Posts Tagged ‘BJP’

CHURUMURI POLL: Who’s ahead in Karnataka?

16 April 2014

From a Karnataka perspective, the 2014 Lok Sabha election has been a roller-coaster ride.

After the Congress’s thumping return to power in the 2013 assembly elections, the party believed it would repeat its showing in the general elections, thus making up for what is certain to be a serious rout in the Seemandhra region, following the noisy creation of the Telengana state.

The populist decisions undertaken by the Siddaramaiah government was also supposed to help to add to the Congress tally in Karnataka (Congress bagged 8 of the 28 seats, against the BJP’s 18 and the JDS’s two).

But the return of B.S. Yediyurappa to the BJP, and the re-inclusion of B. Sreeramulu, has altered the conventional wisdom on top of the headwind that Narendra Modi brings to his high-voltage campaign. The opinion polls are divided in what is in store in the state, except to suggest that the Congress might not get as high as it thought it would and the BJP as low as many thought it would.

So, what do you think would be the final score?

When an Editor salutes a politician, it’s news

7 April 2014

Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy (right) with the politician H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday

Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy (right) with the politician H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday

The relationship between politicians and journalists is usually an after-dark activity in India, with neither participant ready or willing to put the other’s involvement on the record.

Wise heads in politics will counsel newcomers against getting too close to journalists, because, well, you never know when the snake could discover its fangs.

Grey beards in journalism will lament such proximity, because, well, it could harm the holy grail of our profession that textbooks say exists—”objectivity”.

K.B. Ganapathy, the editor-in-chief of the evening daily Star of Mysore, swerves off the beaten track to pay a heart-warming tribute to the three-time BJP MLA in Karnataka, the former mayor of Mysore, H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday.

***

By K.B. GANAPATHY

It was 1979; Star of Mysore was into its second year of publication from its office in Saraswathipuram near Kamakshi Hospital.

One afternoon, a young, lean, tall man, neatly dressed with his shirt tucked into his pants held in by a leather belt, wearing specs with thin plastic frame, came to my desk hesitantly wanting to discuss an incident to be published.

He was an angry young man. There was clarity in his speech and honesty in his voice.

The officer in charge of issuing cement permits in those days of scarcity and license-permit Raj at the divisional commissioner’s office was partial and corrupt, he said and wanted the paper to expose him.

He had come to me after creating a scene at the office with the support of the disappointed permit-seekers. I grabbed the opportunity and published the story with his picture.

Lo and behold, a leader was made.

Having been a journalist in Bombay, I knew every leader would have his detractors. Soon, I was fed with information about his antecedents, specially as a manager in the Janata Bazar. But I knew there was not much truth in it.

He was already into poultry business with his unit at Martikyatanahalli on Bogadi road, eight km from city. He was staying with his family in his own house near our office. His name was H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda.

And soon we became very close friends.

***

The first quality I found in him was his helping nature. Second quality was his societal concern. The third quality was his immediate reaction both in words and deeds.

To me he was a unique kind of a person. Naturally our contact blossomed into friendship. This bonding had helped both of us in succeeding in our chosen field of activity.

To cut out details, he as a politician and I as a journalist and newspaper publisher.

I remember those early days, he on his scooter and I on my motorbike, going to his farm, in the evening, to spend some ‘quality’ time enjoying boiled eggs and omelette aplenty or even a chicken fry. And he would load my motorbike’s side box with vegetables and trays of eggs on the rear seat despite my protestation.

To further strengthen our friendship, he found out a three-acre land close to his which I bought, but later sold, just as he himself did with his farm.

Again, it was at his insistence and moral support that in 1983 I built my own house at Kuvempunagar in a 60×40 site.

A dashing man of courage and confidence, I was convinced by him that I could build a house knowing that I did not have required money.

In the meanwhile, he was wanting to become a politician, Janata Party politician. By then I had built personal rapport with the leading politicians of Janata Party in city as a journalist and through my elder brother late Dr K. B. Subbaiah.

Again rivalry and he was nowhere in the race for Corporation election ticket.

I was doing the background work no doubt, but it was his presence of mind and the way he reacted in lightning speed that enabled him to wangle a ticket from Janata Party.

One day, he was in my ‘own’ house at 7 O’clock in the morning on his scooter. By then I had a Fiat car.

I took him to the government house to meet Azeez Sait [the late Congress leader], made him speak to M.S. Gurupadaswamy [former Union minister], went to T.V. Srinivasa Rao’s house in Vidyaranyapuram where Shankaralinge Gowda’s challenger for the ticket too was there.

He gave me a sheepish smile and whispered, “what have I done to you?” in Kannada.

First I went into a huddle in a room with H. Kempe Gowda, the city president of the party, Azeez Sait and T.V. Srinivasa Rao. Gurupadaswamy did not come but had given his consent. Then I called my friend and introduced him to the party honchos.

Well, Shankaralinge Gowda never looked back.

***

It was I who advised him to change his sartorial choice immediately to that of what politicians are seen wearing. In his case, kurta and pyjama, with a stoll.

I was his political guru (and he would embarrass me by declaring it in public meetings) till he won the first MLA election from the BJP which he joined, again, at my insistence and a little help. Later, both my guruhood and friendship too faded away to the point of occasional telephone contacts.

I recall today the timely help given to me by Shankaralinge Gowda when I had faced threat to my life and harassment by those who were upset by what was published in those early first 10 years. It was during those trying days Shankaralinge Gowda showed his sterling qualities of heart and head for a friend.

If anyone doubts the time tested saying that ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed,’ here I am to vouch for the veracity of such a saying. He was a friend who stood by me, specially on two occasions.

One, when I was harassed and threatened by one who was exposed for cheating students seeking medical college seats and two, when my life was threatened by another group taking offence to what was published connected to LTTE.

Shankaralinge Gowda may not be with us today but his memory and my days of friendship with him will always remain indelible in my memory.

Adieu my friend, goodbye.

RIP, Shankaralinge Gowda.

Text and photograph: courtesy Star of Mysore

Also read: A song for an unsung hero, C.P. Chinnappa

9 steps for success from a (super-successful) editor

When a freelance writer cannot meet an editor

Why your TV couldn’t show you this ‘mega rally’

25 February 2014

yechury

Sitaram Yechury addressing the Left rally in Hissar, but without the “Jimmy Jib” cameras

The point has been made before, that the current political coverage, especially on television, is more than somewhat skewed, tilting unabashedly towards Narendra Damodardas Modi of the BJP vis-a-vis Rahul Gandhi of the Congress.

Now, the CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechuri explicates it a bit more in the Hindustan Times, comparing the TV coverage of Arvind Kejriwal‘s Aam Aadmi Party vis-a-vis the Left parties and unions.

“Two days ago, the Left held a Haryana-level people’s rally for a political alternative at Hissar. On the same day, AAP held a rally called much after the Left rally announcement at nearby Rohtak. The latter was widely covered by the corporate media while the former was hardly mentioned notwithstanding larger participation.

“This is not surprising. Earlier, when Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement was on in the Capital, over two lakh workers organised by the central trade unions had converged at Parliament against corruption and price rise. While the former hogged 24/7 media coverage, the latter hardly found any mention.

“Clearly, for the corporate media, a so-called ‘morally’ upright alternative that does not adversely affect profit maximisation is always better than an alternative that aims at improving people’s livelihood while not excessively promoting profit maximisation!”

For the record, though, Kejriwal launched into the media at the Rohtak rally, inviting a statement from the editors guild of India.
Photograph: courtesy Ganashakti
Read the full article: Sitaram Yechuri in HT
Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

 How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feat, a promo’

CHURUMURI POLL: Should RSS be banned again?

8 February 2014

The release of audio tapes and transcripts of four interviews conducted by a journalist of the monthly magazine, The Caravan, which show the terror-attack accused Swami Aseemanand in conversation with the RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat in 2005, virtually implicating him in targetting civilians, once again show the twice-banned “national voluntary organisation” in disgraceful light.

“In the last two interviews, Aseemanand repeated that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organisation’s general secretary at the time,” reads a press release. “It is very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.”

While BJP and RSS spokespersons have questioned the veracity of the tapes and the ethicality of the journalist managing to enter the jail where Assemanand is lodged to record the interviews, they do not detract from the elephant in the room: the alleged involvement of RSS functionaries in attacks of terrorism, raising the spectre of “Saffron Terror” with the intent of political mobilisation.

