Posts Tagged ‘B.S. Yediyurappa’

Who does the chief minister owe allegiance to?

23 November 2009

Depending on who you would like to believe, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is either a noble, benign, cultural organisation of volunteers, straining every sinew to strengthen the moral and spiritual fibre of the country; doing backbreaking relief and rehabilitation work whilst providing health and education to the needy.

Or…

Or, it is a sinister, fanatical, militant, communal, Hindu nationalist organisation inciting hate and spewing venom at the minorities, while seeking to dictate and direct the political, economic, and cultural discourse through its various subsidiaries, in ways and means better unseen than seen.

The word “fascist” is loosely and routinely, but not unjustly, used to describe its activities.

Using wikipedia, both sides will helpfully produce certificates to bolster their claims. Nevertheless, neither side can deny that this “cultural organisation” has been banned not once, not twice but thrice for slightly uncultural activities in India’s 62 years of independence—and may well on the way to a fourth.

Although the RSS likes to think it is not a political organisation and is not interested in politics—its founder M.S. Golwalkar had a professed hatred for politics, and likened it to a “woman of the multitude” i.e. prostitute—recent events including the RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat‘s farcical attempts to decide the BJP’s future course, show that the RSS is anything but political.

Even so, does it behove of a democratically elected chief minister of a State who has taken oath under the Cosntitution of India, as the very seriously beleaguered B.S. Yediyurappa happens to be, does it behove of a demcoratically elected chief minister of a State to take the salute of an organisation which does not believe in the Constitution of India?

Or to be visibly falling at the feet of extra-constitutional authorities at the helm of the RSS who do not?

Obviously, Yediyurappa, like so many of his cabinet colleagues, is an RSS member and there may be nothing wrong in being respectful to your parent organsiation. Still, in the many testy matters involving the RSS and the BJP-ruled State, do pictures like these really give you the impression that the “State” would get precedence over the RSS in his (or his colleagues’) books?

Photographs: Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa strikes the RSS salute at a public meeting of sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat at the palace grounds in Bangalore on Sunday (top); below, the belaguered CM reaches for the toes of a sangh leader (Karnataka Photo News).

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

Let there be no doubt, tail doesn’t wag the dog

A picture for the personal albums of the sangh

Of course, one of them was crying on TV recently

18 November 2009

Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa, and his cabinet colleagues (from left) Suresh Kumar, Vishveshwar Hegde Kageri and K.S. Eshwarappa are all smiles for the cameras at the BJP’s state core committee meeting in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

The unfolding tragicomedy of Yedi & the Reddys

18 November 2009

Ajay Sukumaran in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The man who performed the Herculean feat of getting the BJP to power in the south is now carrying out, like the Greek hero, the tasks ordered to keep his government intact…. But unlike Hercules, whose labours such as slaying the nine-headed Hydra, were a test of his strength, Yeddyurappa’s tasks are seen as giving the rebels more muscle.”

Read the full report: The five labours of a BJP Hercules

Also read: How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

It’s true, political analysis = fortune telling

17 November 2009

Astrologer Veenu Sandal on what the stars foretell for Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa in M.J. Akbar‘s fortnightly magazine, Covert:

“His stars indicate that his long experience of more than 20 years in public life will continue to be challenged strongly by dissidents who started their political careers much later but are far more powerful. As now, so it will be upto mid-2010—Yediyurappa will have his back to the wall, with factionalism, opposition and a signficant degree of deceit continuing to be a bane. He will be locked in bitter feuds, pulled between the necessity of devoting time and attention to development work and keeping his detractors at bay. In fact, despite the support extended to him by key people it will be only after September 2010 that he will be able to recover lost ground in real terms.”

Also read: Say hello to all our world-famous VIP astrologers

What the stars foretell for our avivekanandas

What the stars foretell for you—yes, you—this week

Why Jagadish Shettar’s film could be ‘Oye Lucky’

17 November 2009

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Luck, more than anything, has played a major role in the ascendancy of Jagadish Shettar, who has resigned from the post of speaker of the Karnataka legislative assembly to impose himself on an unwilling Yediyurappa as a member of his cabinet.

In a span of just 15 years, Shettar, an innocuous low-level party functionary, has transformed himself into a contender for the top post of the chief minister, challenging his one time mentor-cum-benefactor

Shettar cut his political teeth in 1994, when he won a surprising victory from Hubli rural, a constituency which had been out of bounds for the BJP/ BJS. The constituency, which had been pocketborough of the Congress since the beginning, leaned towards the Janata Dal for three consecutive terms from 1978, returning the late S.R. Bommai, who rose to become CM succeeding the late Ramakrishna Hegde in 1988.

But with the shock defeat of Bommai in 1989, the Congress regained the seat in 1989 and the 1994 election was poised to be a tussle between the two traditional rivals. But the Idgah Maidan controversy brought about a change in the political preferences of the constituency, thrusting Jagadish Shettar into the limelight.

The Idgah maidan was a piece of land located in the heart of Hubli where Muslims offered prayers twice a year. A legal dispute over the ownership of the land resulted in the Anjuman Islam losing the case, with the court rejecting its claim that it had a lease.

The court ruled that what Anjuman had a license and not a lease.

The BJP spearheaded an agitation for hoisting the national flag on national festivals in the Idgah maidan. This sparked off communal tension. The actions of the Congress government in Karnataka was also a contributory factor for the escalation of  tension. which  resulted in the police opening fire in which seven persons were killed, months prior to the election.

So, with the Idgah row hanging in the air, the BJP went on to capture Hubli. The Janata Dal candidate, Basavaraj Bommai, the son for the former chief minister, failed to avenge the defeat of his father in the previous election.

Jagadish Shettar, who was picked by the BJP as its candidate, was a political non-entity, being merely the head of the Hubli rural taluk unit of the party.

He got lucky.

Since then Shettar has not looked back.

If Idgah did the trick in 1994, it was the shock defeat of Yediyurappa in his home-constituency Shikaripur in 1999 which proved lucky for Shettar to move up the political ladder.

Yediyurappa had a pathological aversion for the party’s senior most legislator B.B. Shivappa from Hassan in succeeding him as the leader of the opposition in the assembly. The mantle as a consequence fell on the shoulders of one of the junior most legislators of the party, Shettar, who was on to his second stint as MLA.

The reason proffered then was that as a junior he would be more amenable to Yediyurappa than anybody else. Yediyurappa was proved right.

In the 2004 election, Shettar performed a hat trick of retaining the seat.  With the return  of Yediyurappa to the assembly, it was no longer possible for him to continue in the post. But in another quirk of political he found himself landing up as the new party president, in place of Basavaraj Patil Sedam, who was caught in the vortex of the struggle between Yediyurappa and Ananth Kumar.

