Political necessity has achieved what people power could not in Karnataka. The Congress government has dropped its controversial plan to build a 7 km steel flyover in Bengaluru after the BJP raised the political temperature by making serious corruption allegations. This was unimaginable a couple of weeks ago when, despite protests by citizen groups and the media, the government seemed determined to put up what would have been a monstrous structure on the road to the city’s airport.
The government’s claim that the decision was taken considering public opinion won’t fool anyone. Had people’s views mattered, it would have been scrapped months ago when citizens took to the streets to protest against the `1,800-crore project that would have required the axing of over 800 trees. But the pushy and secretive ways in which the government went ahead with the formalities revealed that it wanted the project at any cost. If all had gone as per plan, work would have begun. Instead, the government had to fight a legal battle over the project in the National Green Tribunal. As the case dragged on, the political climate began to change. With just about a year to go for the Assembly polls, the BJP wanted to make it as uncomfortable as possible for Siddaramaiah and his party.
Out came corruption allegations. BJP’s Yeddyurappa claimed Siddaramaiah had paid `1,000 crore to the Congress high command to keep his job, and then talked about `65 crore kickbacks paid to the CM’s family. Pages from a dubious diary were shown as proof. Caught in an embarrassing situation, the Congress couldn’t take any chances. Scrapping the project was a desperate attempt to shake off the corruption taint. Whether the gamble works or not, it’s a welcome move. The city didn’t need another ill-planned infrastructure project to denude it of its green cover. But the surprise move does raise a question. If the project was indeed for the people’s benefit, as the government insisted, should it have been shelved for political reasons?