Sunday morning and about 300 people turned up at the new altar of BPAC whose grandmasters decided, after the debacle of the Bangalore South debate, to display some toughness of their own.
This time, the debate of the four major parties was not wholly public. Details were circulated among a chosen few who had to display their invites and photo IDs to get in to the hall. Dozens of vigilant volunteers had diligent plans from entry to seating and everything went off like clockwork.
Candidates were asked four questions in turns and had four minutes each to answer them. Audience questions were pooled and read out at the end, with no room for slanging matches. At one point when BJP’s PC Mohan and Congress’s Rizwan Arshad locked horns, K Jairaj, former bureaucrat and one of BPAC’s big daddies, went so far as to order that their microphones be muted!
Why do they consider themselves good candidates, what do they offer and what is their vision for Bangalore were the broad themes addressed by the candidates. The incumbent MP Mohan claimed that he had worked to get the metro, and to add bus stations, to increase water supply and to upgrade the railway station.
Nandini Alva introduced a curious new term – essential Bangalorean, and spoke more in general terms. Bala made hard-hitting points about the fact that the Parliamentary elections having become centred on municipal issues as the local bodies had failed to deliver. To applause from the audience,he promised to press for the swaraj model to empower local wards, better implementation of law and honest governance.
Young Rizwan’s speech was constantly interrupted by spontaneous bursts of applause from the audience, who did not baulk at Jairaj’s remonstrations to restrain themselves. Rizwan had an answer for everything: like the others, he too wants a cleaner, safer city with less traffic. He would implement his own ideas, as well as the good ideas of his opponents.About corruption, he said that the Congress had to be given credit for The Right to Information Act which led to exposure of scams. He also took pride in the Aadhaar project which had enabled timely delivery of benefits to people. As this was not a homogeneous constituency, he would create a Vision Group for this constituency to come out with specific solutions for different areas.
Verdict: Both Bala and Rizwan made convincing statements; Mohan was defensive, Alva on a different wave length. If votes were counted on the rounds and decibel today, we would have to give it to the Congress.