For some the tapes will only confirm their worst fears: that the RSS, which was banned (by then home minister Vallabhbhai Patel, no less) after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 and the demolition of the Babri masjid in 1992, is upto no good. That such an organisation should be playing a quite conspicuous role in shaping the future and fortunes of BJP in circa 2014 will please them even less.

Many others, though, will suspect the timing of the release of the tapes on the eve of a general election, and the rather candid admissions of a terror-accused who over the last three years seems to have somehow forgot to spill the beans to his custodians in jail and interrogators in court.

Obviously, the charges are still a long way from being proved. But if they are, on the strength of mounting evidence—Colonel Shrikant Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh, Indresh Kumar—should the RSS be banned a third time? And if Narendra Modi, whose installation as the BJP’s  “prime ministerial candidate” was one of the RSS’s biggest successes last year, does end up becoming PM, will his government have the guts or the objectivity to take such a tough call?

Also read: Should the RSS be banned—part I?

Will an RSS-run BJP be more vicious in future?

How Karnataka is becoming Gujarat of South

Usually before an election, the wheels come off

29 January 2014

Photo Caption

Photo Caption

During his recent whistle-stop tour of Kerala, Rahul Gandhi jumped out of his security cocoon and clambered on top of a police vehicle. But it is not just the Congress vice-president who feels compelled to do these “mass” numbers on the eve of an election.

Exhibit A is former Union minister H.N. Ananth Kumar of the BJP and Exhibit B is the former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular). The former taking part in an event to promote use of bicycles in Bangalore; the latter flagging off a party rally.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Why Adiga‘s wants a COO for idli-vada-sambar

Double-riding in the era of helicopter joy rides?

No helmets, please; they are for the aam janata

Don’t miss: Behind every successful cyclist, there are few men

If Kejriwal is ‘anarchist’, how about L.K. Advani?

25 January 2014

VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: Ever since AAP came to power in Delhi, they seem to have become the favourite punching bag of the media, intellectuals and politicians.

Arvind Kejriwal was declared a threat to Indian democracy — an ‘Anarchist.’

Yes a dose of criticism is healthy, but to speak in a tone suggesting that voting for Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was a mistake and that they have become a menace is not only unfair, but also a disservice to a nation that is in the threshold of change. It also reeks of fear and propaganda.

All this sudden blaming and name calling of AAP by many Indians makes one wonder if most Indians really want a corruption-free India?

It seems many want AAP to fix just enough corruption to make life convenient?

Convenient enough that they don’t have to bribe to get a Driver’s License, but then not so efficient that it becomes impossible to bribe a Policeman when caught riding without a helmet or jumping traffic lights. Is that what it is? Selective anti-corruption options.

First, the Congress and BJP called Arvind Kejriwal’s two-day protest an anarchist movement. Really? For starters, where was this fear of anarchy when L.K. Advani took his chariot of fire all the way to Ayodhya and the BJP lotus bloomed from 84 seats to 183 in 1999?

Where was this fear of anarchy when Bajrang Dal ran amok beating up young girls across the nation on Valentine’s Day teaching them lessons in morality?

As for Congress, where was their fear of anarchy when Sikhs were massacred? Has any party even apologised for these acts? Where was the Indian upper middle class and intellectuals’ fear of anarchy then?

Now, a party very different, has come to power in the capital. It feels helpless as it is unable to control its own Police force and stages a peaceful dharna because the Union Government is unwilling to even discuss the issue and every one calls it ‘anarchy.’

Yes may be there may have been a slight traffic inconvenience to the Delhi citizens, but can’t a citizen handle being inconvenienced a little by a protest which will give him better policing?

We always want someone else to fight out fights, to make our lives better, without inconveniencing ourselves. How selfish is that?!

Indeed we want AAP to work within the framework of the law, but isn’t peaceful dissent within this framework as well? Yes, when it comes to politics, everyone suffers from amnesia. Indeed two wrongs don’t make a right, but still, to call AAP’s protest in Delhi ‘anarchy’ is just plain unfair.

While they say Kejriwal is turning India into a Banana Republic why is no one asking about the Bill to bring Delhi Police under the Delhi Government which has been pending for 15 years? What is waiting for? Is it on purpose?

After all ‘timing’ of passing certain laws or bills is in fact a political strategy. More than to benefit the citizens it is meant to win elections. This what creates a Banana Republic, not a government that sits in peaceful dharna.

The Delhi CM wants to give good governance to his people and good law and order is part of it. So he wants control of law and order, which he is not being given, so the protest. Is that wrong?

In that case, when H.D. Deve Gowda, a former PM of this country sits in dharna on Mysore-Bangalore road to get us Cauvery water for agriculture, drinking and cooking, does it make him an anarchist?

Now the Delhi Police say they act only upon issue of a warrant, but still when a crime is underway do they need a warrant?

Everyone in Delhi knows the area between Saketh and Malviya Nagar has had issue of prostitution. The residents of Hauz Rani which lies between these areas, had complained repeatedly for months and no action was taken.

Finally when a Minister goes to have a look, orders the Police to act, it is termed ‘vigilantism.’

How would the upper middle class “cultured” citizens react if they had a “Service Centre” next door? We are sure, they would have called the Home Minister and warrant or no warrant it would be cleared in a jiffy.

The details of the Delhi incident of course were made murkier and louder by now what seems like an anti-AAP media.

The same media which went hyper and showed us doctored tapes of AAP reportedly accepting cash, which some say cost Shazia Ilmi of AAP her seat, who lost by just 326 votes. But then once it was proved the tapes were doctored the raw footage was never shown.

The man who made it, earlier was given ample screen, but was never brought back to be grilled. In the Delhi incident a media that gets a sound byte from all and sundry did not get too many residents’ opinions. There was also no clarity and consistency in reports, why?

So while the media says the AAP Minister Somnath Bharti has brought bad name to India internationally, maybe selective journalism did too?

The same media just before the elections said AAP will not get more than 6 to 10 seats, in a way encouraging voters not to waste their vote and stick with the winning horse, the BJP, only to be proved wrong.

Is the Corporate owned media with other varied interests suddenly scared that too much anti-corruption may come knocking on their own doors or are they trying to play ball with BJP which is sure to win many more seats than any other party right now?

Also interesting is the fact that as one watched the AAP Minister wagging a finger at the Policeman, the Policeman too wagged his finger right back! Wonder if he would dare to do so at a BJP or a Congress Minister?

No way.

He knows very well what will happen. It seems it has not sunk in the officialdom that an aam aadmi has come to power, because AAP does not project power like traditional politicians do, which can be brutal and leave one in a perpetual vindictive legal limbo.

In fact, our politicians follow the same principle as that of the British. Independence ushered in only a change in management and not swaraj. No wonder the laws that British used to suppress us is still in use and no party wants to change it.

Forget the laws and attitudes; even the residences did not change. Soon after independence Nehru moved into Flagstaff House (Teen Murti Bhavan), the palatial residence of the former British Commander-in-Chief, our President moved into the palace built for the then Viceroy of India.

This is why it is said, “Democracy did not adopt India, Indians usurped democracy because it could be moulded to fit earlier structures without threatening them. It caught the popular imagination not for the new values it symbolised, but for the possibilities it opened up for the consolidation of the old. The miracle of India is that the practice of democracy has flourished within its boundaries for over six decades in the absence of a democratic temperament.”

AAP, it seems is here to rewrite democracy and they must be critiqued but not shouted down into oblivion and death.

True, AAP is in a hurry to become a National Party without getting its structures in place. They are advised to prepare well, for they need to survive, grow and deliver us not just from corruption, but help us rewrite our democracy, that will allow us to transcend into pure patriotism.

(Vikram Muthanna is the managing editor of Star of Mysore where this piece originally appeared)

Not yet MP, could Nandan Nilekani become PM?

11 December 2013

On December 8, as the results of the assembly elections in the four States showed that opinion polls are not always wrong, and as the clamour for clarity on the Congress’s “prime ministerial candidate” a la the BJP grew in overheated TV studios, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said:

“I think people need not worry. At the opportune time, the name of the PM candidate… the name of him will be announced.”

