Kite-flying effortlessly replaces cricket as the nation’s favourite sport before every election, state or national, and so it is in the run-up to 2014, with “guided rumours” of Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani suddenly but not unexpectedly doing the rounds as a potential Congress candidate from Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency.
For the moment, there is no confirmation from the man, but he has certainly not denied the report which first appeared on the website of the business newspaper, Mint. “It’s speculative,” is how the Sirsi-born software mogul has chosen to greet the unattributed reports which clearly emanate from his “camp”, and all of which uniformally talk of his candidature having Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi‘s imprimatur.
On the face of it, Nilekani has plenty going for him. He is young (58), has a demonstrated track record as an entrepreneur and a technocrat, has ‘written’ an ambitious book on how he imagines India, and is a past-master at charming the pants off the media. On top of that, his wife, the former journalist Rohini Nilekani has pumped in crores into philanthropic projects.
Nilekani’s role in crafting “Brand Bangalore” is not insignificant. It is Infosys that largely put the shine back into Bangalore and made it the country’s unquestionable IT capital. Nilekani was also the brain behind the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF) during S.M.Krishna‘s tenure. So, the Congress’s, if not Nilekani’s, calculation is: this is payback time.
The preponderance of IT types in Bangalore South, the large sprinkling of Brahmins, and a five-time sitting Brahmin MP (Ananth Kumar) who is not on the right side of the BJP’s “prime ministerial candidate”, Narendra Modi, makes the Sai bhakt’s candidature look all very rosy—on a spreadsheet.
But politics is not a zero-sum, page 3 game as the similarly qualified Captain G.R. Gopinath discovered not too long ago.
Above all, for all the friendly media coverage of Nilekani’s “Aadhar” card, the fact remains he has essentially presided over an unconstitutional scheme which does not have Parliament’s OK, and which has actually taken millions out of the welfare net, while precisely claiming to do the opposite, by stopping leakage and pilferage. These are the people who vote and, sadly for Nilekani’s and Aadhar’s backers, there are thousands of them in Bangalore South too.
So, does Nandan Nilekani, who can just about speak Kannada, stand a chance, if he gets the chance, or is he like so many billionaires deluded about what his billions can fetch? If he does, could he end up being a potential minister in the next UPA regime, if there is one? And, while we (and he) fantasise, could he even be the kind of quiet technocrat who could be Rahul’s Manmohan Singh? Just kidding.
(Or, tongue firmly in cheek, could Nandan Nilekani’s nomination papers get rejected because his date of birth does not match the DoB on his own Aadhar card?!)
Former Rajasthan Royals opening bowler S. Sreesanth has just been banned from cricket for life, for putting his hand-towel out of his pant pocket, as a signal to bookies that he will concede “14 runs”, while bowling in the Indian Premier League.
But such stern action against our Malayali brethren doesn’t seem to deter former Indian prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda from openly and even more conspicuously flaunting his towel on his shoulders, at a cricket match, in Bangalore on Saturday.
BCCI officials, Delhi police and ICC “anti-corruption unit” investigators will, of course, note that this is the second time in as many months that the ex-PM has taunted the “towel rule” that felled Sreesanth for “spot-fixing” in this year’s IPL, and that this time his towel has a green border.
On both occasions, “Mr Deve” has done so in the full presence of mediamen, this time with the president of the Press Club of Bangalore, Ramakrishna Upadhya, bang behind him.
For over a decade starting in the mid-1990s into the early 2000s, Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy enjoyed a well-earned, larger-than-life, holier-than-thou persona through his various public interventions.
As politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen (and everybody else down the food chain, including the media) ran adrift in post-liberalised India, Murthy struck the right note, saying the right thing in just the right sort of way and at the right place, which made him the darling of the urban, literate, English-speaking, TV-watching middle-classes.
While his capitalist-compatriots hogged all the profits, there was Murthy making millionaires out of his own employees by giving them stock options in the company. While everybody shamelessly latched on to power, there he was resigning from the Bangalore international airport project because of a spat with H.D. Deve Gowda.
But of all things that Murthy said in his strange, American twang, the one that struck a chord among “People Like Us” (PLUs) was his defence of merit as the lifeblood of a country on the ascendant. As politicians rolled out reservations left, right and centre to protect votebanks, Murthy (who idolised Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew) bravely batted for meritocracy.
