Bengaluru NavaNirmana Party (BNP) – The passion for a city that led to the genesis of a new-age & unique political movement formed by active citizens of Bengaluru with an exclusive focus on municipal governance and an unbiased party working to the true meaning of “polity”.
Srikanth Narasimhan, an entrepreneur with 2 decades of corporate experience, a simple apolitical, apathetic, a nonchalantly living apartment citizen transformed into a passionate political representative for all municipality related activities. An Engineer in Mechanical stream, MBA from IIM Bengaluru and a founder of Veda Corporate Advisors, an Investment Banking company in existence from past 15 years, happens to become the voice of many apartment citizens for many unreasonable demands from the Bengaluru Municipality [BBMP] & Bengaluru civic agencies. Although born and brought up in Chennai, works and believes in Bengaluru and falls in love with the oldest cosmopolitan city – Bengaluru. Attracted by its weather, its capacity to digest multiple diversity, its affinity to adapt to many tastes pouring in from all over the world, Bengaluru we know has the finest balance in retaining its culture whilst accommodating everyone. It is one city known for inclusive living even with its chaos at the ground level. But the very humble phrase “Swalpa Adjust Madi” – “adjust a bit” makes it smooth going for everyone living in Bengaluru. For Srikanth, the “Adjustment” meant to live in a more peaceful society, a friendly environment and wherewithal to be a Bengalurean in true sense. He made his living out of salary, afford an apartment and live to the changing Bengaluru dynamics like every other migrant, while quickly learning the local language to suit himself, until one day everything seemed like a hazy picture.
A series of incidents changed his life from a corporate lifestyle person to a responsible citizen. The civic agencies that run the city like Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bengaluru Water Supply & Sewerage Board (BWSSB), Bengaluru Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM), Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) etc., started imposing unfair and unreasonable rules on citizens. Sometime around 2015 when BWSSB announced a higher tariff for apartment residents on water, using “Bulk consumers” as the tag, it changed the whole mathematics for people living in Apartments. The concept of all residential citizens being treated equally fell apart with this announcement, and this despite the fact that apartments are known to be more efficient with water consumption. BWSSB raised Rs. 6 / litre tariff to Rs. 19 / litre on consumption. This sudden change and the term “Bulk Consumers” were somehow unfathomable to Srikanth whilst the sudden hike in yearly expenses budgeted to a few thousands to over a lakh suddenly. In addition to this, BWSSB further notified old apartments to implement Sewage Treatment Plants, that made no sense to him. As per the maps, all old apartments were already connected to sewage lines. When he tried to find more about these notices, he discovered that it was a story narrated to eye wash the National Green Tribunal, which was infuriating. This is a normal citizen, living an everyday life finally figuring out why he is in love with this city, this country, and its governance.
Srikanth’s resolve to find more details on municipality operations led to a new movement across Bengaluru, the Bengaluru Apartments Federation (BAF). A Federation that has now grown to 6 Lakh residents strong with over 850+ apartments come together to fight a common cause. The true commoner fighting to resolve common problems in locales. His discovery while working as the founding member of the organization was an eye opener. All types of people from all walks of life, and all types of resources were at his disposal but the government. Every plea was discarded, every assurance had a motive, every act to resolve the problems of water, roads, streetlights etc were leading to one point- Voter’s Bank. A blatant statement that slapped Srikanth at every attempt- “We work for vote bank”, apartment residents apparently did not seem to constitute as “Vote’s”, therefore in Srikanth’s view, he wasn’t a citizen at all. How would one determine his status as citizen of a country if his mere residential occupancy is the determining factor? He went back to questioning the fundamental rights as the citizen of this country. But this needed action that speaks louder. Through BAF, he found enough support to exhibit a rally of 10,000 people in December 2017. This rally was one of a few major turning points in his otherwise simple corporate career, which ultimately led him to founding Bengaluru NavaNirmana Party [BNP], Nanna Bengaluru, Nanna Hemme, Nanna Jawaabdaari [ translates to My Bengaluru, My Pride, My responsibility] is their tagline which expresses a personal attachment to all Bangaloreans.
BNP- believes in all citizens belonging to Bengaluru and doing their bit for the city as citizens, irrespective of where one hails from. BNP has used RTI and managed to list BBMP issues related to projects claimed to be completed on records while there are no evidence of any works executed. Starting from nullifying the “Bulk Consumers” tag to “STP on Old Apartments” to remodelling parks to erecting streetlights, to working on potholes, there has been many such projects that are under scrutiny and correction under the list of actionable projects in BNP. This is a routine that BNP has established whilst encouraging more and more volunteers to participate in active local implementations. They have data and insights gathered from various sources that provides insights enough to take reasonable steps to rework the local governance.
The team majorly constitutes, mix of young and old, corporate, businessmen, individuals who have accepted Bengaluru and citizens from across making BNP’s foundation strong and reliable. The goal of BNP is to “connect with citizens across Bengaluru and work along with the government”, irrespective of the party in power or opposition, non- biased on religion or caste, members who care for civilized living, transparent governance, substantial work execution and methodological working mechanism are some of their means. The target of BNP is clearly BBMP and its initiatives, supporting the right cause and opposing the ill-planned activities. In order to ensure the works are corrective, progressive and inclusive of all citizen, BNP has announced a formal admission of candidates from various wards to contest the Municipal Elections. BNP turned 1 years this September 2020 and has already touched mini milestones in achieving some great results and forming an electric team across Bengaluru who are rock solid support in supporting the party. This overwhelming response in a short span of 12 months has attracted the right set of people, professionals, policy makers who are keen on backing BNP, making it the newest Go-To party for coming elections. Citizen’s support in such cause, walking up in a rally who has never stepped out of their comfort zones are also waking up to the new calling, making BNP a party to watch out for CHANGE.
BNP is totally backed on crowd funds. Donations and local funders are pouring in without questions. With transparent books and result oriented activities Srikanth is leading the team towards the new leap, creating right awareness about governance and policies, educating the young and the old alike on strategies and logics that apply to their societies, communities and locales, giving him the requisite to aim more and gain more for the citizens. When asked about the preparations for the inevitable corruption that can creep into the party, or greed for power in whoever within the party gets to win the elections etc., and many such challenges, Srikanth simply says- there is no place for power play or corruption within the party, as the hierarchy of the party doesn’t allow such loopholes within its system. Hierarchy is flat and networked. Core team works on strategies and planning, contesting person can be anyone from any ward and BNP will back up, but the cost of entering into bad politics will be public shaming as BNP is truly about people and their actions. People will have the power to decide on their Corporator. People choose, so people act. If people do not choose then they have no choice, no voice.
As I walked into the room full of volunteers, gathered from various wards to discuss strategy, I spent 20 minutes listening to their strategic plan that was projected for the volunteers’ benefit. The action plan was clear, and the volunteers questioning was valid. BNP seems to be gearing up to the next elections with more actions and more projects to work on. Garbage management, Lake restoration, Park installations and modelling, Streetlights on main road and in lanes, potholes, and manholes etc are part of their actions. Party and its team members were mostly from the educated lots, working in corporates, clearly aggressive about action plans, non-kannadigas [too], multi-religion, multi-caste, self-reliant team. With such an open-minded and thought-provoking team, it is evident that BNP is most promising on-ground team to work. With no intentions to extend into a full-fledged party, clear focus on BBMP and aims to sort out pending matters as top of the priority, they seem to be heading in the right direction to be acclaimed party in near future.