Despite the ungrammatical awkwardness of “him”, the invocation of the male gender in her response triggered instant speculation. Was it going to be son Rahul Gandhi, or could it finance minister P. Chidambaram, or could it be a totally new face?

The Times of India, which broke the news in September that former Infosys man and UID chief Nandan Nilekani was being thought of as a potential Congress candidate from Bangalore South, now reports that Nilekani could be Sonia Gandhi’s “him” with a boiler-plate denial.

When TOI called him, Nilekani’s immediate and only reaction was, “Complete rubbish. This must be a figment of someone’s over-active imagination.”

Obviously, Nilekani’s candidature is predicated on several imponderables. That Rahul Gandhi may not want the top job, should he by a stroke of miracle become eligible for it. That other potential candidates in the Congress will quietly acquiesce should Nilekani’s name come up. Etcetera.

But the Congress moves in mysterious ways, often with some fingers of the left hand not knowing what the other fingers of the same left hand are doing.

In an interview with Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express, for NDTV’s walk the talk programme, Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah takes a few questions on Nilekani’s predicted candidature. The responses are mighty revealing.

Is Nandan Nilekani going to contest one of the three Bangalore seats?

He has not discussed this with me, but it is news which has appeared… Don’t know whether he is contesting or not.

Do you think it is a good idea if he contests ? Will you be happy?

I don’t know because I have not discussed it with him. And he has also not discussed it with me. About 15 days back we met, but he did not discuss it with me.

As a friend, will you advise him to contest, or not?

It is for the Congress to decide. If he wants to contest, then the Congress has to take a decision now.

But will you recommend his name?

Let him say whether he is interested or not. I do not know whether he is interested.

That’s the problem with your party, everybody has to go and ask.

If he comes to the party, I will welcome him. But I don’t know whether he is ready to contest or not, he is willing to contest or not. But ultimately the high command has to decide.

So, not yet an MP, does Nandan Nilekani stand a chance of being PM?

Dream on.

Photograph: courtesy Namas Bhojani/ Forbes India

Also read: Can Nandan Nilekani win from Bangalore South?

Dear Nandan, quit Infosys, join politics, start a party

Nandan Nilekani: the six things that changed India

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nilekani trounced NRN?

MUST READ: 12 things no one is telling us about namma Nandu

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar: RIP

10 December 2013

Photo Caption

At the ‘Khaas Durbar’ during Dasara in Mysore, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar ascends the golden throne for the rituals

KPN photo

During Dasara in Mysore, Mr Wodeyar wears the royal attire and is escorted to and from the rituals with the pomp and glory of bygone days

KPN photo

During Dasara in Mysore, Mr Wodeyar wears the royal attire and is escorted to and from the rituals with the pomp and glory of bygone days

PHOTO CAPTION

During Navaratri, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar himself conducted some of the poojas in the main Amba Vilas Palace

NEWS

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar poses in front of the Bangalore Palace in this file picture

Photo Caption

Mr Wodeyar, with his rival turned friend Brijesh Patel (second from right) after his election to the Karnataka State Cricket Association recently

NEWS

Mr Wodeyar with his wife Pramodadevi Wodeyar

churumuri records with deep regret the passing away of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the scion of the erstwhile royal kingdom of Mysore, in Bangalore on this the 10th day of December, 2013. He was 61 years old, and is survived by his wife, Pramodadevi. The Wodeyars have no natural heir.

Mr Wodeyar, was the son of Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, the last maharaja of Mysore. And as the “erstwhile prince”, he remained the last tangible link with the City’s royal past, playing a key role in the conduct of the ten-day Dasara celebrations each year.

A two-time former Congress member of Parliament from Mysore (who also fought and lost on the BJP ticket), Mr Wodeyar had been elected president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) only last week. He played cricket for Mysore University during his college days.

Mr Wodeyar, who suffered from weight problems, had been unwell and greeted KSCA members upon his election, sitting down.

File photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: My daddy, His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore

Once upon a time, at the Maharaja’s study circle

Mysore’s three richest families—after Srikantadatta Wodeyar

When Bishen Bedi bowled from the Maharaja College end

Mutton chops, mudde and saaru with Srikantadatta Wodeyar

Where on earth is Bangara Doddi Naale?

Should Indian TV introduce ‘equal coverage’?

31 October 2013

modibse

The relationship between Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and the media, especially “English maedia” as he puts it, has followed two distinct trends over the last ten years.

The first trend was of unbridled distrust on either side. Modi had nothing but contempt for those who sought to buttonhole him on the ghastly incidents of 2002. He walked out of TV interviews or stared blankly at interviewers who reminded him of his role, if any. Ours was not to question.

The media, not surprisingly, responded with circumspection bordering on suspicion.

The second trend emerged in the run-up to the 2012 assembly elections in Gujarat, which Modi used as his launchpad, first to become the chairman of the BJP campaign committee and thereafter as the BJP’s self-proclaimed “prime ministerial candidate”. Suddenly, influential sections of the media were eating out of his hands.

International news agencies were getting soft-ball interviews, top journalists were asking if there was a middle-ground; media groups with corporate backing host tailor-made conferences; friendly newspapers were getting 16-page advertising supplements; “bureau chiefs” were finding stories that showed Modi’s detractors in poor light.

Why, the coverage of Modi seems to have been a key editorial driver in the recent change of guard at The Hindu, and—pinch yourself—Modi was launching an edition of Hindu Business Line.

The key player in the turnaround of the Modi-media relationship, however, has been television, which has unabashedly been used and turned into a soapbox for advertising the latest detergent from the land of Nirma that promises to wipe Indian democracy clean.

To the exclusion of all else.

As Modi—decidedly more macho, muscular, articulate and telegenic than the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi—drives his brandwagon around the country, most news TV channels have dropped any pretence of trying to stay non-partisan, covering every speech or parts of it, conducting opinion polls, setting up nightly contests, etc, as if the end of the world is nigh.

All this, of course, is before the Election Commission’s model code kicks in.

In the Indian Express, Shailaja Bajpai asks an important question: has the time has come to consider “equal coverage”—where all players, not just Modi and Rahul but even leaders of smaller parties get equal space and time—so that the field is not unduly distorted?

“Countries such as the United States try to follow the idea of equal coverage especially in the run-up to an election — and especially after a politician is declared as the official candidate, as Modi has been.

“Recently, the Republicans threatened that TV channels, NBC and CNN, would not be allowed to telecast the party’s next presidential debates because NBC had planned a TV series and CNN a documentary about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Indian news channels don’t let minor matters like equality trouble them. They’re obsessed with the man, to the point that Modi-fixation has become a clinical condition which may soon require treatment.”

Read the full story: The chosen one

Photograph: courtesy NewsX

Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective  TRP

POLL: Do you believe Narendra Modi’s PM claim?

5 September 2013

The 2014 general election was supposed to be a head-to-head contest between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Damodardas Modi, the former ordained by the unspoken dynamics of dynastic politics; the other responding to the groundswell of popular support. Yet, could it be a no-show as the two conquistadors find one excuse more fantastic than the other to exit the ring?

The Congress vice-president reiterated in an interaction with the media in Parliament earlier this year (what he had privately maintained for a while) that becoming PM was not the sole ambition of his life. And now, the Gujarat chief minister has surprised even his fanboys by claiming that he was committed to serving his term till 2017.

“I never see such dreams (of becoming PM), nor am I going to see such dreams. People of Gujarat have given me the mandate to serve them till 2017 and I have to do this with full strength,” Modi said.

The charitable view to take is that both Gandhi and Modi are playing it safe, since neither Congress nor BJP looks likely, judging from opinion polls, to come anywhere near forming the next government. By seeming to be not interested in the race, they keep their options open, should the election verdict surprise them.

The less charitable view is that reality has hit home. Both Congress and BJP will require the support of allies to reach 273, and only Congress seems to be making moves as of now. Even if a non-Congress, non-BJP government comes to power, its longevity is far from certain. So 2014 could actually be a semi-final, with another general election around the corner.

Question: Is Narendra Modi being honest with his reluctance for the PM’s chair? Or is he being too clever by half and trying to exert pressure on his party to declare him the candidate?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL-I: Modi vs Rahul in 2014?

CHURUMURI POLL-II: Modi vs Rahul in 2014?

Why Narendra Modi will never be India’s PM

Modi vs Rahul? Nah, more like Rajiv vs Sanjay

Modi vs Rahul? Nah, more like Sanjay vs Rajiv.

