Slum-dwellers have suddenly become much sought after by political parties of all hues with loads of cash to lure them to election rallies. Many of the slum dwellers openly admitted that their vote would go to those doling out more money.
With the general elections around the corner, the 600,000-odd residents of about 800 slums across the city look for a 'windfall' by attending political rallies and casting votes in favour of a candidate whose party pays the highest.
Be it a paltry Rs.150-200 for a rally or Rs.500-600 for a vote, elections are a good time for the slum-dwellers to make a quick buck.
"It's a ritual for all political parties to indulge in at elections. They grease the palms of slum-dwellers for their votes. But these illiterate voters end up choosing a wrong candidate," lamented Issac Arul Selva, convenor of Slum Janandolan Karnataka (SJK) and a resident of the L.R. Nagar slum in the suburbs.
According to data with the civic body Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike, about 600,000 people dwell in urban slums, accounting for 10 percent of the city's six-million people. The slum population is projected to touch one million by 2010, when the total population is estimated to be 10 million.
The refrain among the residents of any slum is: We vote for those who pay the most.
"In the state assembly polls in May 2008, I voted for a candidate who paid Rs.1,500. For attending rallies of three political parties during electioneering, I got Rs.600. I blew the money by boozing and partying with friends," boasted Sanjay Prasad, a daily wager living in the Ambedkar Nagar slum.
Manjula, a 32-year-old housewife of Sanjay Nagar, was candid to admit that as poor people it was hard to resist money coming their way during polls. "Yes! We take money to cast our vote," she told IANS.
Besides cash, political parties reward the electorate from the slums with food and gifts for making up the crowds in their public meetings.
"All political parties bribe the poor, especially those living in slums, which are their vote banks, to make their public meetings and election rallies a huge success. After the results, they are forgotten and none bothers to address their problems," rued an SJK member.
But SJK, the non-political organisation formed in 2007 by a group of literate slum-dwellers, has decided to educate their brethren to vote for the 'right' candidate who will improve the living conditions and make a difference in their life.
"We will launch a door-to-door campaign from this month-end in all slums to make the dwellers know the power of their votes and how they can bring about a change by exercising their franchise judiciously," 38-year-old Selva told IANS. The campaign will focus on choosing the right candidate who will ensure basic amenities in the slums.
"We will inform the slum-dwellers, many illiterate, about the manifestoes of political parties and the profile of their contestants in the respective constituencies. The objective is to vote for the candidate who delivers," Selva asserted.
"Most of the slum-dwellers are illiterate and are not aware of their rights. Slum children do not get an opportunity to join school for education. Abject poverty is a vicious cycle for them. And the government is least bothered about their welfare," Selva added.
Post-delimitation, Bangalore has three parliamentary constituencies as against two hitherto. They are Bangalore North, Bangalore South and the new one, Bangalore Central.
The delimitation exercise has also led to the creation of Bangalore Rural in place of the neighbouring Kanakapura Lok Sabha seat. Bangalore will go to polls on April 23.