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Kicking off a 'political career' in an idea-based, grassroots level political party

Despite having been following politics for the longest time, and now studying it full time, I never joined a political party. When people used to ask me "who do you support?", my answer was standard, "no one". Luckily for me, ever since turning 18 and being eligible to vote, there hasn't been an election in which I'd be forced to cast my vote and tell people that I have made a definitive choice about a particular political party. At a time when politics has become ever so polarising and dirty, I couldn't be happier to associate myself with the BNP.

It was in February 2020 that I was introduced to the Bengaluru NavaNiramana Party. I found their vision, leadership and ideas incredibly refreshing. Though I was aware of their launch/ kickoff meeting that took place in Freedom Park in early 2020, due to a friend's TEDx talk taking place simultaneously, I could not attend. Then, between Board Exams and the lockdown that took us all by surprise, I forgot about the BNP.

Team NY at Krishan Rao Park conducting
 a survey on waste management 


When I returned to Bangalore in November, owing to a new lockdown being imposed in France, I was determined to compensate for the lost opportunity of studying abroad by doing something impactful and meaningful in my city. I looked up the BNP again and was impressed by the work they had done despite the challenges posed by COVID-19. Their then-recently launched Citizen's Portal piqued my curiosity, and I found myself analysing various projects undertaken in my ward; and even observed a few discrepancies but that is a story for another day. Almost as if they could read my mind, when I was about to get in touch with the BNP leadership about including youth in the party, the Nava Yuva (Youth Wing), led by 21-year-old Rishvanjas Raghavan was launched. I found myself attending the introductory webinar and soon joining the Nava Yuva, which at the point had around 25-30 people! It has been one of the best decisions made last year, for a number of reasons.


The Nava Yuva and the BNP have taught me a lot about local governance, party building, the role of corporators, MLAs and MPs. It has shattered many myths and misconceptions about the system, and most importantly, has made me more civically aware and engaged with my city. As clichéd as this sounds, it has been a great learning experience; despite having been taught about local governance and the role of different politicians since a young age, it was only after joining the party that I clearly understood the various roles held by different Parliamentarians - the MPs, MLAs and Corporators. I always thought that the BBMP, the governing body of the city of Bangalore, was helpless and lacked funds. This couldn't be more untrue. The BBMP has an annual budget of INR 10k cr (EUR 1.1 Billion), divided between 198 wards. This roughly works out to around INR 50 cr (EUR 5.7 Million) per year, per ward. According to data collected by the BNP, the total area of the wards in Bangalore amounts to 709.49 sq. km, which when divided by 198, equals 3.58 sq. km (per ward). Though wards are of different sizes, this sort of puts things into perspective. Each 3.58 sq. km area in Bangalore receives around INR 50 cr/ EUR 5.7 M per year, yet our roads are perpetually pothole infested, our parks are just average and our lakes are frothing. There seems to be a disconnect between infrastructure development and the amount of money spent on one city!


What makes the BNP unique is its clear focus on the city. It's the only party in the country, and probably the world which focusses on only city-level politics. The 'ceiling of ambition' imposed by the charter of the BNP ensures that our focus is not lost on namma nagara (our city)! Even if the General Secretary of the party, Srikanth Narsimhan decides that he wants to contest state-level elections, he will not be allowed to do it under this party's header. While political parties in the past have used municipal elections as a stepping stone into the more 'lucrative' positions in the State or National Assemblies, the BNP's goal is only Namma Bengaluru. We invite our members to exercise their Constitutionally guaranteed right of voting in state and national elections, for any party of their choice. All we ask for is for their vote to be cast in our favour during municipal elections. After all, while one may be indirectly affected by what our legislators decide on our behalf at the state or national level, immediate civic problems that we face on a day to day basis - roads, lakes, gardens, parks, waste management, primary health care, can only be solved if one's ward is governed by an efficient and honest corporator. 


