BENGALURU: City is warming up for the state elections, and flex boards and pandals are being erected in street corners or are encroaching into narrow lanes. Generally, traffic edges around them and people step away from loosely tied boards. But this time a group of residents have decided to hold their ground; they are determined to bring down the flexes by December.
On September 23, about 300 people are expected to meet at Town Hall and divide themselves into 15 groups of 20-30 people each. The group will march into different areas of the city including Chalukya Circle, Corporation Circle and Vittal Mallya Road, and take down illegal flexes. They will congregate at the BBMP office and present the collection to the concerned officials. A movement that is doing rounds in social media as #flexpoliticsbeda, besides that individuals are running drives on their own.
Illegal flexes are those that do not bear a BBMP mark and serial number; this means the corporation is earning no money from it, instead these displays are defacing government property. Last year, the revenue generated by the BBMP with flexes added up to `40 crore but the amount should have been a much more, according to Mohammad Rafi, organising secretary of the event. He is also a member of a new political party called Nav Bharath, launched six months ago. “99 per cent of the flexes we see in the city are illegal,” says Mohammad Rafi.
He had an accident, recently, when a board came crashing down on his head. “I was walking on the footpath at Banashankari Second Stage when the board fell on me… it was advertising the birthday of some unknown politician,” says Mohammad Rafi.
A 29-year-old Bengalurean, Anil Shetty, is personally offering to pay residents for stripping down the illegal posters. He will pay Rs 50 for every poster brought down. All a claimant has to do is take a before and after pictures, and Whatsapp the images to Anil. The money will be transferred to the individual’s bank account.
The initiative was launched on September 7 and is valid till December first. “Quite a few people have approached me but they are afraid of pulling down illegal posters,” says Anil. “This makes me worry about the safety of citizens, why should they fear removing something that is illegal? Are they afraid of abiding by the law,” he asks.
‘Rid city of political pollution’
Anil, a resident of Jayanagar, says that he has noticed new faces popping up in these posters. He terms it “political pollution”. “These new faces are placed on posters that advertise a civic or social work, or these faces are lined up under posters that wish bigger leaders well… this is not to inform people, it is only to get people familiar with their faces and win votes,” he says. He says that he has often contacted people on these posters and found them unhelpful.
How much does it cost politicos
Getting a flex printed costs `20 per square foot. The maximum length that can be printed is 10 feet and the width can be of any length, even 10 to 12 feet. According to BJP spokesperson the size of the flex depends on “how crazy the politician really is.” He shares that he has seen politicians spend over `50, 000 for flexes. “They will make as many and as bigger as they wish. It is usually done to please the leader,“ says Prakash S, spokesperson of the BJP party and who is strictly against the use of political flexes.
What do rules say
Permission from the BBMP is mandatory for all hoardings and a serial number is given by the authorities to be marked on the poster. Permission is generally granted for seven days and in case of defacement of public property Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force can register a case suo moto. HC has asked BBMP to strictly follow Karnataka Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, 1981*9.
Funny poster campaigns from other parts of the world
After US elections, a few activists including painter Marilyn Minter created a poster on the account of International Women’s Day. The poster had Trump’s comments about sexually assaulting women during the filming of "Access Hollywood" in 2005. According to the recording, the President had said: “I did try and fuck her. She was married. I moved on her like a bitch.” Since the induction of Donald Trump as a President, ‘Missing’ posters of Barack Obama started doing rounds across the nation. The posters were also shared on Instagram and other social media. "Missing. Have you seen this man?” the poster read.