July 14, 2012

Jayalalithaa pulls up councillors: works?

You can expect chief minister J. Jayalalithaa to surprise, shock and shake you up.

So when she invited the city councillors of the AIADMK party to a public hall recently, they were surprised and a tad unsettled. But they certainly did not expect what took place much later.

The wait for her arrival at the hall only heightened their curiosity and uneasiness. And when Jayalalithaa took the lead at the mike, she had some very harsh things to say.

She did not shy from saying she had learnt that some councillors were keener to make moolah than work in their Wards, that some were brazen with the people they represented and that some just did not perform the role they were elected to do.

Finally, she told them that she would not stop from dissolving the Council of Chennai Corporation if things really went too far.

For a party leader and a chief minister to have taken time off to do some plain talking with the men and women of her party who are elected at the grassroots, this was timely and appropriate.

Evidently, the lady did not like what she was hearing from different quarters of the city.

So has Jayalalithaa's plain speaking shaken up city councillors who hail from the AIADMK?

A bit, going from my experience.

All of them do respond to phone or personal calls made by residents of the Ward they represent. It is another matter that the calls are answered by the husbands of women councillors and invariably, they are the ones who will meet you at your street.

All of them are willing to lend a ear to people.

Almost all of them are making an effort to network with officials of state agencies and take up worrying local issues.

So can we expect better governance in our neighbourhoods?

I am not optimistic.

You cannot expect much from reps who do not know much about grassroot and metro-driven issues.

You can expect a better performance if our councillors are provided training and refresher courses from time to time but little has been done on this front.

You cannot expect much from reps who are guided by fellow politicians and do not look at the bigger picture.

Also, many of the projects floated by the Corporation are not 'local specific'.

Finally, save for some Wards, citizens rarely engage with their reps.

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