Team NY at Cubbon Park, launching the survey
on 'Youth in Governance'

Though we have not been in power yet, working with the system, externally, the BNP has achieved a lot; be it distributing ration during the ill-planned lockdown, conducting health camps for the city's most vulnerable and disadvantaged, clean up drives, unearthing the city's 4g scam and more. The youth wing of the party has been busy educating the next generation about their roles and responsibilities, local governance, how they can contribute, conducting surveys to gauge people's opinions about the BBMP, youth in governance etc. The Nava Yuva recently launched the 'Can a youngster win your vote?' series in which we ask influencers and activists from around the city to grill us about local governance and the BBMP to test us about our skills and knowledge. I took a shot at episode 1, and a recording of the live session can be accessed here


Through the blog, you may have gotten an idea about BNP's vision, and what I find respectable. It all starts with their decentralised system of functioning, which ensures that power is not concentrated (and misused) at the helm. Each ward has a 'corporator team' which is in charge of selecting the candidate to whom the party ticket will be given when the BBMP elections are announced. The central leadership team has a limited say in who gets the party ticket, thereby removing the scope for corruption or any of the illegal yet common practices of other political parties. It is a common occurrence in many wards reserved for women, for their husbands to be the de-facto corporator while the wife is merely the de-jure/ Constitutional corporator. BNP does not and will not stand this. Besides fielding candidates in the Constitutionally mandated 33% of the wards, the BNP aims to field women in at least 50% of the wards, something that other parties should have done long ago! The inclusion of the youth by fielding members of the Nava Yuva (usually under the age of 30 years old) is another goal of the BNP. 


Team BNP @ the 'Nimma Arogya' Health Camp at a
slum in Nagavarapalya (Ward 57)
I know that it may sound utopian for a new age, honest political party to win even a single ward in an election in which mainstream, national political parties are involved. I held this view as well until I joined the party and understood the nuances of winning a municipal election. In a two way contest (as the case has been until now), a candidate requires only 5,000-10,000 votes to win an election. With the BNP entering, and in a three-way contest, the odds are even more in our favour because of the low number of votes required to win a ward. Further, the leadership team has a lot of experience in this field, albeit indirectly. The General Secretary himself is the founder of the Bangalore Apartment's Federation, an organisation of 1000 odd apartment complexes in Bangalore. We have activists like those who led the 'Steel Flyover Beda' movement, members of various organisations and experts who have in some way or the other contributed to shaping the city. Most importantly, we have frustrated citizens who are willing to do anything within their capacity to bring about change in the city, and that's what makes the BNP special and unique. By mobilising various groups of people, among whom in many cases someone in the party has already established their reputation/name with, I am confident that the BNP stands a great chance in 2021!


Team BNP @ Nagavarapalya Slum Health Camp (Ward 57)


Enough about the BNP! Let's talk about how you can help us.


Are you interested in joining/ contributing? Check out our website, or even better, make a donation (100% tax-deductible, with no tax-deductible limit) today!










What are some ways in which you can help?


  • Join the BNP/ NY and your local WhatsApp groups; show your support, even as a dormant group member 
  • Get yourself involved in the system by attending ward committee meetings (there's one on Feb 6, contact your Nodal Officer for details!)
  • Attend a BNP/ NY event/ camp
  • Attend our online brainstorming meetings!
  • Take on an official role/ position within the party/ NY
  • Think about contesting and positioning yourself a candidate!
  • Spread our message, get people to join and raise funds!
  • There's a lot more you can do, drop me/ the BNP a line and get started


Ward #80: One of our recent victories - getting a part of Thamarai Kannan Road cleaned up by following up with the Nodal Officer, Health Inspector and Supervisor of the ward (before)



Ward #80: Thamrai Kannan Road (after!)

Ward #80: Responding to a citizen's complaint of garbage ( mostly garden waste) being strewn oand blocking footpath access outside her house for over a week (before)

Ward #80: (after!)

Through this article, I have shown you only a glimpse of what the BNP has done and achieved so far.  I'll leave you with a final thought. If the BNP has managed to achieve this much, despite being outside the system, imagine the wonders we can achieve if we are given a chance to work from within!

A few useful links 

Comments

  1. Highly informative...
    (and tempting xD )
    Thanks for sharing mate!

    Kudos to you guys for all the great work!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The party’s vision is promising and your efforts commendable. Great going Sanjith, the Nava Yuva!

    ReplyDelete

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