27 July 2013

VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: Recently, I was caught in the rain and I took shelter in a teashop.

Wet, and sipping on tea, I couldn’t help but notice the chatter of two older gentlemen who were sipping, puffing and professing. They seemed involved in an animated and heated discussion and I couldn’t help myself but eavesdrop.

Just as I got close to them, the discussion ended with the older man claiming, “None of the Congress fellows today have the guts of Sanjay Gandhi. If Sanjay Gandhi was alive, India would have been in a better state. I challenge.”

All that I could think of was “If Sanjay Gandhi had been around, I doubt this man would be a father and may be the word ‘nasbandi’ would have triggered an involuntary action of cupping his crotch and running for cover. I challenge.”

But was there any truth in the old man’s claim?

This reminds me of what Sanjay Gandhi’s son Varun Gandhi said to the media: “Wherever I go people say, if Sanjay Gandhi was alive India would not be what it is today.”

What they obviously meant was that India would be in a better state.

Better, how and why?

Because Sanjay had his own vision of what India should be and was authoritarian in pursuing them?

Well… if that’s the case, then it seems like we have a modern and better version of Sanjay Gandhi in Narendra Modi. True?

Well, we’ll know after 2014; until then we’ll keep our fingers crossed… well, had it been Sanjay Gandhi’s 1977, we’d have to keep our legs crossed.

***

The Narendra Modi and Sanjay Gandhi comparison crops up because they both are known to “get things done.”

In fact, the legendary journalist Khushwant Singh put a picture of Sanjay Gandhi on the cover of Illustrated Weekly of India magazine with a headline “Sanjay, the man who gets things done.”

Today, Modi is in every middle class urban Indian’s mind, and every time they think of him they see the same hope Khushwant Singh saw: “A man who can get things done.”

Fears that Modi will become authoritarian like Sanjay and will take us to the Emergency days of gag and imprisonment could be far-fetched because they operated at different times in our democracy.

Sanjay Gandhi was trying to find quick and simple solutions to complex problems. Sanjay was a Political Rambo in a young democracy and in a hurry to see change even if it meant mowing down slums or squeezing out manhoods.

The best example would be the unplanned execution of the sterilisation programmes. People were not educated about what it was and rumours spread that it was an operation that would render women unable to bear children and men impotent.

No one came, so they were dragged out and the rest is disaster as recorded in history.

Sanjay Gandhi had a five-point programme for India: tree planting, abolition of caste and dowry system, eradication of illiteracy, family planning and eradication of slums. All of them failed.

Sanjay may have been known as a man “who got things done…,” but if only he had planned them… Unfortunately he didn’t and he became a “man who got things wrong.”

Journalist Vinod Mehta concluded his book ‘The Sanjay Story’ by saying: “Had Sanjay possessed more finesse, had he not been in such a tearing hurry, had he been slightly more intelligent, he would have become ‘the national leader’ he so wished to be.”

Seems like Modi possesses the above qualities.

Also, Modi is more educated; he has a Master’s in Political Science. Sanjay was 11th grade pass and earned a course certificate from Rolls Royce.

Modi is a smart operator who plans and delivers. Sanjay and Modi have many similarities — both obsessed with development, both inclined towards technology. Coincidentally, both helped start the first indigenous Indian cars, a venture of “Indian pride” — Maruti for Sanjay, Tata Nano for Modi. Both have an image bigger than their party itself.

More importantly, both have used their party ideology partly to put themselves in a place of power from where they can force down their own vision of development.

For example, while analysts say Modi is a Hindu fundamentalist, no one talks about how when it was brought to his notice that 310 religious structures in Gandhinagar had encroached on government roads hindering road widening, he demolished them!

First, he demolished temples. This he did in spite of VHP, his party BJP’s strong arm, taking offence. VHP formed a Mandir Bachao Samiti and screamed “development cannot be achieved by demolishing temples.”

It did not stop him. Roads were widened, to be used by all. May be he came to power on his party’s Hindu ideology, but delivered on his Indian ideology.

Yes, of course, both leaders obsessed over infrastructural delivery and industrial development model. But what about the social aspect? Can Modi handle that? After all, this is where Sanjay failed ever so miserably and Modi too is criticised for his dismal social development record.

What’s he going to do when he has to deal with the whole nation?

For now, he is the CM of Gujarat where the only distractions for its citizens are supposedly Bollywood and stock market, makes it easier to administer. He also has to ask himself if Gujarat is truly democratic, then why are people drinking stealthily in Gujarat?

Why do non-vegetarians have to go all around the town looking to buy meat?

Why have minorities suddenly huddled in silence on the outskirts of urban Gujarat?

He has to answer these questions because soon he may have to deal with the booze-enjoying Bangaloreans, bar dance-loving Mumbaites, Fenny-loving Goans, meat-loving Punjabis, all perceived as sins in the puritan Gujarat.

Then there is the Kashmir issue, not to forget environmental and mining issues where his industrial friends have been known to run riot displacing indigenous people.

All these are important social factors. So far, Modi has been enjoying a saucer of dhokla; can his political palate handle the plate full of socially psychedelic India? Only time will tell.

***

But is 2014 election really about Rahul Vs Modi? It seems more like Rajiv Vs Sanjay.

Rahul, like his father, was a hesitant entrant to politics whereas Modi, like Sanjay, relishes it. Rahul plays by the rules set up by the old fogies in the party; Modi, like Sanjay, is feared in his own party for having a mind of his own.

Rahul, like Rajiv, perpetually seems like a political misfit; Modi, like Sanjay, looks like he was born to be in it.

Unfortunately, both have a disturbing streak of authoritarian model of work. This is where fear sets in and that’s why Vinod Mehta, comparing Modi and Sanjay said: “Narendra Modi type of leadership has a tendency to descend into authoritarian one-man rule.” Warning taken.

But even if the dark side of Sanjay manifests in Modi, is it possible to execute it in the 21st century democratic India where we have a hyperactive media, huge young population and technology at our fingertips? We doubt it.

Sadly in a way, the Indian middle-class is actually looking for an authoritarian leader.

They have tolerated a muted, submissive, incommunicado PM heading a government of inaction for so long that they seem ready to risk an authoritarian leader who can “get things done.” They feel Modi will get things done and if he doesn’t, they can always go back to the good old Indian National Comatose Party.

(Vikram Muthanna is managing editor of Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

Why Food Security Bill makes parties insecure

15 July 2013

20130715-081305 PM.jpg

The Centre’s food security ordinance passed hurriedly recently, and the Karnataka government’s Anna Bhagya scheme launched last week, have, in their own ways, provoked a fierce political reaction that is beyond bizarre.

While non-Congress governments and parties are understandably apprehensive that the Congress-led UPA might be rolling out a “game-changer” ahead of the elections, others see in the Centre’s move, an attempt to infringe upon state’s powers.

Other critics see trademark signs of profligacy at a time when the fiscal deficit is soaring although many of them seemingly have no problem if rich corporates and business houses get way-bigger incentives and write-offs.

As Melwyn Pinto writes at The Hoot:

Any populist measures of the government, especially those benefitting the poor, are looked at suspiciously by a section of the media. It does not matter if poor people rightly deserve such benefits from schemes as they have only the government to come to their aid. However, why should any help done to the distressed be seen only as a means to win elections? Isn’t it the government’s moral responsibility to side with the poor and work for their welfare?

Be that as it may, lost in the back and forth is the moral argument. The fact is there are millions of Indians going hungry. The fact is millions of tonnes of food grains go waste. And the fact is, regardless of what it costs, no civilised country can shut its eye to either.

As this picture of women queueing up to pick up their allocation of 30 kilos of rice at one rupee a kilo, at a fair price shop in the supposedly prosperous, post-liberalised “IT” city of Bangalore—in J.P. Nagar 2nd stage no less—demonstrates, parties and governments have much to be afraid of if the hunger pangs of large numbers of people who vote with their feet are suddenly sated.

Will Yediyurappa return change BJP fortunes?

11 July 2013

What goes around, comes around. Barely months after he left the party fuming and fretting, barely months after the party thought it had seen the back of him, B.S. Yediyurappa and the BJP—both chastened by the defeat in the Karnataka assembly elections—are apparently eyeing each other.

