With the BBMP elections and the Karnataka assembly elections in 2023 fast approaching, flex banners highlighting the accomplishments of our ‘netas’ have returned with a vengeance in some parts of the city. A political squabble has erupted in the city over the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) ban on hoardings and banners, which has been in effect for three and a half years.
As the Congress padayatra approaches Bengaluru, large hoardings in support of the Mekedatu drinking water project have appeared in areas such as Kengeri, RR Nagar, Vijayanagar, and Govindarajanagar. According to reports, a Congress leader allegedly threatened to have the BBMP’s RR Nagar engineer replaced,if he removed posters.
On Sunday, neither civic officials nor police could remove a single flex banner belonging to the state’s Congress party, which has renewed its Mekedatu padayatra demanding a drinking water project for Bengaluru.
When the BBMP began removing illegal flex boards in RR Nagar, senior Congress leaders reportedly warned the officers, questioning why no action had been taken to remove posters erected by BJP leaders. The Congress party claims that a large number of BJP leaders in the city were permitted to erect the posters. They emphasized that posters wishing former Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa a happy birthday were not subject to any restrictions.
D.K. Shivakumar, president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee, responded by saying that the BBMP should be renamed “BJP office.”
On March 1, Shivakumar told reporters, “The BBMP is politicizing the issue of flex banners. The Congress party’s banners and flex hoardings are being removed by police and BBMP officials. If this trend continues, I will have Congress workers remove the BJP’s banners and flex hoardings. They (BJP ministers) can put up banners to celebrate their birthdays, while the Chief Minister can put up a flex hoarding for his event in Bommanahalli. Is the rule only applicable to Congress? Is the BJP subject to a different set of rules?”
According to an officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the party workers allegedly dared the civic staff to touch even a single banner, and the “hapless civic staff” had to back off. On Monday, BBMP Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta met with Bengaluru Police Commissioner Kamal Pant and senior IPS officers in an emergency meeting. Gupta reportedly asked BBMP officials to expedite the removal of illegal flex banners and buntings with the assistance of the police.
“The city has been littered with illegal flex banners and bunting. This should not be tolerated by officials in the respective zones. Local police stations should file FIRs against those who display such illegal flex banners and buntings “he said during the virtual meeting. In addition to that, he requested that the police commissioner provide security during the drive. According to local news reports, BBMP officials did not file a single FIR against Congress party leaders for disfiguring parts of Bengaluru, primarily Kengeri and a few areas within the Rajarajeshwari Nagar assembly constituency.
Displaying flex boards, banners, flags, posters, and buntings is a punishable offence under the BBMP Act, 2020, and Section 3 of the Karnataka Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, 1981, according to the BBMP. The BBMP has also granted permission for the Congress party to hold a public event at the National College Ground on March 3. However, the civic body did not reveal whether or not it imposed any conditions.