congress does not lag behind.

Many RWAs argue that the politicisation charge is unfair as they are under pressure to “work with the MLAs” and cannot afford antagonising them.

This argument is only an excuse. A residents’ welfare association first needs to let the politicians know they are non-partisan. You need to be consistent and stern on issues for a few years to gain that trust. Once that happens, any politician will come to you since the RWA holds votes. Many leading RWAs today have a very myopic view of politics and are unable to see the larger picture.

How does one resolve this?

RWAs and civic activism need to resolutely remain politically neutral and philosophically anti-establishment, whichever party is in power. In such a scenario there is no harm is taking the support of the Opposition parties. But that philosophy needs to sustain through all regimes — BJP, Congress or JD(S). In a democracy, there is no escape from working with elected representatives, but it should be across the board and not selective.

The pan-city civic movements that you have been part of have also faced similar accusations of being politically motivated. Your comments?

That is true. Steel Flyover Beda protests and movements against commercialisation of residential areas, those calling for rejuvenation of lakes were supported by the Namma Bengaluru Foundation, whose founder, Rajeev Chandrasekhar recently joined the BJP. This helped Congress government dismiss some of these genuine concerns as politically motivated. But we have always maintained political neutrality.


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Printable version | May 17, 2022 7:30:21 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/interview/civic-activism-needs-to-adopt-anti-establishment-philosophy/article23632391.ece