Shettar’s name again came in handy.

The Yediyurappa group outsmarted others in wangling the post for Shettar. Result: Shettar, who had hardly any organisational experience,  found himself as the party president of the Karnataka unit of the BJP.

The win in 2008 election was a cakewalk victory for Shettar, with the Congress and JDS fielding weak candidates against him.  And the internal fight within the Congress also contributed to his fourth success. His place in the cabinet was assured by his position and seniority in the  JDS-BJP coalition, which fell apart after 20 months in office.

He was also a member of the short-lived BJP government, before President’s rule was imposed paving for election in 2008.

In all the posts he has held since his first election—as leader of the opposition in the second term, as party president in the third and as minister in the fourth term—the performanance of Shettar was not brilliant but ordinary, run of the mill variety. He hardly ever managed to emerge out of the shadow of his senior and the mentor Yediyurappa.

Though he had registered his fourth win from Hubli, Shettar was shocked to find that Yediyurappa had not preferred him to be a member of the BJP government formed for the first time. For the first time, the message went out loud and clear that the relations between the mentor and protégé had become strained and Yediyurappa felt that the latter was growing beyond his shoes and deserved to be cut to his size.

What however hurt Shettar was not his exclusion but the subtle attempts made by Yediyurappa to promote a junior Lingayat legislator and new entrant to the party like Basavaraj Bommai, whom Shettar had defeated in 1994.

Bommai who was in JDU and  represented the local authorities constituency in the legislative council joined the BJP and  successfully contested the assembly election  from Shiggaon. The only small mercy  shown by Yediyurappa was that Bommai was not made as the minister in charge of Dharwad district.

Miffed, Shettar stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony as a mark of protest. Thanks to the intervention of the party high command, he scaled one more notch of this political career to become the Speaker of the assembly. For a while he was reluctant to accept the speaker’s post. He demurred only when the High Command made it clear that it was a “take it or leave it” situation.

Though he occupied a post, which was equal in  stature if not more than that of the chief minister, Shettar made it clear that he was not interested in continuing in the office and that his heart was set on being a minister.

Despite his differences with the CM, speaker Shettar proved to be a convenient tool in the “Operation Kamala” mounted by the BJP in cahoots with the Reddy Brothers to muster a majority. Opposition legislators were enticed by the brothers to resign their seats, and submit their letters to Shettar.

But the banner of revolt raised by the Reddy group against Yediyurappa, pitchforked Shettar into prominence.  Shettar was a mere camouflage  to cover their real designs of occupying the gaddi one day or the other. But it could not stake its claim right away, since it was not only politically inopportune.

Even if the Reddys had succeeded in dislodging Yediyurappa and put Shettar in his place, the latter would have been  nothing but a puppet manipulated by the wily Reddys, since Shettar neither has the support nor the clout to withstand the pressure of the Reddy group.

When a strong personality like Yediyurappa could be brought down, where  do the lesser mortals stand against the manipulations and machinations of the Reddys?

So, dame luck  has once again dealt a card favourable to Shettar, projecting him as the chief minister in waiting, notwithstanding the fact that whether he has or does not have the capacity, grit and gumption to handle the onerous responsibility in a trying time like this.

It is another matter, whether Shettar  should have involved himself actively in politicking, when the office of speaker held by him demanded that he remained apolitical. But Shettar today stands only one step away from the coveted post of the chief minister.

Will the streak of luck run further to make him realise his dream  of occupying the gaddi of the chief minister remains to be seen.

Photograph: Jagadish Shettar, who joined the state cabinet, takes the blessings of his parents, Shivappa Shettar and Basavannemma, during the swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan in Bangalore on Tuesday. (Karnataka Photo News)

How BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

12 November 2009

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The manner in which the BJP high command moved to sort out the three-week-long political imbroglio within the ruling party in Karnataka, has exposed the chinks in the armoury of the BJP, both at the national and state levels.

***

1. The delay in decision-making: The situation in Karnataka did not brook any delay, politically and administratively, for the paralysis in the working of the government as a result of the crisis, had brought to a virtual halt the task of the rehabilitation of the people devastated by the floods in northern Karnataka, the political turf of the party.

Every day’s delay in resolving the crisis stood the risk of denting the battered political image of the BJP government some more.

Unmindful of this, the BJP leadership took its own sweet time in solving the crisis. It indulged in the luxury of procrastination, held endless meetings, which proved futile, and issued diktats, which were mocked at.

Moreover, for a party which prides itself on how it deals with issues differently from the Congress, the very fact that the State issue had to be sorted out at the level of the “high command”, a Congress term the BJP scorns, underlined the difference between precept and practice in realpolitik.

2. The lack of effective leadership: Led by the so-called Iron Man and the “former future Prime Minister of India” (to use churumuri‘s formulation), L.K. Advani, the BJP leadership dithered and appeared confused while dealing with the Reddys, who had raised the demand for a change of leadership.

This approach was in sharp contrast with the firm and quiet manner in which Sonia Gandhi chose to put Jagan Mohan Reddy (the ambitious son of the late Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy) who was aspiring to step into the shoes of his father, in his place.

Moreover, the writ of the BJP bigwigs like Advani, president Rajnath Singh, and Karnataka in-charge Arun Jaitely hardly ran. After  several rounds of confabulations, the trio was absolutely clueless as to how to resolve the crisis as the Reddys proved to be intractable .

Eventually, it was left to Sushma Swaraj to apply the healing touch.

The Reddy group merrily defied the leadership, rejected the formula proffered and ignored the warning of possible disciplinary action. Barring the fact that their stand against changing the leadership in Karnataka ultimately prevailed, the BJP leadership could not prevent Yediyurappa from swallowing the humiliation heaped on him.

Yediyurappa was ultimately made to yield to the pressure by the dissident group on various issues. As for the Reddy gang, they went scotfree with their act of rebellion, after having indulged in an embarrassing game of carting away the supporters to luxurious resorts far away from Bangalore.

3. A Godmother, dummy, not a Godfather: Ever since the Reddys started flexing their political muscle in Karnataka, the identity of their Godfather in the party hierarchy had been a matter of speculation.

It is now clear that the Reddys had not a Godfather, but a Godmother, in Sushma Swaraj.

And the Reddys have no qualms in publicly acknowledging her as much.

Theirs is a decade-old association. It started in 1999 when Sushma contested against Sonia Gandhi in the Lok Sabha election from Bellary. Thanks to the backing of the Reddys, she was able to make the Congress fight for very vote.