In one sense, it is a reality check for the BJP, which likes to think of itself as a cadre-based party, and for Yediyurappa, who thought that his standing was alone enough to carry him to power. With both the party and the individual realising their limitations, they are thinking of mending broken bridges.

In another sense, it is also a reflection of the changed if not changing reality in the BJP. With “two-time former future prime minister” L.K. Advani, who apparently played a key role in Yediyurappa’s ouster, no longer calling the shots, Yediyurappa sees an opening in the new scheme of things under Narendra Modi. And vice-versa.

Both sides are now playing coy. The BJP wants him to formally “apply” to rejoin the party. Yediyurappa, for his part, says the majority of his followers only want a tie-up with the parent body, not a formal merger. Either way, the path is being paved for the return of the prodigal.

Still, there is such a thing as political morality. When Yediyurappa walked out, the BJP painted all the excesses of his government—the corruption, the scams, the scandals—to him and his cronies. Will facilitating Yediyurappa’s return impact Modi’s national ambitions? Will the BJP emerge stronger in Karnataka with Yediyurappa’s return, or is this too convenient an arrangement which voters will see through?

CHURUMURI POLL: BJP better off without Advani?

11 June 2013

Hell hath no fury like an old man scorned. With Narendra Damodardas Modi‘s nomination as the chairman of the BJP election campaign committee in Goa on Sunday, 86-year-old Lalchand Kishinchand Advani‘s fate as a “two-time former future prime minister of India” was finally and firmly sealed.

But it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

So, a dramatic resignation from the all posts held by him (except the crucial one of NDA chairperson), followed by the leak of the resignation letter, followed by the leak that he did not speak to Modi for six minutes after the nomination but merely 90 seconds. If age equals experience equals wisdom, Advani was showing little of it.

Indeed, the contents of the resignation letter showed a petty and bitter man, unable to come to terms with the reality that the party he had so artfully built on the trail of blood left behind by his rath yatras no longer found him useful. So petty and so bitter that he even seemed willing to destroy its immediate prospects.

So far, the BJP has refused to play ball. It wants him to stay on in his posts but has shown no indication that it will revoke its decision to elevate Modi. More resignations of Advani’s camp-followers may follow, but by all available indications, it appears as if the BJP and RSS (not necessarily in that order) have taken a calculated risk.

Questions: Is BJP better off without Advani? Will Advani’s absence impact the NDA and its prospects in the coming general elections? Is BJP’s (and India’s) future safe with Modi or has Advani shown the opposite?

Also read: Is Advani more acceptable than Modi?

‘The man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred’

5 talking points you won’t hear on TV tomorrow

7 May 2013

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Tomorrow, May 8, is results day for the Karnataka assembly elections. Since I am not going to be in front of a camera, here are five talking points I bet you won’t hear on your favourite news channel, but five points I sincerely wish TV anchors and analysts would use.

***

First, despite what everyone has said in the last month, there hasn’t been any discernible change in the fundamental poll dynamic since the elections were announced. What this means is that despite the month-long campaign and all that comes along with it (read money and other gifts to the voters), nothing much changed that actually altered the political climate.

What are the fundamentals that I refer to here?

The anti-incumbency of a largely ineffectual, scandal and dissension-ridden BJP government had created a small undercurrent of support for Congress. However, that advantage has been difficult to quantify and that’s because politics these days, especially at the state level, is local and very competitive. Further, political advantage doesn’t mean a wave in favor of a political party.

I am tempted to say the era of waves is over.

Congress stuck to its strategy, didn’t recruit too many outsiders (especially those who had ties with BJP), and focused mostly on consolidating its base.

True, its ticket distribution strategy seemed chaotic and the party took too much time to complete the process. There seemed to be much dissension, with ticket aspirants and activists demonstrating regularly in front of the party office. But much of this is media-driven to make the elections more interesting, and generate some stories.

BJP somehow managed to stop its bleeding just in time when its leaders managed to convince the four Lingayat ministers (Umesh Katti, Basavaraj Bommai, Murugesh Nirani and V. Somanna) not to leave the party.

This action enabled the state BJP leadership to save some credibility with its national leaders but more significantly increased its competitiveness in 12-15 constituencies and dealt a crushing blow to Yediyurappa’s dreams of consolidating his hold over Lingayats in north Karnataka.

***

Second, I want to submit that all the predictions, including the exit poll based ones, are bunkum.

I haven’t looked at the methodology and sample size closely. Yet, I suspect that extrapolating results from voting percentages is not accurate. The Janata Dal (Secular) and BJP are not strong in the same areas, which means that there are fewer triangular fights.

Hence, if Congress is competing strongly everywhere, even if its vote share goes up, it may not win a commensurate number of assembly segments.

This complementary nature of JD (S) and BJP’s support base introduces an element of uncertainty and I don’t know enough about our pollsters to believe they take into account all these variables.

***

My scepticism about predictions leads me to my third point: that the political culture in Karnataka (in fact, this is also a broader argument that could be made nationally too) has changed dramatically. Hence, history is not a good guide not only to make predictions but more importantly to assess political strategies.

What has changed in the last decade?

In a nutshell, Karnataka has seen a new breed of politician, who has had substantial business interests and is willing to plough back huge amounts of money back into electoral politics. This new politician is in politics to manipulate public policy, further his business interests and secure maximum profits.

He doesn’t have any ideological commitments or a substantial notion of public good.

His political strategy revolves around using his personal fortune (often ill-gotten from real estate, mining or some such natural resource owned by the state) to secure the loyalty of his constituents to himself and this has been the basis for a new form of populism in Karnataka.

There have been many consequences but let me list here only two.

First, the political space available for other kinds of politics, especially the ones inspired by ideology, socio-political movements and a substantial notion of public good, is entirely absent. Be surprised if any candidate who has spent less than five crores actually wins.

Second, even old-school politicians have reinvented themselves along the same lines. In order to understand the truth of this, you only have to look at Yediyurappa and the Deve Gowda family.

In this new political culture, we need a different theory of political strategies, especially in the electoral realm. But we haven’t even had a decent explanation until now about BJP’s own electoral success in 2008. So, I am not very hopeful that we will get a good theory in tomorrow’s shows when Ramachandra Guha and Yogendra Yadav hold forth on our TV screens.

There is much to say on this topic but in brief what we need to recognize is that BJP and JD(S) have recognized the changing tides very quickly and hence have been very nimble in making their strategies.

On the other hand, Congress is burdened by its past and seems like an elephant in its efforts to maneuver around the more nimble, more tiger like opponents. It still has to accommodate all the social classes and its base is largely made up of old time loyalists. The party continues to look to its high command for guidance.

Thus Congress continues to rely on its 20th century political culture/strategizing in what has been a dramatically different 21st century political reality. Most of the stories about Congress bungling (especially this OPED piece by James Manor in the Indian Express) its poll strategy do not recognize this simple fact: it couldn’t have avoided these pitfalls and the magical wand called leadership doesn’t exist.

So, if any analyst tells you that Congress lost because S.M. Krishna was ignored, consider that a load of bull crap. Active participation by Krishna wouldn’t have increased Congress’s total vote tally in the state by 100,000 votes. His counsel wouldn’t have made ticket distribution any more efficient.

If anyone says wrong ticket selection contributed to Congress losing, take that with some skepticism.

For example, at a constituency level there might have been mistakes but Congress had a larger goal. For example, giving tickets to C.K. Jaffer Sharief’s grandson in Hebbal and Shamanuru Shivashankarappa in Davanagere might have been problematic but if the goal is also to send a message to specific communities, then Congress will have succeeded.

This is where BJP, KJP and JD (S) are more nimble in picking candidates and they can afford to make tactical decisions in each constituency.

For example, former minister A.Krishnappa was fielded by JD (S) in Hiriyur after Congress refused to give him ticket in K.R. Puram. Krishnappa, a Golla (cowherd), is likely to win this constituency where his community is in large numbers and who along with Vokkaligas form a potent combintion. His opponent, D. Sudhakar, former minister who joined Congress just before the elections, was seen as a sure shot winner in this contest when elections began.

Here is the takeaway. Politics is extremely competitive and resourceful newcomers are ready to enter the electoral arena. They are trolling different parties in search of opportunities. Nobody can take elections easily these days.

