The Rs 1,800-crore project was at the receiving end of an intense campaign by citizens, while it remains challenged before the National Green Tribunal as the flyover would result in cutting of over 800 trees.
“Public opinion is against the project,” Bengaluru Development Minister KJ George told reporters after a meeting with legislators.
The decision to scrap the project comes also in the wake of BJP’s allegations that the ruling Congress paid kickbacks to the party high command and that the transactions were recorded in a diary, allegedly recovered by Income Tax sleuths from the house of MLC K Govindaraju, a close aide of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
“There are corruption charges being levelled against us when not a single rupee has been taken as kickback. We don’t want to take the blame for something we haven’t done,” the minister said.
The announcement came after a legislators’ meeting, where Congress MLAs urged the government to drop the project “because it was showing us in bad light.” Apparently, George stepped out of the meeting briefly, called the CM and then announced the decision to drop the project.
The 6.7-km steel flyover from Basaveshwara Circle to Hebbal junction, authorities said, would improve connectivity to the Kempegowda International Airport. Construction major L&T bagged the contract to build it.
A coalition of citizens under the Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB) – comprising some of the city’s prominent faces such as actor Prakash Belawadi, architect Naresh V Narasimhan, CXO search consultant Priya Chetty-Rajagopal among others – launched the #SteelFlyoverBeda campaign against the project because “it lacked public consultation and transparency.” Besides the civic uprising, the project also faced a major legal setback with the NGT injuncting the government from going ahead with the project October last.
“Why should we go ahead with the project amid such severe criticism? It’s better if the project is just dropped,” Congress’ Rajarajeshwari Nagar MLA Muniratna said earlier in the day at the legislators’ meeting. His concern was shared by many other party MLAs.
Reacting to the decision, Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw tweeted: “I commend GoK for this decision as they hv (sic) shown sensitivity to citizens concerns about disrupting green cover.”
Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar called victory for the people of Bengaluru. “This project was characterized by unseeming hurry, no public consultation, no Environment Impact assessment, Inflated costs and finally an alleged diary with kickback entries.”