Result: in a constituency which used to routinely return Congress candidates, Sonia Gandhi and the Congress had to huff and puff to the victory post.

Though she lost the poll, Sushma Swaraj maintained regular touch with Bellary and made her annual visits during Varamahalakshmi pooja to bless the Reddys. Over the years she has turned out to be their mentor. The recent BJP crisis was payback time for her, in a manner of speaking.

4. Was the solution deliberately delayed?: Why did Sushma Swaraj hold back from lending a hand to solve the crisis and why did she move in only when others including Advani failed to make headway? Did she wait till the pitch was sufficiently queered before stepping in to strike a deal which was totally favourable to her protégés?

Was she trying to teach a lesson to Yediyurappa who had ignored her?

Or did Sushma Swaraj use this opportunity to demonstrate her clout and political prowess at a time when the BJP is scouting for new faces, as a replacement Rajnath Singh which is imminent?

5. In the end, an unworkable formula: The peace formula worked out is farcical to say the least. The formula of retaining  Yediyurappa as CM and allowing the Reddys to stay in the cabinet, reminds one of the popular Kannada proverb “Neither the serpent should die nor should the stick be broken”.

By the nature of their personalities, this is an unworkable formula.

Yediyurappa is more a solo than a team player, while the Reddy brothers are openly aggressive politically and do not countenance anybody trying to boss over them. Therefore the day is not far off when fireworks might surface again between the camps, since the party is now clearly divided between the pro-Yeddyurappa and pro-Reddy camps already.

The BJP’s national leadership has taken a strange decision of constituting a coordination committee to oversee the working of the government in Karnataka.

What is normally done in coalition government is sought to be undertaken even under a single party government. Perhaps this is a tacit admission of the fact that factionalism in BJP in Karnataka has come to stay.

But the most pernicious aspect of the solution is the manner in which the leadership has capitulated to the Reddys, their dubious reputation of flaunting money power for political aggrandisement, their alleged involvement in the illegal mining activities, and their overbearing attitude that they are a cut above the law.

By winking at the continued indiscretions of the Reddys and prevailing upon Chief Minister to yield to them, the national leadership appears to have given a virtual carte blanche to the group to run Karnataka in whatever manner they like and choose.

The BJP’s sphinx-like silence on the MLAs  indulging in politicking at the meanest level and enjoying the comforts of luxurious resorts, while those who had elected them reeled under the misery brought about by flood, appears to be totally callous for  a national party which wants to prove that it is qualitatively different from others.

If the national leadership of the BJP had chosen to sacrifice the normal democratic norms at the altar of political opportunism, Yediyurappa has sacrificed his self-respect to keep his chair intact.

He has not only bent backwards to accommodate the demands of the Reddy group which he had earlier rejected, but has also accepted conditions, which no other self-respecting CM would have agreed to.

This is only the beginning of the era of embarrassment for Yediyurappa.

He has already obliged the Reddys by acceding to their demand for dropping his two trusted aides, the minister Shobha Karandlaje, his secretary, bureaucrat and senior IAS official V P Baligar. Five others ministers are expected to follow suit shortly, who would be replaced by an equal number of pro-Reddy legislators.

The proposed coordination panel would further erode the authority and discretionary powers enjoyed by the Chief Minister.

The CM has already had the mortification of reinstating the pro-Reddy officers, whom he had earlier transferred on charges of non-performanance. It includes the deputy commissioners of the districts of Bellary and Gadag, and the superintendent of police in Bellary, the home district of the Reddys.

Yediyurappa today stands totally devalued, and is shattered, too, judging from the manner in which he has been ruminating his plight and shedding tears in public.

Everybody knows that his authority to govern has suffered serious erosion because of the dissident activities. It is now common knowledge that the Reddys hold all the aces.

It is not that a seasoned politician like Yediyurappa is unaware of the predicament in which he has landed. But what keeps him going is his singleminded determination to be in power.

The addiction to power, is not however a trait, which is unfamiliar to him.

It was noticed in 1999, when he was shocked by his defeat in the assembly election. As was his wont, he vowed that he would enter the legislature only through a direct election.

Before the people could digest the implication of his statement, Yediyurappa had chosen the path of indirect election to enter the legislative council in a bid to be active in politics and legislature.

Deja vu.

REVEALED: The Yeddy-Reddy secret formula*

11 November 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The political imbroglio involving Yeddy (single) and Reddy (triple), which looked like a mathematical indeterminate just a few days ago, has been solved.

After all.

This is  not because the central leadership of the BJP exercised their power and stood up tall to quell the rebellion, not because the chief minister stooped lower and lower to accommodate the major wishes of the Miner Bothers, but because of the acceptance of all the necessary and sufficient conditions imposed by them.

We know only a few of the conditions which were discussed in the open—like Shobha Karandlaje and V.P. Baligar—but the full text of the N & S conditions were found in a chit near the resort in Hyderabad.

A BJP observer hovering near the airport area found the all-revealing chit, the size of a gutka paper, which gave the  pointwise items agreed upon between the chief minister (also referred to as Kamsa) and Janardhana Reddy (alias Krishna).

The Brothers feel the conditions will usher in Rama Rajya again and the ‘new golden’ period will be better than the one during Krishna Devaraya.

The conditions as mentioned in the soiled chit now agreed, approved and soon–to–be-promulgated are as under:

1. Bellary will be the new IT (Information Technology) capital of Karnataka. All the major IT offices will immediately move their offices to Bellary. The entire cost of new offices, shifting etc will be met by the triumvirate.

2. Consequently, the existing IT (income tax) department will be shifted out of Bellary preferably out of Karnataka.

3. US President Barack Obama should be instructed to use phrase such as ‘Bellaried’ rather than ‘Bangalored’.

4. Vidhana Soudha will be shifted to Bellary stone-by-stone. The entire cost will be borne by the trio.

5. Dasara will be shifted to Bellary from Mysore. The elephants will be airlifted from Nagarahole direct to the site. Jamboosavari and torchlight parade will be celebrated in a new stadium with a capacity of 1,00,000, construction of which will start next week.

6. Each MLA in Karnataka should have his/ her own helicopter given the pathetic state of roads that the legislators have lorded over in the last 60 years, to speedily attend to flood/ drought relief work.

7. The MLAs need not depend on the State exchequer for their salary or local area development funds. They can keep the same as pocket money. Arrangements have already been made to have their new salary, of undisclosed amount, to them in person.

8. The metro work underway in Bangalore should be suspended and shifted to Bangalore piece by piece.

9. Bellary is to will have an international Reddy Airport like Kennedy Airport. It will be funded privately.

The Bellary Brothers also had a few conditions for the central leadership.