“Infosys is an absolute meritocracy. Even in a meritocracy, other things being equal, you have to give opportunity to the more experienced candidate. Whether it was Nandan Nilekani, Kris Gopalakrishnan or Shibulal, they are absolutely top class and they have been running this marathon longer than some others. Their is no question of (any discrimination) between founder, non-founder. I have no hesitation in saying we are the most professional company in the world,” he said in a 2011 interview.
Which is why the drama surrounding Narayana Murthy’s 30-year-old son Rohan Murthyshows NRN in poor light.
First the 30-year-old (who is married to the heiress of the TVS group) was brought in as an executive assistant to NRN following Murthy’s return to Infosys, which in itself was something NRN did not advocate in public. (Rohan Murthy, who is “on leave” from Harvard, was paid a farcical salary of one rupee a month, apparently at his request.)
Now, less than three months of the appointment, comes a move to elevate executive assistant Rohan Murthy as vice-president Rohan Murthy although NRN had said just three months ago that there would be no leadership role for his son. Obviously, questions of corporate governance, a phrase that repeatedly tripped out of NRN’s tongue have been raised.
Does Narayana Murthy’s hypocrisy stand exposed with the latest move? Should the ministry of corporate affairs allow Rohan Murthy’s elevation to go ahead? Can a publicly listed company be so susceptible to the pressures of a founding family? Does NRN’s move to elevate his son show that blood is thicker than water?
S. Sreesanth has only just gotten out of the clutches of Delhi’s hyper-efficient police for using a hand-towel tucked into his pyjama as a sign to his bookmaker friends that he will bowl a few bad ones, and….
And former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda brazenly flaunts a towel on his shoulder as he takes guard at a cricket match organised by journalists in his home-district, Hassan, on Sunday.
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.
The disgraceful nataka in BJP-ruled Karnataka has taken yet another farcical turn with the former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa formally launching his own regional party, the Karnataka Janata Party, from the central town of Haveri on Sunday. With just a few months to go before the term of the current assembly ends, the “gateway to the south” is clearly now in election mode.
Yediyurappa’s is not the first regional party in the State: from D. Devaraj Urs to Ramakrishna Hegde to S. Bangarappa, the pot of regionalism has been periodically simmering, usually in vain. But there are three key differences between then and now.
One, while those worthies at least had the semblance of the greater common good—social justice, land reforms, secularism, etc—Yediyurappa and his ilk have had no bigger aim or objective than cloaking their own self-interest in reginoal colours . Witness the constant refrain of “sthaana-maana” in the last couple of years.
Two, while M/s Urs, Hegde and Bangarappa represented small communities, Yediyurappa represents the large Lingayat community, which is neck and neck with the Vokkaligas in numerical strength. So, to that extent, Yediyurappa has given his community the political equivalent of H.D. Deve Gowda‘s Janata Dal (Secular).
And three, and perhaps most importantly, Yediyurappa’s party comes at a time when the two national parties, the Congress and BJP, are in decline across the nation, as evidenced by diminishing vote share and seat share, odd exceptions notwithstanding.
Questions: Will Yediyurappa’s attempt pay off? Is Karnataka ready for a regional party? Will he eat into BJP votes or Congress votes? Can he get the majority to form a government? If not, will he tie up with the BJP or the Congress? Or, will his political outfit be an insiginficant player, which will be his shield against the cases against him and his sons?
Like a bad penny, the Cauvery “dispute” returns to the national discourse every few years with both the “riparian” States involved the story, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, making the same noises—the former of everlasting injury and the latter of arrogance, with the Centre acting like a traffic policeman with his hands tied.
Every time the dispute flares up, and that is usually when there is scanty rainfall, the same revanchist forces of linguistic chauvinism and parochialism dust themselves and utter the same threatening cliches.
The world’s topmost water resources experts—the moviestars of Gandhinagar—descend on the streets. Bandhs are called, roads are blocked, resignations are offered, the ruling party flexes its muscle, all-party delegations meet the PM, and the media beats the familiar wardrum that sends shivers down the spines of those who can remember 1991-92.
Lost in the melee is sense and common sense. A dispute involving a couple of districts in the deep south holds the rest of the State and its relationship with a neighbour hostage. Karnataka’s fair name as a law-abiding State and the reputation of Kannadigas as a decent, civilised lot is muddied in the eyes of the nation and the courts.
