Karnataka bypolls: Civic woes, IMA scam impact hold the key in Shivajinagar
With seven-time MLA R Roshan Baig missing in the fray from Shivajinagar for the first time in over three decades, the constituency in Bengaluru is all set to witness a tight contest this time around.
While the Congress has picked Rizwan Arshad, an MLC and their Bangalore Central candidate for the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has given the ticket to M Saravana, a former BBMP corporator whose wife is now a corporator in the constituency. The JD(S) has fielded its national spokesperson Tanveer Ahmed Ullah, in the hopes of gaining the support of Muslim voters in the area, who make up 36% of the electorate.
Among the oldest neighbourhoods of Bengaluru, Shivajinagar is a microcosm of old Bangalore, with the iconic Russel Market, Commercial Street and MG Road falling within its bounds.
However, voters say they face a number of problems, including civic and infrastructural issues.
“We have been neglected for over a decade now, even though our MLA has become a minister in different governments. The IMA scam impacted the lives of many here. We want justice. We also want better roads and a solution to the garbage issue,” Syed Anwar, a businessman from Commercial Street, said.
The saffron party in its campaigns is promising quick redress for civic woes, citing Saravana’s successful stint as corporator from Halasuru ward. Another factor that led to the 54-year-old getting the ticket here is the presence of 28 per cent Tamilian voters.
With Bengaluru mayor M Gowtham Kumar and Bangalore Central MP P C Mohan also supporting the candidate, Saravana is keen on wresting the seat from the Congress this time. However, local BJP leaders admit the camps of former BJP minister Katta Subramanya Naidu (a two-time MLA from the constituency) and Nirmal Kumar Surana are still distressed over them not getting the ticket.
Denying such allegations, Saravana said, “The love and affection voters have been showing during my door-to-door campaigns has motivated me to do better. With my positive track record as corporator fresh in their minds, I expect nothing short of a victory.”
Congress candidate Rizwan Arshad too says he is confident of his chances, especially since in the recent Lok Sabha polls, he registered a lead of over 15,000 votes against P C Mohan from Shivajinagar, though Mohan won the election.
In his 10-point agenda for the constituency, 40-year-old Rizwan details a comprehensive action plan, addressing issues such as waste management, pothole-free roads, establishment of skill-development centres for better employability, and creating an exclusive market for indigenous industries.
“Even though Shivajinagar is located 2-3 kilometres around the Vidhana Soudha (Karnataka legislative Assembly complex), the voice of its people has failed to reach the corridors of power. As a resident of this constituency, I have witnessed the absence of basic amenities, including a good government school, playgrounds, and clean roads. This election is an opportunity for me to be the people’s voice in the legislative Assembly,” Rizwan said.
JD(S) candidate Tanveer Ahmed’s campaigns speak of the need for cleanliness in and around the area.
“Visual cleanliness across Shivajinagar should be prioritised. Every ward in this constituency should have a state-of-the-art dry waste collection centre,” he has been seen explaining during his interactions with voters in the area.
In his manifesto, the 43-year-old Ahmed has promised holistic development and rebranding of all 29 government schools in the area, aggressive police patrolling on streets and pedestrian-friendly footpaths.
Some believe the JD(S) and SDPI (Abdul Hannan) fielding Muslim candidates, apart from Rizwan of the Congress, might lead to a split in the voter-base of the constituency. To this, a local Congress leader said, “We are confident of Shivajinagar voters picking the best candidate who can represent them without distinguishing on the basis of religion, caste or language. A strong, young and educated MLA has been the dream of voters here.”
With over 1.91 lakh registered voters, Shivajinagar is among the smallest constituencies in Bengaluru city. The turnout here is usually on the lower side. During the 2018 Assembly elections, only 55.7 per cent turned up to vote.
When asked about this, Ajaz Ahmed, a post-graduate student, said, “I feel voting is a waste of time this time. Back-to-back elections and fake promises made by candidates across parties have contributed to the entire process losing its meaning.”
Interestingly, in the 2018 polls, none of the above (NOTA) came third (1,654 votes) here, leaving the then JD(S) candidate with only 1,313 votes. The Congress party has won Shivajinagar in all three elections since 2008, recording a majority of over 10,000 votes on each occasion.