1.  Sushma Swaraj, whom they hold in high esteem like their mother, should immediately take over as BJP President. She will be referred to as ‘Ma Sush Swaraj’ by one and all.

2.  Advaniji, who is like Bhishma Pitamaha, will advise Ma Sush Swaraj about affairs of State, if and when asked.

3.  Advaniji will be provided with a Hummer, converted into a chariot, so that he can often go on his Bharath Rath Yatra.  Rajnath Singhji, the new Vidura, will stay put in Delhi.

4.  Arun Jaitley, the new Dronacharya, will be made the new BCCI and IPL Chief so that he doesn’t have to bother about Karnataka any more.

*Tongue in cheek, conditions apply

The clock’s ticking again on a clumsy compromise

10 November 2009

Editorial in The Indian Express on the BJP crisis in Karnataka:

“The compromise formula — a minister exiting, officials replaced — may have bought the Karnataka wing of the BJP time. But the clock is ticking, and another round of bickering cannot be said to be averted.

“The sordid drama was regrettable on many counts. For one, it exposed the unsavoury interface between business and politics. Then there are too many questions left hanging. Can partisan interests hold a government hostage? Can bureaucrats and district officials become pawns in chess games that their political masters play?

“For the steel frame to be so blatantly twisted speaks of its complete subordination to the political process. But the most disquieting aspect of the drama was its pettiness…. The clumsy compromise, that too played out in public, has highlighted the absence of a strong central leadership that can exert its will.”

Read the full editorial: Present tense

More proof that politics has just gone to the dogs

9 November 2009

KPN photo

On a day when Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa made a triumphant return to Bangalore, after feeding the Reddy brothers sweets in the august presence of the “former future prime minister of India”, Kannada chaluvaligar Vatal Nagaraj and his snarling canine supporters stage a protest near the Vidhana Soudha on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

You reap what you sow on the low moral ground

9 November 2009

Editorial in The Hindu on the crisis in the BJP in Karnataka:

“An inglorious capitulation by the central leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party to political blackmail by a mining lobby spearheaded by the Reddy brothers has paved the way for a resolution of the Karnataka crisis – for now…

“Having used the financial muscle of the brothers to win over independents and engineer defections from other parties last year, and to fight the Lok Sabha election this year, the BJP was in no position to take the moral high ground…

“But given a compromised central leadership, there was no question of the ‘party with a difference’ taking anything but the moral low ground.”

Read the full editorial: Dishonourable to the core

When politics is The Last Resort of the bankrupt

7 November 2009

KPN photo

Workers of H.D. Deve Gowda‘s Janata Dal (Secular), a party which like the Congress has taken grassroots politics to five-star spas, perform a mock funeral of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Belgaum on Saturday, in protest against the BJP’s “resort politics”.

Dozens of god-fearing legislators of God’s Own Party are shamlessly luxuriating in hotels, bars and resorts in various locations, counting their chickens before they are biriyani-ed, while the honourable chief minister, wedded to “development” and “governance” sheds tears for the TV cameras.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Two unanswered questions in l’affaire Karnataka

6 November 2009

KPN photo

All that needs to be said about the ongoing political tamasha in Karnataka has been said.

That B.S. Yediyurappa had it coming. That the Reddy Brothers weren’t helping him all this while for fresh air and hope. That behind every successful politician, there is a woman (and she needn’t be his wife). That the BJP is only reaping what it sowed.

Etcetera.

But few are asking the two key questions.

# One, can a set of miners, howsoever powerful and howsoever monied, appropriate to themselves the responsibilities of the State (like rebuilding the lives and houses of the flood-affected). And when they are not allowed to do so, can they just start bawling like spoilt brats and hold the verdict of the people at gunpoint in various resorts and hotels?

# And two, can the principal secretary of a State, an IAS officer with a demonstrated record of integrity, V.P. Baligar, be transferred just because one of the sides involved in the internecine battle in the ruling party doesn’t like him or finds him an irritant in its path and designs?

Photograph: The Vidhana Soudha artist, Thomas, paints the nameplate of the new principal secretary to the chief minister, I.S.N. Prasad, who replaces V.P. Baligar in Bangalore on Friday. (Karnataka Photo News)

As Akbar asked, ‘Karnatak ka takht chahiye ya…?’

6 November 2009

In The Telegraph, Calcutta, Radhika Ramaseshan invokes a line from Mughal-e-Azam to explain the Karnataka conundrum:

Anarkali” is ready to leave but the dissidents are still asking for “Salim’s” head.

“Karnataka minister Shobha Karandlaje’s exit seems almost certain but BJP leaders were not yet sure whether the resignation of chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s confidante would buy peace with the recalcitrant Reddy brothers of Bellary….

“Earlier this week, a source had hinted at a solution to the standoff over flood relief efforts by quoting a line from the film Mughal-e-Azam — “Hindustan ka takht chahiye ya Anarkali (Do you want to rule Hindustan or covet Anarkali?)?”

“It was the choice Akbar had ordered Salim (later Jehangir) to make when he found out that his son was besotted with the courtesan.”

Read the full story: Salim to dump Anarkali, but rivals bay for blood

Actually, the subtext isn’t as silly as it may seem

6 November 2009

Vidhana_Soudha__for_sale__copy

M.K. VIDYARANYA writes from Bangalore: Is the Congress begining to fish in the troubled waters of the BJP, and is the Grand Old Party inclined to share power with the Reddy brothers in Karnataka if the BJP is unable to thrash out a compromise in its “Gateway to the South” by this evening?

Sources in New Delhi say that the Congress, through Union law minister and former Karnataka chief minister Veerappa Moily, has conveyed it to the mining lords that if they were able to muster the strength of 79 legislators, the Congress would consider supporting them in case B.S. Yediyurappa is asked by the Governor H.R. Bharadwaj, to prove his  majority on the floor of the house.

(Moily is the Congress functionary in charge of Andhra Pradesh and therefore close YSR‘s son Jagan Mohan Reddy, a business partner of the Reddys. Moily, who now writes long books on the epics and headed the administrative reforms committee, was also at the centre of the infamous ‘Moily Tapes’ to overthrow Ramakrishna Hegde‘s Janata Party government in the mid-1980s by buying up MLAs.)

Meanwhile, in a significant realignment, a number of BJP legislators who are supporting the Reddy brothers are apparently pressuring the national BJP leaders to choose Gali Janardhana Reddy as the BJP legislature party leader and make him CM, if it did not prefer any other candidate.

