BJP struggles to clean Bangalore - and its own mess
Karnataka's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been hurtling from one mess to another for the last four years. Now, the way the party, which also runs the Bangalore civic body, has handled the city's garbage mess indicates that the problem will continue to fester.
The BJP came to power in Karnataka in May 2008 for the first time. It captured the Bangalore city body, the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike or Greater Bangalore City Corporation) in 2010, again for the first time.
Bangalore's garbage disposal problem has been mounting for years as the city's population has grown rapidly since the 1990s.
The city was home to around four million people in 1990 and now has over eight million -- generating around 5,000 tonnes of both solid and wet waste each day.
Though the waste generated increased as the population rapidly grew, successive state governments and the city's civic authorities did not keep pace in upgrading disposal mechanisms, preferring mostly to dump the garbage at three landfills about 45 km north of Bangalore.
About five years ago, a private firm was given the contract for scientific disposal of the garbage being dumped at one of the landfills - Mavallipura.
The state government, civic authorities, environmental activists and residents around Mavallipura only have a litany of complaints against the firm and action against it is being thought of.
The problem became acute in July this year when the state pollution control board ordered the closure of the Mavallipura landfill. This followed mounting protests from residents around the area and greens on the ground that improper disposal had ruined the people's health and also agricultural land around the landfill.
People around the other two landfills also started blocking trucks ferrying waste from Bangalore, resulting in streets turning into dump yards for around two weeks in August.
Now, the garbage is intermittently cleared and sent to either the same or newer dumping yards as authorities feverishly search for a lasting solution.
The search, however, has not brought any hope of early solution, even after nearly four months' efforts.
In the last two weeks, the garden city was again turned into a virtual garbage city.
Mayor D. Venkatesh Murthy has promised that things will improve by next week and a long-term solution will be in place in about three months.
The problem is that state assembly elections are due in six months and the BJP is facing a possible split as its first chief minister in the state, B.S. Yeddyurappa, says he is firm on leaving the party to launch his own outfit on Dec 10.
Even as Bangalore's garbage mess made its way to columns of New York Times this week, Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, two deputy chief ministers and several ministers were in New Delhi pleading with their indecisive leadership to placate Yeddyurappa to prevent the split.
As Yeddyurappa's December plans and elections near, the ruling party is bound to be more preoccupied with sorting out its own problems.
The way the BJP has handled its squabbles -- which began virtually from the day it started its maiden rule in the state in May 2008 -- gives a clear indication that its own problems will get top billing as prospects of retaining power in the fast approaching assembly polls look increasingly difficult.
A small ray of hope, ironically, is that the re-entry of Congress leader S.M. Krishna, who quit recently as external affairs minister, to state politics may force the BJP to scramble for at least a stop-gap arrangement to keep Bangalore clean.
The state Congress is hoping Krishna will help it capture as many of the 28 assembly seats in Bangalore.
The BJP had bagged 17 of the 28 seats in May 2008.
Krishna is credited with turning Bangalore into an IT hub during his chief ministership in 1999-2004. The Congress is confident that these qualities, coupled with the reputation of turning what was known as a 'pensioners paradise' into much touted 'Brand Bangalore', will woo Bangaloreans to vote for the party.
The BJP has only itself to blame.
For, by persistently proving it has only promises to make and not a clue to a lasting solution to Bangalore's growing problems, the BJP might have buried under the mountains of garbage its prospect of retaining all the Bangalore assembly seats it won last time.
(V. S.Karnic can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)