If Siddaramaiah has sleepless nights caused by a political nobody, whose sole claim to fame is that he was Yediyurappa’s former aide and his sole strategy to secure political loyalty is to distribute large sums of money to all comers, then no leader is safe.

***

Fourth, I really, really wish our analysts would display a better understanding of the caste-politics equation. We really don’t have a good 21st century theory of caste loyalties inspire electoral politics. It is grating to see Yediyurappa described as the “sole leader” of Lingayats and Deve Gowda characterized as the Vokkaliga “strong man”.

Please internalize this: caste support to political parties and leaders is tactical and local; it is not strategic and translocal. I know this claim demands a research paper and not simply an assertion.

However here is the simple takeaway: Subcaste and matha-influence is more important than the kind of translocal caste loyalties that I referred to.

In Hiriyur, Kunchatiga vokkaligas are in large number but they are not strong supporters of the Gangadakara-dominated JD(S). If they vote for JD (S), it is not because of some caste loyalty to Deve Gowda. In fact, if you do a survey of Vokkaligas, most actually very strongly dislike the Gowda family, even if they vote for JD (S) most of the time.

In the same way, Lingayat solidarity across the state is a myth.

Surely, it is possible to secure broad based support from the community in favor of a party like BJP if someone like Yediyurappa is at the helm. But such a strategy would be predicated on finding the right sub caste candidate in each constituency.

Picking a Jangama candidate in a Sada or Panchamasali dominant area will result in huge electoral backlash.

Similarly, backward castes are also not a uniform entity. Siddaramaiah is a backward caste leader but unlike the 1970s and 80s when one could claim that mantle fairly easily these days all the backward castes have become highly politicized and do no want to be represented by someone from outside.

So, Siddharamaiah found himself challenged frequently by backward caste opponents, especially Nayakas, who are a large backward caste community spread across the state, just like the kuruba community to which Siddaramaiah belongs.

So, dear analyst, please do not speak use caste as an analytical category if you don’t understand the local dynamic. You will only sound like a fool.

***

Fifth, Karnataka saw the emergence of some new political outfits. B. PAC or the Bangalore Political Action Committee represented an alliance of new age entrepreneurs who wanted to influence electoral politics and public policy. This seemed to be inspired by American PACs, which play an enormous role in electoral politics.

Then there was Loksatta, which fielded several naïve, well meaning but political neophytes in urban areas.

All these efforts to build an alternative politics appeared half-assed, pretentious and frankly, quite insulting to the voter. It is not enough to claim that the political class is corrupt and inefficient. It is not enough to claim their own personal cleanliness, educational qualifications or industry experience.

What they lacked is a substantial movement or a public project that they could claim ownership over. Or if any of the candidates had even been a bureaucrat, something that would have brought them in contact with the public, where their conduct would have been monitored by people, such a person would have some claim to seek public trust.

A politician once told me: “What matters is not incorruptibility when you don’t have an opportunity to take a bribe. If you are incorruptible when you actually hold a public office and then work for public good, then you have a claim over public trust.”

The new, middle-class political aspirants seem to miss that simple truth.

***

2013 election coverage

12 ways Karnataka politicians con EC, buy votes

Why Modi will address only one rally in Karnataka

When a wife-beater campaigns for the Congress

Rahul Gandhi fails five tests in Karnataka poll

They cry before the polls, so we can cry after

‘Diminishing returns from aggressive Hindutva’

Why is corruption not an issue in Karnataka?

POLL 2013: Can the Karnataka opinion polls go awry?

POLL 2013: Has A. Ramdas not supplied ‘henda‘?

It’s unofficial: our democracy has a bribe future

Rahul Gandhi fails five tests in Karnataka poll

19 April 2013

Whether it was his power-is-poison speech at the Congress chintan shivir in Jaipur earlier this year, where he was elevated to the post of vice-president, or at the CII meet in New Delhi two weeks ago, where he used the beehive analogy to describe India, Rahul Gandhi has shown a very sophomoric, spreadsheet understanding of realpolitik.

He makes all the right NGO-style noises about cutting out power brokers, of rewarding talent, of creating new leaders, about database management, about empowering the grassroots in ticket distribution, etc. But are they really workable in the Indian context, especially in the Congress context?

The elections to the Karnataka assembly, shortly after his elevation, have provided an opportunity to test how ready his party is, and how insistent he is that his writ runs. In the Hindustan Times, Aurangzeb Naqshbandi shows the yawning gap between precept and practice, between Rahul rhetoric and Congress reality:

1. Rahul theory: “Leaders from other parties parachute in just before the elections and fly away after getting defeated.”

Congress in Karnataka: Party has given tickets to those who came from the Janata Dal (Secular). Shivaraj Tangadgi, who was till recently a minister in the BJP government, has been given the ticket from Kanakagiri reserved constituency.

***

2. Rahul theory: “No person with a criminal background should be given party ticket.”

Congress in Karnataka: Candidates facing criminal cases such as D.K. Shiva Kumar, M. Krishnappa and Satish Jarkiholi have been accommodated.

***

3. Rahul theory: “Party will not not field candidates who have lost two previous elections with a margin of 15,000 votes and above.”

Congress in Karnataka: Basavaraja Rayaraddi, Kumar Bangarappa and Siddu Nyamagouda, whose defeat margin was much higher than 15,000, have been considered.

***

4.Rahul theory: “The kin of of senior leaders should be given the go-by.”

Congress in Karnataka: Former chief minister Dharam Singh’s son Ajay Singh, union minister Mallikarjun M. Kharge’s son Priyank M. Kharge, former minister C.K. Jaffer Sharief’s grandson Abdul Rahman Sharief and son-in-law Syed Yasin, Shamanur Shivashankarappa and his S.S. Mallikarjun, M. Krishnappa and his son Priya Krishna have all been given tickets.

***

5. Rahul theory: “Youth Congress should to get its desired share of candidates.”

Congress in Karnataka: Of the list of 20 names forwarded, only a few have got in. Even state Youth Congress president Rizwan Arshad has been denied a ticket, prompting him to offer his resignation from the post.

Read the full story: Cong flouts Rahul Gandhi‘s guidelines

Also read: What Amethi’s indices tell us about Rahul Gandhi

Jesus, Mozart, Alexander and apna Rahul Gandhi

In one-horse race, Rahul Gandhi is a two trick pony

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Rahul Gandhi blown it?

What Rahul Gandhi can learn from Brad Pitt

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi

They cry before polls, so that we can cry after

19 April 2013

Photo Caption

Former Karnataka chief minister and president of the KJP, B.S. Yediyurappa, wipes his brow during election campaigning at Badami in Bagalkot district on Thursday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also view: The best B.S. Yediyurappa pics on planet earth

‘Diminishing returns from aggressive Hindutva’

17 April 2013

Opinion polls are crawling out of the woodwork in Karnataka. While most previous surveys have predicted a BJP downfall, a new one by the little-known Prabodhan Research Group, published by The Pioneer, Delhi, suggests it is going to be a hung assembly in the State: Congress 95 , BJP 81, JD(S) 27, KJP and independents eight each, BSR-Congress five.

***

 

Narendar Pani of the national institute of advanced studies (NIAS), in Mail Today:

“There are also signs of aggressive Hindutva being a vote loser. Long before the BJP came to power in Karnataka it had a strong cadre-based stronghold in coastal Karnataka.

“When it came to power this area became the laboratory for its strong Hindutva methods. Churches were targeted, young couples of mixed religions were attacked, and moral policing took on a new momentum. But far from attracting fresh support, the BJP appears to have lost ground in this region.

“In the recent elections to urban local bodies in this region the BJP lost several ULBs, including one that it had not lost for 40 years.

“If Narendra Modi were to step in now and deliver Karnataka to the BJP he would be able to present himself to the nation as the political superhero India was waiting for. And within the BJP all challenges to his leadership will fall by the wayside.

“Which makes it all the more interesting that Narendra Modi has not shown any inclination to take over the leadership of the Karnataka battle. He was not among the national leaders who launched the party’s campaign in the state. Is it that the situation of the BJP in Karnataka is too adverse for even the Gujarat strongman?”