This follows the rebuff apparently delivered by the “former future prime minister of India”, L.K. Advani, to the speaker Jagadish Shettar when he was put up before the party high command as a possible alternative. The shift, say party observers, might be a short-term ploy on the part of Reddy brothers if they are unable to achieve their ostensible aim of making Shettar as the CM to woo the Lingayat community for future gains.

Photograph: A sandalwood model of the Vidhana Soudha on sale in Bangalore (Krishnamurthy Vidyaranya)

Who will win if there is a snap poll in the State?

5 November 2009

M.K. VIDYARANYA writes from Bangalore: The “Operation Kamala” launched by the BJP with the monetary support of the cash-surplus mining lobby headed by the Reddy Brothers has turned out to be a Frankenstein for chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa.

Just like Frankenstein had the ability to obtain information about an individual, sense the emotions of others, and the perceive the future, the Reddy brothers through their money power have been able to drive a wedge in the BJP and wound it where it hurts most.

The current imbroglio appears to be the fruition of a long-term strategy on the party of the brothers to take control of the State, starting with their help to Yediyurappa to wean away fence-sitting legislators which saw that the first ever BJP government in the South.

However, the paradox is stark and striking.

While Yediyurappa is intensively touring the flood affected areas and taking steps to provide the solace to the people day in and day out, dozens of legislators, like Nero, continue to fiddle in resorts in Goa and Hyderabad, unmindful of the fact that Rome-nagara is burning.

The Karnataka governor Hans Raj Bharadwaj is reported to have conveyed to the Centre the prevailing political instability in Karnataka as the administration has been seriously affected due to the infight between the warring groups in the ruling BJP.

The utter failure of the Karnataka Intelligence is the root cause of the political instability.

A few months back when newspapers reported that the tourism minister and mining lord Gali Janardhana Reddy was poised to become the chief minister, it was taken lightly by the BJP and the intelligence. They did not pick up the signals, crosscheck the report, and probe the matter.

Even the efforts made by the National BJP high command headed by party stalwarts like L.K. Advani, Ananth Kumar and Sushma Swaraj were not able to solve the issue as the Reddy brothers claim to have a support of nearly 50 MLAs  are not budging from their path of demanding the change in leadership.

Result: ff the Reddy group demands separate seats in the Assembly,then there would be ample room for the Opposition to demand a test of the BJP’s strength on the floor of the house.

Vested interests joining hands with the mining lobby have been burning the midnight oil to dismantle the Yediyurappa government even though it has been elected by the people, for the people and of the people.

If this continues, the people of Karnataka will not re-elect the legislators who are trying to dislodge the BJP government in Karnataka, if elections are declared by the Union government keeping in view the instability in the state.

Those who live by the Reddys shall die by them

4 November 2009

KPN photo

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: If Karnataka Chief Minister, B.S. Yediyurappa, finds himself in the vortex of an ugly political row triggered off by the challenge to his leadership by his onetime confidants turned political rivals, the Reddy brothers, he has none to blame but himself.

Because….

Because it was he and his party, which discovered the Reddy brothers, nurtured them and used them as convenient tools for achieving their political objective/s.  And, in the process, gave on a platter the political standing, name and respectability to the Reddys.

When the magic figure of 113 eluded the BJP in 2008 assembly elections, Yediyurappa and others in the party tacitly backed and blessed “Operation Kamala”, the code name for enlisting the support of independents and enticing Opposition legislators to get the needed majority.

This operation achieved two objectives. It helped the BJP to achieve its dream of forming the first saffron government south of the Vindhyas. And it helped Yediyurappa to realise his life’s ambition of becoming the chief minister of the State.

It is an open secret that the operation was entirely scripted, financed and executed by the Reddys.

For the favours received, the party obliged the Reddys in myriad ways. Yediyurappa went literally out of the way   accommodate all sorts of demands of the Reddys.

For example:

1. The entire mining policy of the State government was shaped to suit the interests of the Reddys, who, as the new mining barons, had an enormous stake in mining and export of iron ore in the areas bordering Bellary and Anantapur districts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, respectively.

2. The Yediyurappa government chose to turn a blind eye to the allegation that the Reddys were involved in illegal mining activities in the border areas of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and that their mines in the adjacent Anantapur district, had encroached on the mining areas of Karnataka.

3. And the report submitted by the Lok Ayukta, N. Santosh Hegde, which at the express desire of the government had gone into illegal mining activities in Bellary, gave a graphic and well documented account of the same, was soft peddled deliberately.

The Reddys were recipients of endless political favours too from the BJP.

This was something akin to “you ask it, you shall have it” situation.

The Reddy group comprising the two brothers, Gali Karunakar Reddy and Gali Janardhan Reddy, and their partners in arm, B. Sriramulu, all from Bellary, were accommodated in the BJP cabinet, the highest representation given to any district in the BJP ministry.

The pathetic cperformanance of Sriramulu as the health minister when the State was hit by the swine flu menace, and the response of Karunakar Reddy when the State reeled under the impact of the unprecedented flood situation was lackadaisical, was ignored.

In addition, a third member of the Reddy clan, Gali Somasekhar Reddy, virtually forced a reluctant chief minister to concede the post of the chairmanship of the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF), which the latter had reserved for the state BJP president, D.V. Sadananda Gowda.

The government rode the hobby horse of Janaradhan Reddy, who desired to have a third airport of doubtful utility and viability in Bellary at a time when the two existing airports including a private one, did not have enough traffic. Ignoring the protests by the farmers, the government  initiated the process of acquiring fertile, irrigated land.

It looked as if the Yediyurappa government was not averse to mortgaging the entire State if need be to suit the  whims  and fancies of the Reddys. As a result, the Reddys, who had become a law unto themselves, were allowed to turn their home-district of Bellary into a personal fiefdom, where no officer who crossed swords with them, was allowed to last.

In trying to appease the  Reddys, Yediyurappa had no compunction in ruffling the feathers of quite a few of his partymen including the ministers, legislators and others.

Basking under the aura of media glory, Yediyurappa turned the BJP rule in Karnataka into a one-man rule and ushered in an administration where he alone mattered and his cabinet colleagues were reduced virtually to the status of  nonentities if not rubber stamps.

Barring a coterie of junior ministers, who always hovered around him, the rest were completely ignored.

Perhaps where Yediyurappa and the national leaders of the BJP misread the designs of Reddys was in underestimating their burning political ambitions, which was on the rise and of which clear indications were available nearly a year ago, when the Reddys openly declared that they were eying for the coveted post of the Chief Minister.

Yediyurappa’s realisation that the Reddys had grown too big for their shoes perhaps came too late in the day.

Suddenly, it dawned on the incumbent chief minister that the Reddys no longer were no longer amenable to him and that they couldn’t be taken for granted, much less disciplined.

It was like riding a riger; suddenly the tiger wanted to unseat the rider.

From the manner in which the Reddys have been playing their cards, mobilising support within the party in the same manner in which they had organised “Operation Kamala”, the national leadership has now realised that the Reddys are a tough nut to crack and they are quite unrelenting on their demand that Yediyurappa must go.

This perhaps has been the experience of the Reddys’ known mentor in the national leadership, Sushma  Swaraj, the deputy leader  of the opposition in the Lok Sabha.

All the known dissidents in the party who have been hurt by the authoritarian and arbitrary attitude of the CM, have moved over to the Reddy camp and it includes Jagadish Shettar, the speaker of the legislative assembly, who was miffed at not being included in the cabinet and assumed the post reluctantly.

The Reddys have been a political phenomenon and have made a decisive impact on the political scene in Karnataka in a manner in which no other family had in the more than five decade old history of the formation of the State.

Theirs has been a dangerous combination of insatiable political hunger coupled with money power of dimensions which cannot be easily comprehended.

Their main instrument for getting the political space and status has been the financial clout they have acquired almost overnight.

The emergence of the Reddys as a parallel centre for political  power, has materialised within a short span of 10 years. They cut their political teeth for the first time in 1999, throwing their weight behind Sushma Swaraj, whom the party had nominated to contest from Bellary in a bid to checkmate Sonia Gandhi, who had decided to seek election from Bellary besides her original constituency, Amethi.

The BJP and Sushma Swaraj gave the Congress, which had hoped to chalk out an effortless win from a constituency which had been considered as their political bastion, a run for their money. The BJP and the Reddys lost by a whisker, but they had carved out  the political space, where they had no presence all these  years.

From then on it has been  political joy ride for the Reddys.

They moved up the political ladder with each election. In 2004, Karunakar Reddy wrested the Bellary Lok Sabha seat from the Congress to rewrite political history.

Janardhan Reddy managed to enter the upper house of the legislature during this period.

During the BJP-JDS coalition in the second-half of the five year term of the assembly, Janardhan Reddy despite being a member of the coalition, hurled an open charge of corruption in mining against the then chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and got away with it despite the furore it created.

The BJP made a show of keeping him in suspension,only to take him back quietly later on.

In 2009, the Reddy brothers made a clean sweep of all but one of the eight assembly seats to prove their political hegemony over the district and two of their cronies won the Lok Sabha seats from Bellary and Raichur.

It was the first time the Congress tasted defeat in Raichur.

While this is the story of their political ascendance, equally puzzling has been the way in which they acquired their enormous financial clout.

It is not very clear when exactly they acquired mining interests  in the contiguous ore belt in neighbouring Anantapur. But this was the beginning of their march on to the path of affluence.

What fetched them the jackpot was the rising demand for iron ore from China, which helped skyrocket the price of  iron ore. Every big and small iron ore lease holder started wallowing in money.

For the record, the Reddys have no mining areas in Karnataka and everything is in Andhra Pradesh.

This fact notwithstanding, they have established firm control over the mining operations in Bellary district. The Reddys, who had good equations with the late Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, had carved out another empire in the form of a steel mill in Cuddapah, YSR’s home district.

It is reported that Jagan Mohan Reddy, the son of YSR, also has an interest in the steel mill started by the Reddys of Bellary. Recently, Janardhan Reddy was in the news when he presented a crown worth Rs 40 crore to Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupati.

Despite their reputation, the Reddys  continue to be a political enigma.

They have never allowed anybody to come close to them and analyse or understand them. All of them have cultivated the art of talking in riddles to hide their inner feelings. They live in Bellary in mansions, which are well fortified and guarded.

Their life style, of being arbitrary, arrogant and/or intimidatory is something akin to the manner in which the Reddy zamindars as a class are portrayed in Telugu cinema.

The Reddys who have tasted political power, are not averse to look beyond the BJP if need be to achieve their political ends. This is the one inescapable inference one can draw from the manner in the  Reddys have been dodging efforts of the national leadership to find an amicable solution to the current imbroglio.

The national leadership of the BJP is on the horns of dilemmas.

They can neither ditch Yediyurappa nor are they in a position to oblige the Reddys.

Whoever wins  in this battle of nerves, the party is a loser in the long run.

At a time when the State  in general and Northern Karnataka in particular are reeling under the impact of the floods, the spectacle of the BJP legislators ensconcing themselves in luxurious  resorts has not endeared the party to the people.

Photograph: Sushma Swaraj blesses B. Sriramulu (left) and Gali Janardhan Reddy in Bellary in January (Karnataka Photo News)

Uneasy rests the chair that mines the earth

31 October 2009

cartoon

Cartoon: courtesy Surendra/ The Hindu

Is the writing on the wall (and in the scriptures)?

30 October 2009

KPN photo

A day after a cabinet colleague with a Reddy surname reminded him of the Krishna and Kamsa story, Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa leaves the Vidhana Soudha after a meeting in Bangalore on Friday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Yediyurappa survive?

29 October 2009

Barely six months after bouncing off the runway, the BJP government of B.S. Yediyurappa has run into an air pocket once again, thanks to the peevish shenanigans of the Reddy brothers over flood relief in the northern part of the State, and other subsidiary factors like Shobha Karandlaje getting too much bhaav.

Will there be a compromise? Will Yedi see this crisis through? Or…

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Will Yediyurappa complete full term?

Let the rebels know, CM will not bow one inch

26 October 2009

KPN photo

On a day when seven BJP ministers were enconsced in yet another “secret meeting” in Bangalore, setting off the usual suspicions, chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa was going around inspecting “developmental works” at his hometown Shikaripura in Shimoga district on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

***

The B.S. Yediyurappa photo portfolio

Is it an idol? Is it a statue? Is it a mannequin?

One leg in the chair, two eyes on the chair

Yedi, steady, go: all the gods must be crazy

Kissa Karnataka chief minister’s kursi ka: Part IV

Why did the chief minister cross the road divider?

Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down

Dressed to thrill: Yedi-Chini bhai bhai in Shanghai

Survival of fittest is a great photo opportunity

Drought relief one day, flood relief the next

How a chief minister should drink tea. (Or not.)

Did Manchalamma take revenge on Mantralaya?

25 October 2009

Manchalamma(Durga)

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: It is three weeks since the pilgrim township of Mantralaya, the abode of Saint Raghvendraswamy Swamy on the Andhra-Karnataka border, suffered extensive devastation due to swirling waters of the river Tungabhadra.