***

THE POLLS SO FAR

Suvarna News-Cfore (April): Congress 115-127 out of 224; BJP 50-60; JD(S) 25-35

Headlines Today-C-Voter (March): Congress 114-122, BJP 48-56, JD(S) 32-38, KJP 10-14

Tehelka-C-Voter (January): Congress 133, BJP 63, JD(S) 19, KJP 5

Suvarna News-CFore (December 2012): Congress 113, BJP 58, JD(S) 31, KJP 14

Prabodhan Research Group (April 2013): Congress 95 , BJP 81, JD(S) 27, KJP and independents eight each, BSR-Congress five

Read the full article: Karnataka elections

Also read: Why is corruption not an issue in Karnataka?

POLL 2013: Can the Karnataka opinion polls go awry?

POLL 2013: Has A. Ramdas not supplied ‘henda‘?

It’s unofficial: our democracy has a bribe future

POLL: Is Advani more ‘acceptable’ than Modi?

16 April 2013

In politics, like in cricket, nothing is in the realm of the impossible. And it is not over till the last ball is bowled (and sometimes not even that, if it is a front-foot no-ball). So, what was projected to be a head-to-head faceoff between Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi for the 2014 elections is showing signs of becoming anything but.

In other words, it’s time to dip into the Kuala Lumpur Police Department manual.

On the one hand, the “young yuvaraj” seems to have presumptively developed cold feet about wanting to take over the mantle, as if the people of democratic India were dying to hand it over to him. Result: prime minister Manmohan Singh feels emboldened to answer hypothetical questions on a third term, if Congress wins, if UPA comes to power, if….

But it is what is happening in the other corner that is even more captivating.

After prematurely building himself up as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Modi is coming to terms with reality outside TV studios. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar‘s comment, among others, that “only one who can carry with him all the diverse sections of people can become the leader of the nation” is proving to be the spark.

Suddenly, a bunch of people within the BJP are finding virtue in L.K. Advani.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has realised that he is without doubt “our tallest leader“. Former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh finds him the “seniormost“. And former finance minister Yashwant Sinha says, “if Advani is available to lead the party and the government, that should end all discourse.”

The BJP’s allies too are piping in. Naresh Gujral of the Shiromani Akali Dal says “nobody can have any objection to Advani’s candidature. He is a senior and respected leader.” K.C. Tyagi of the JD(U) says, “We contested under Advani’s leadership in 2009 and will have absolutely no hesitation in doing so again.”

So, could Modi vs Rahul in 2014 become a Manmohan vs Advani battle?

Does Advani have the backing of the RSS or of larger BJP for the top job? Is the “man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred“—the brain behind the bloody rath yatra that led to the demolition of the Babri masjid—really “more secular” than Modi? Or, are his BJP colleagues and NDA allies firing from his shoulders against Modi?

Could Advani, 84, gracefully make way for a younger aspirant, like say Sushma Swaraj (who has the OK of Shiv Sena), or will he throw his hat in the ring? Does he have the carry that Modi enjoys?

Or is the “man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred“—the brain behind the bloody rath yatra that led to the demolition of the Babri masjid—destined to become a two-time “former future prime minister of India“? And is the next general election a semi-final before another election in 2015 or 2016?

Also read: Who could be the NDA’s PM candidate?

‘Media in Karnataka is complicit in moral policing’

9 April 2013

Naveen Soorinje, the Kannada news television reporter who spent four months in jail for capturing on camera the moral policing of a homestay in Mangalore by a Hindu fundamentalist group, has given an interview to Geeta Seshu, who hosts the free speech centre at the media blog, The Hoot:

# Media support for the vigilantism was, barring a few exceptions, absolute. The media played a major role in the growth of communal elements in coastal Karnataka. Very clearly, it took the side of the perpetuators and gave all acts of the vigilante groups a religious colour.

“The moral high ground sought to be occupied and evangelistic notions of saviours of virtue and tradition of these vigilante groups was mirrored by media reports of their attacks.

# Headlines in newspapers routinely referred to ‘dharmadetu’ and said those attacked should be happy they were getting ‘free’ education into religious principles and values!

In another instance, when a raid by the local wings of the Durga Vahini and Bajrang Dal (Hindu fundamentalist organisations for women and men respectively) took place in a pub where some girls were found smoking, the headline and copy stressed that the smokers were ‘rescued’.

# The media’s role is deeply disturbing and attempts to discuss biased media coverage with colleagues have been completely futile, with sharp divides between journalists who aligned with one religious group or the other. Moreover, with the spread of the Hindutva agenda into villages and rural areas, it became even more difficult.

Muslim or Christian groups did try to counter the rise of Hindu fundamentalism and there were some attempts to bring in their own brand of fundamentalism, but these efforts were negligible and largely ineffectual.

# I wouldn’t go so far as to say the media was using communalism to sell. The media support for communal elements was not linked to TRPs or the selling of dramatic attacks of one community over the other. The media’s ideological support for the perpetuators of such attacks was very strong and most disturbing.

During the Church attacks of 2008, a photographer of a leading newspaper, actually snatched a lathi from a policeman present and began beating up the nuns present…

Arrested in November 2012, Soorinje was charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including “rioting with deadly weapons”, “unlawful assembly”, “criminal conspiracy”, “using criminal force on a woman with the intention of outraging her modesty”, “dacoity” and Section 2 (a) of the Karnataka Prevention of Destruction and Loss of Property Act 1981, and Sections 3 and 4 of The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986.

Read the full article: Media complicit in moral policing

Also read: Look, who’s shaming moral police in State

A fitness regime for moral police by remote

Desh ki police kaise ho? Moral police jaise ho!

How girls pissing in their pants protects Hinduism

POLL 2013: Can the Karnataka polls go wrong?

6 April 2013

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PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore:  The pre-monsoon showers are bringing relief from the summer heat but the escalating political heat is showing no signs of abating in Karnataka.

A month is left in the poll calendar for the completion of voting. It was only yesterday that the major parties, Congress, BJP and JD (S) released their first list of candidates. But that hasn’t stopped the media from already getting into the prediction business.

Consider this. While we know that BJP’s path to reelection is filled with obstacles and the election fundamentals appear to favour the Congress at the moment, we do not know much about the micro factors and other such variables, which determine election results.

# We do not know the full slate of candidates in each constituency.

# We do not know the caste calculations particularly how a specific candidate might take away votes from others.

# We do not know the expenditure threshold (the upper limit of money to be spent) of a given candidate.

# We do not know about variables such as migrant workers who are away in cities seeking work because of drought.

So, what determines the elections then is who has a better ground game, as the American psephologists say.

For example, consider the case of migrant workers who have gone to Bangalore, Mysore, Poona or any one of the cities seeking employment.

We are already hearing reports of agents who will verify the voters list, compile the names and mobile numbers of those who are away for employment, contact them, provide them with the right incentives and bring them back to their native place the before the elections and get them to vote.

All this for a fee. This is an election management issue and the ones who have actually booked the most efficient agents will have an edge in a massively competitive election.

Still the Suvarna News– CFore survey and the Headlines Today-C-Voter survey predict a substantial victory for Congress.

To be sure, if you ask any competent follower of Karnataka politics, he will quite possibly reach the same conclusions as both these polls. Thus Congress will probably secure 100-125 seats, whereas BJP might win in 55-70 constituencies, with JD (S) coming third, winning 30-45 seats. Others might get 20-30 seats.

So what’s the value of these polls? You tell us.

If you want to get fairly reliable election prediction, ask the bookies who run betting syndicates. But as the early reports indicate even there betting seems to be focusing more on who actually might get tickets and so on.

That should tell us elections are far off. And the factors that determine the elections aren’t set yet.

The summer is about to get hotter despite the occasional showers.

***

THE POLLS SO FAR

Suvarna News-Cfore (April): Congress 115-127 out of 224; BJP 50-60; JD(S) 25-35

Headlines Today-C-Voter (March): Congress 114-122, BJP 48-56, JD(S) 32-38, KJP 10-14

Tehelka-C-Voter (January): Congress 133, BJP 63, JD(S) 19, KJP 5

Suvarna News-CFore (Decamber 2012): Congress 113, BJP 58, JD(S) 31, KJP 14

Also read: POLL 2013: Has A. Ramdas not supplied ‘henda‘? 

Will Narendra Modi lead the BJP campaign in Karnataka?

POLL 2013: Has A. Ramdas not supplied ‘henda’?