Even as the town is inching back to normality, several questions remain unanswered.

Nobody has so far tried to explain the reason for the sudden flooding of the Tungabhadra river, which resulted in the unprecedented phenomenon of the shrine getting inundated. The water level had touched the portals of the main shrine before but never in its over-300-year recorded history had it come inside to inundate the Vrindvana and catch the township in its clutches.

Barring some areas of Mantralaya which were in a slightly elevated position, like the Venkateshwara temple and its vicinity, the entire township was submerged under 10-20 feet of water.

The flood extracted a heavy price, in terms of loss of property and physical infrastructure, modestly pegged at around Rs 50 crore.  What is priceless has been the loss of the treasure trove of books including the palm leaf manuscripts some of them dating back to the time of Raghavendra Swamyji.

The silver lining was that there was no loss of human life. But several heads of cattle of the Raghavendra Swamy Mutt, including the elephant, perished in the process.

A new Mantralaya has to be built afresh says Sri Suyateendra Teertha Swamiji, the peetadhipati of the Rayara Mutt, who was among those who had a miraculous escape.

***

However, the big question remains: What caused this?

Was it a case of human failure, a freak phenomenon of nature, which went unnoticed?

Or was it a case of divine retribution of sorts?

In the days leading upto the floods, there had been no reports of heavy rains in the catchment area on the upper reaches of the Tungabhadra dam, resulting in heavy discharges from the dam. This is usually the contributory factor for the flooding of the downstream areas, affecting the monuments of Hampi including the stone mantapa of the Saint Purandaradasa, and raising the level of the river in Mantralaya, located around 150 kms away.

The discharge from the dam, remained between one lakh cusecs and 1.49 lakh cusecs for the first week October.

It did not even touch the 2 lakh cusecs mark, as had happened many times earlier.

The Tungabhadra Board, the interstate body which oversees the discharges from the dam, would normally notify in the case of heavy discharges. But no such warning had been issued since the discharges this time were considered normal or even less than normal.

Obviously something happened between the dam and the shrine to cause unexpected floods.

According to information that can now be pieced together, the villain of the piece for the Mantralaya, was not the aberration of the main river Tungabhadra but the tantrums thrown by the rivulets and stream which tattoo the area between the dam and Mantralaya.

The area is drained by rivulets like Hagari (also known as Vedavati)  and streams like Hirehalla and Narihalla to name a few. All of them, without exception, went in spate adding to the misery.

Normally these are not taken seriously.

But this time all of them had assumed a quite ferocious proportion and the significance of the same was hardly taken note of. This is what extracted the heavy price Mantralaya has had to pay.

From information your reporter could gather, there had been heavy-to-very-heavy downpour in the catchment areas of Hagari on the fateful nights in both Bellary and Siruguppa taluks.  This area received more than four times the normal rainfall of around 547 millimetres, the bulk coming on the first two days of October.

The rain gauge stations in Bellary taluk recorded rainfall of 522 and 892 mm on these two days, while it was 654 and 1194 mm in Siruguppa.

Hagari joins Tungabhadra near Hachcholli in Siruguppa taluk of Bellary district, on the upper reaches of Mantralaya and several of the streams flowing across Koppal and Raichur districts brought copious flows due to heavy rainfall too to the main river.

If only somebody in these areas had bothered to notice the phenomenon and alerted the governments concerned on the possible consequences it could entail, perhaps the blow in Mantralaya could have been softened and the people, including the pilgrims visiting Mantralaya, would not have been taken by surprise and it would have been possible to salvage materials lost.

But monitoring the rain gauges is a low priority all across Karnataka and Bellary was no exception.

The problems of the people in Mantralaya trapped by the sudden rise in the water level were further compounded by the slow response of the Andhra Pradesh government in arranging for rescue operations.

The Karnataka government went out of its way to rescue Suyatindrateertha swamiji, who heads one of the important seats of the dwaita philosophy. It despatched a helicopter and a minister Shobha Karandlaje, a confidante of the chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa for the purpose.

After having done that, the Karnataka did not extend helping hand to others stranded, bulk of whom belonged to Karnataka. It may be due to primarily intergovernment hassles over the territorial jurisdiction and also because of similar developments elsewhere within the state.

The signs of developing human tragedy and suffering inherent in the Mantrayalam development obviously did not catch the imagination of the media, both electronic and print, both of national and regional hues.

Transport connections to Mantralaya, both road and rail, had been cut off during the period. The rain water had submerged rain tracks in the vicinity, and road links to other parts of Andhra Pradesh and with neighbouring districts of Raichur and Bellary districts had been snapped. The only road link available was via Yemmiganur but it could not be accessed because of the continued presence of flood water.

The plight of around 3000 people caught in the quagmire was only seen to be believed. Men, women, children had taken shelter on the roof tops waiting for the assistance, which was getting elusive and not within reach. They had had a quite harrowing time and had to go without anything to eat or drink.

But none of this appeared as meat for the media.

The media’s interest was limited to the act of rescuing the swamiji by the Karnataka government and did not go beyond it. Once that was accomplished, none bothered about Mantralaya or the plight of the pilgrims and residents of the temple-town.

Even the regional papers in Karnataka failed to rise to the occasion, in arranging for proper coverage, although most of the marooned pilgrims happened to be from the State. The marooned people had to wait for the water level to recede before they could move out of Mantralaya to their destinations.

Several theories are afloat to buttress the theory that the flooding of the holy place was nothing but an act of divine retribution of sorts.

One theory is that it was the delay in the rebuilding of the temple of Manchalamma, the family deity of Raghavendra Swamy, which had been dismantled for the purpose, could be the causative factor. A second theory doing the rounds suggests the accumulated sins of omission and commission of those concerned.

Despite all that happened, it must be said there was no loss of life in Mantralaya. Some dead bodies, which were floating around are believed to be of those who had been washed away. None in Mantralaya lost his/her life, it is stated by the sources close to the Raghavendraswamy Mutt.)

Whatever maybe reason, it is clear that the Mantralaya has an arduous haul ahead to regain its lost glory. The flood it is said, has put the clock of development back by at least two decades.

Photograph: courtesy Shree Vartha

Also read: Madi, the mutt head, and the hand that helped

How a chief minister should drink tea. (Or not?)

22 October 2009

KPN photo

On the day his party was tasting defeat in three States, Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa sips tea the old-fashioned (down market?) way in the company of the (more suave?) home minister, Dr V.S. Acharya, at the BJP office-bearers meeting at Malleshwaram in Bangalore on Thursday.

Of course, there will be those who will say tea and coffee taste better this way, that drinking from the cup is a colonial hangover of Resident Non-Indians, but surely there will also be those who will say that the chief minister of a State ought to exhibit more “class” in front of the cameras?

Of course, there will be those who will say this is the CM’s personal style, that he has been doing it for years, that he only does it among his own, not in front of world leaders, but surely there are better ways of suggesting that you drink like the aam masse than to slurp (noisily?) from the saucer?

Of course, there will be those who will say this is none of anybody’s business, but why shouldn’t it be?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

***

The B.S. Yediyurappa photo portfolio

Is it an idol? Is it a statue? Is it a mannequin?

One leg in the chair, two eyes on the chair

Yedi, steady, go: all the gods must be crazy

Kissa Karnataka chief minister’s kursi ka: Part IV

Why did the chief minister cross the road divider?

Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down

Dressed to thrill: Yedi-Chini bhai bhai in Shanghai

Survival of fittest is a great photo opportunity

Drought relief one day, flood relief the next

Don’t our cricketers have social responsibility?

9 October 2009

KPN photo

B.S. NAGARAJ writes from New Delhi: Cricket’s ultra-pyjama version, Champions League T20 tournament, got off to a glitzy start on Thursday. Chaka Khan, Shaggy and Jameila, and not to forget our own A.R. Rahman, crooned and danced.

“I Feel for You,” they sang, their voices reverberating across the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium through 5,000 MW speakers.

The report in Deccan Herald was suitably gushing:

“The fusion of art forms from East and West was symbolic of the message the 16-day tournament conveys, a global cricketing village and the desire to uphold the spirit of the game.”

We talk of the world being a global village, but what about the worst-ever flood in a century in our own backyard? How have our cricketers responded to this monstrous calamity in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh? What about the “feel” for your people?

One hasn’t come across announcements of any big donation, either from the stars or from the cash-rich cricket associations so far. This is what Lalit Modi, who deserves a good deal of the credit for vulgarising the game, had to say when asked whether there would be a donation for flood relief from the tournament earnings:

“This is a calamity that has hit our nation and we will seriously examine it … this is something that is on the cards for discussion in the next few days.”

Mr Modi, do you need a discussion to write out a cheque for a few crores out of the thousands that the Champions League and Indian Premier League which you head rake in?

The other day, when chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa went round the by-lanes of Chickpet and Balepet in Bangalore, the response was spontaneous. The Karnataka garment association presented a cheque for Rs 4.5 lakh, the electrical merchants association Rs 10 lakh, and the Bangalore switchgear manufacturers association Rs 1.71 lakh.

A coconut vendor is said to have dropped Rs 150 into the donation box, while an old woman took a wad of notes from her seragu as her contribution. And here you have Lalit Modi saying he would have a “discussion” with his Australian and South African counterparts over the next few days on the issue!

And what about the stars?

Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and Robin Uthappa are the three biggies from Karnataka playing the tournament. We haven’t heard from them either. If they had only spared a few minutes before the match began to go round the stands with a donation box, a good deal of money could have mobilised.

Or they could have put up their autographs for sale, just as they put themselves up for auction in the IPL bidding rounds.

Nobody grudges the cricketers their millions by way of match fees, endorsements, and players’ auctions. But there is something called CSR or cricketers’ social responsibility too.

Photograph: The opening ceremony of the Championship League Twenty20 at Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore on Thursday (Karnataka Photo News)

‘Madi’, the mutt head, and the hand that helped

6 October 2009

09oct02kpn28a

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: The floods in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have ravaged the lives, lands and houses of hundreds of thousands of people, and brought misery in a festive season. Our hearts go out to all those affected.

The floods have also brought the Raghavendra Swamy mutt in Mantralaya under the spotlight.

On the one hand, the water from the Tungabhadra and its tributaries cut off all access roads to the mutt. And, on the other hand, the unseemly hurry of the Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa to announce relief for a rich mutt in Andhra Pradesh even before reacting to the woes of his citizens, has raised eyebrows.

However, as far as I am concerned, there is a third, although very trivial and very peripheral, issue to debate, which is this KPN picture published by churumuri on October 2.

The picture has Sri Suyateendra Teertha swamiji, the senior seer and peetadhipati of the Mutt, being helped out of an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter after being rescued and airlifted from the flood-ravaged Brindavana of the Madhwa saint, Guru Raghavendra Swami in Kurnool district.

“…even the divine hand of Sri Suyateendra Teertha swamiji requires help from an air force hand to escape the wrath of nature,” read churumuri‘s caption.

That sent me wondering about the great leveller that is a natural disaster.

Madhwas, at least the many I know, are great believers and practitioners in madi. On the face of it, madi is a custom to maintain purity and gain strength to perform specific rituals or festivals.

It entails not eating in houses other than your own or in public places; it entails not having sexual intercourse.

It also entails not having bodily contact with other jathis.

By itself, madi may not be something any non-Madhwa can object to. After all, it is one community’s religious observance for rituals and festivals designed to protect the satvik nature of the priest, like it or lump it.

However, in its use in daily life, especially in the way it has come to be used by Brahmin priests especially of the Madhwa order, surely it is no sacrilege to suggest that madi has become a modern version of “untouchability”?

So, as I watched the picture—the swamiji and the IAF man not quite in physical contact but close—I was left wondering how an intimation of mortality can demolish some very old and strong rituals in even the most devout. And I was wondering if the swamiji went and had a bath after this interaction with someone from some other jathi.

The best case scenario is that the IAF man too was a Madhwa. And a good official defence is that the swamiji does not observer madi except when doing poojas, etc.

Probable, of course, but how likely?

Also read: Should swamijis travel abroad by air?

What role should swamijis, godmen play?

Heat, dust, haze, noise, fireworks and damp squibs

Drought relief one day, flood relief the next day

5 October 2009

KPN photo

One small step for the aam appa in Karnataka is one giant leap for chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa as he visits flood-affected Hirehalla near Koppal on Monday, as Koppal MLA Karadi Sanganna Amarappa (JDS) and MP Shivarama Goud (BJP) wonder just how he does it, time after time.

Photograph: Satish Mural/ Karnataka Photo News

***

The B.S. Yediyurappa photo portfolio

Is it an idol? Is it a statue? Is it a mannequin?

One leg in the chair, two eyes on the chair

Yedi, steady, go: all the gods must be crazy

Kissa Karnataka chief minister’s kursi ka: Part IV

Why did the chief minister cross the road divider?

Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down

Dressed to thrill: Yedi-Chini bhai bhai in Shanghai

Survival of fittest is a great photo opportunity


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