4 April 2013

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: IPL is here but the most competitive activity in Karnataka is getting a ticket. Not a railway ticket, as the summer travel season approaches, but a party ticket to contest in the Assembly or a B Form as it is technically referred to.

Democracy has deepened, as E. Raghavan and James Manor point out in their book, Broadening and Deepening Democracy: Political Innovation in Karnataka. And indeed, electoral politics is extremely competitive.

To make a mark, the least one could do is to get a B form from some party. Any party. The aspiring politician has arrived if he or she can get a ticket and fight the honorable fight. Because that ensures relevance and longevity in public life. Not to speak of the ability to get things done in government offices.

So we read stories on aspiring candidates and supporters threatening to commit suicide unless their wishes are met. Or protesting in front of party offices. Women politicians of Congress have asked to consider their application for tickets as their resignation letters if the party isn’t issuing them the B forms.

Then there is private lobbying, from which even sitting central ministers, who are seeking tickets for their kids, aren’t immune. Private or public, the lobbying for tickets has no logic other than the self-aggrandizement of the ticket-seeker. In Mandya for instance, an unknown demands that he be given ticket over a stalwart like Ambarish.

***

SINGAPORE GOVINDUVijaya Karnataka reported on an unusual ticket seeker earlier this week.

In his most recent Delhi Diary column, D. Umapathy writes on the quixotic quest by Pamula Govindu alias Singapore Govindu, who belongs to the Hakkipikka or Kurrumama caste, a wandering (alemari) caste of fortune-tellers.

Govindu himself is an accomplished fortune-teller in many languages, including English; in his youth, a woman from Singapore was attracted by his fortune telling skills and took him with her. He has traveled extensively, has bought land and isn’t the destitute that many in his community still continue to be. He has been a member of the KPCC (Karnataka Province Congress Committee) and this election cycle is the seventh time he has applied for a Congress ticket.

No political party has given its ticket to someone from the Hakkipikka community thus far. Not only does Govindu wants to change that by seeking a ticket from the Mulabagilu constituency in Kolar, note that he is up against the daughter of Union Minister K.H. Muniyappa’s daughter, Roopakala.

Not flustered by this, Govindu wants to show to his people what it means to be an MLA.

There have been others from a humble origin (including from politically suppressed backward castes) who have had meteoric rises in the past decade but their success has been facilitated largely by either real estate or mining.

Reading about Govindu, my thoughts turned to Devaraj Urs, the former Chief Minister and the architect of backward caste politics in Karnataka. There is significant anecdotal evidence to show how Urs would often pick someone like Govindu and promote him politically.

For Urs, the fact that Govindu comes from a caste which has never had any political representation despite being a significant numerically would have been an important factor. Despite his numerous political compromises, such political sensitivity made Urs perhaps the most significant politician in post-independence Karnataka.

Urs thrived in an era when electoral politics was less intense and less competitive; when political consciousness of other backward castes was rather dormant. Moreover, he himself was a charismatic mass leader and possessed the political backing of an unparalleled vote-gatherer in Indira Gandhi.

In today’s political environment, perhaps even he would have struggled.

Case in point. Consider the allegations made yesterday against Siddaramaiah, who is quite progressive and perhaps the tallest backward caste leader in Karnataka today. His opponent in Varuna constituency and JD (S) candidate, Cheluvaraj accused Siddharamaiah of being opposed to Nayakas, a sentiment reiterated by his supporters.

If Siddaramaiah can be turned into the leader of a caste (a Kuruba leader in other words), then his commitment towards and appeal to other castes can be minimized.

Don’t see this simply as a political strategy. Rather this is also a product of the deepening of democracy, as part of which each caste seeks representation in its own name. More on this new caste and politics dynamic some other time.

***

VOTER ALERT:  Until the elections, we will ask churumuri readers to share their knowledge when we come across incredulous claims made by politicians. Here is the first installment.

A. Ramdas, the medical education minister, who represents the Krishnaraja constituency, claimed yesterday that he has never distributed a bottle of liquor (henda is the term he used) to sway voters in his constituency. Appealing to the youth of his constituency to not consider money or caste and religion as considerations while voting, he said: “If I give a bottle of alcohol during the elections, then I turn a voter into an alcoholic for five years”

So, churumuri readers especially from the Krishnaraja constituency: Is this true? Will you share what you know in the comments section?

Also read: KARNATAKA ELECTION 2013: Poll Diary

Modi, BJP and a Telugu bidda called Somalingam

2 April 2013

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Even as BJP fans and fanboys go ecstatic at the re-entry of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi into the party’s parliamentary board, CPI(M) leader and member of Parliament, Sitaram Yechury, strikes a note of caution in the Hindustan Times:

“It is fairly certain that any government that will emerge following the 2014 general elections cannot be anything except a coalition. The question, however, remains over its composition and leadership.

“This context throws up the irresoluble contradiction that will plague any coalition led by the BJP.

“If the coalition has to be strong enough to command the numbers of a majority, then the BJP would have to put its core communal agenda on the backburner.

“On the other hand, unless the communal agenda is aggressively pursued as directed by the RSS, the BJP would not be able to either consolidate or expand its own political base.

“This contradiction is already reflecting itself in the choices being considered by the BJP for its prime ministerial candidate based on its illusory hopes of winning the forthcoming election.

“The BJP’s illusions remind me of a Telugu saying which loses its punch when translated but means: ‘Neither do I have a house nor a wife but my son’s name is Somalingam‘.”

***

On rediff.com, Vicky Nanjappa speaks to the psephologist Sandeep Shastri and asks him about the impact of Modi in the Karnataka assembly elections:

There is a lot of dependency on Narendra Modi. Will he be able to change the prospects of the BJP this time?

I have my doubts if Modi will actively take part in the Karnataka assembly election campaign. Modi is well aware that this is a losing campaign. He did not take part in the Uttar Pradesh campaign for the very same reason.

But you will see a lot of Modi during the elections in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, as the BJP will surely emerge victorious there. You will also see a lot of Modi in Karnataka during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Cartoon: courtesy Surendra/ The Hindu

Read the full column: More than just a front

Rahul vs Modi in 2014? Not really. Not if you…

13 March 2013

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The Indian Express, Delhi, uses the verdict of the urban local body elections in Karnataka, to make a larger point on the coming general elections:

“With a year to go, the general election is being painted and promoted as a Rahul-versus-Modi contest. It’s a tidy, appealing binary, given that Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi appear to have profoundly different political instincts and personality types.

“But while it may be tempting to think of Election 2014 as a two-horse race, the political field may be less settled or predictable in reality. In all probability, the real deciders will be regional forces whose support to one or the other pole, Congress or BJP, cannot be taken for granted….

“The 2014 election looks unlikely, therefore, to bring the satisfying resolution of the Modi-Gandhi choice. It will be an aggregate of what happens in Andhra Pradesh, in Karnataka, Bihar and other state arenas. Politics in India, in all its complexity and flux, cannot be reduced to the arm-wrestling of two individuals.”

Read the full editorial: Not Modi, not Gandhi

Cartoons: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu, E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

POLL: Beginning of the end of BJP in Karnataka?

11 March 2013

Every survey supposedly done by pollsters in Karnataka has shown that the BJP has slammed the doors of the “gateway to the south” on its face. From a low of 113 in a house of 224, pollsters are predicting as high a tally as 133 for the Congress. And almost every poll has shown that the BJP could end up between 30 and 40 seats shy of the Congress in the legislative assembly, which means there is no room for “Operation Kamala-II”, the disgusting subversion of democracy that the legal lights of the BJP hailed.

If there was room for doubt if not suspicion about the motives and motivations of these polls, the results of the March 7 elections to the urban local bodies dispel them somewhat. The Congress has won three of the seven city corporations, so far. The BJP has been routed in Bellary, the epitome of all that has been wrong with Karnataka politics in recent years. And the BJP is staring at the prospect of ending up not even second but third in the tally of the wards under its belt.

Questions: Is it all over the BJP in Karnataka or could the assembly elections spring a surprise? Can the heady cocktail of casteism, communalism and corruption that was the hallmark of BJP rule in Karnataka blunt the hype surrounding its government in Gujarat?

Is a resounding victory the end of Congress’s troubles or the beginning of the tussle for leadership? And even if it comes up trumps in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, will the Congress ever make up in Karnataka, what it is most likely to lose in Andhra Pradesh?


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