Here, a lawyer conversant with the intricacies of the dispute lists eight reasons why Karnataka is once again barking up the wrong tree in circa 2012.
1. When the agreement of 1924 was signed between the Maharaja of Mysore and Madras, the former diwan of Mysore, Sir M. Visvesvaraya, supported it unequivocally. The said agreement gave 80% of all the water to Madras, which is equal to 360 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) at the Border.
2. The Cauvery Tribunal, reduced the quantity from 360 TMC as provided by the agreement of 1924 to 205 TMC in its interim Order, or 192 TMC in its final Order, which is a reduction of about 50%. During the years of drought, the shortfalls are to be shared equitably by riparian states. How is this distress to be shared?
3. According to Tamil Nadu, if the shortfall in the flows is 40%, its share ought to stand reduced by 40%. On applying this simple mathematical reduction formula of pro-rata, the shortfall in the flows given to Tamil Nadu comes to 40 TMC as on 19 September 2012.
4. However, the Prime Minister rightly ignored the pro-rata formula when he passed the Order on 19 September 2012 directing Karnataka to ensure 9000 Cusecs till 15 October 2012 equivalent to only 20 TMC. This 20 TMC not only includes the arrears but also the monthly quota. Therefore, in real terms, the Prime Minister has only given 10 TMC towards arrears as against 40 TMC which ought to have been due to Tamil Nadu under the pro-rata formula.
5. Present storages is about 65 TMC. Even in the worst year of 2003-2004, 30 TMC flowed into the Karnataka reservoirs till December. So, in this year too, a similar quantum of water can be expected.
6. Cauvery is a political issue for the Vokkaligas. Historically, none from the Vokkaliga belt in Mandya and Mysore ever raised a word of opposition in 1924. Even after independence in 1947 or the re-organisation of States in 1956, none from Mandya or Mysore sought revision of the agreement of 1924. It is only after 1974, that the Opposition to the 1924. After 1974, the opposition in the Vokkaliga belt started but it is selective, targeting Non-Vokkaliga Government.
7. Mandya Vokkaligas opposed the Varuna Canal because it benefitted the Lingayats and Backward Classes in Mysore District. Mandya Vokkaligas do not bother when water is released from Kabini to fulfil the Order because Kabini caters to Lingayats, SC, ST and OBCs.
8. The ones who should really be complaining are Coorgis, since Coorg does not have drinking water though more than half the Cauvery water comes from there.
Photograph: Kannada movie stars (from left) Pooja Gandhi, Prameela Joshai, Shruti, Tara and Sudharani emerge out of the Raj Bhavan in Bangalore on Saturday after submitting a memorandum to Governor H.R. Bhardwaj on Cauvery issue (Karnataka Photo News)
“Welcome to the Vidhana Soudha. If you are a Lingayat, press 1. If your are a Gowda , press 2. If you are a Kuruba, press 3. If you are a Idiga, press 4. If you are a Dalit, press 5. If you are a Muslim, press 6. If you are a Christian, press 7. If you are none of these, disconnect and join the queue for Dharma Darshana of the Chief Minister and take your chance. Thanks for calling.”
MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: At the moment, this is just an SMS doing the rounds but don’t be surprised if you were to actually hear this message in the days to come, as the process of political churning set in motion by the present BJP dispensation, is taken to its logical conclusion.
At the moment, the polarisation of castes, which is what this political churning amounts to, remains confined to the internal struggle for power within the ruling party. Its success or failure could spur other parties to follow suit, leaving Karnataka vying with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
What is however special to the political churning in Karnataka is that the process has been initiated by a national party like the BJP, while in other States it has generally been the handiwork of regional parties at the cost of the Congress or BJP.
The author of the ongoing process in Karnataka is, of course, none other than the disgruntled former chief minister, B.S. Yediyurappa, who is desperate to regain political primacy in the State after he was forced to quit office in the wake of his indictment by the Lokayukta in the illegal mining and other scams.
But it has also got an indirect endorsement from the BJP’s bosses in New Delhi, who have been singularly helpless in curbing the political intransigence of the former CM, because of the imperative necessity of keeping the first saffron government south of Vindhyas in office, by hook or by crook.
It was Yediyurappa who started overtly playing the Lingayat card although the chief minister’s post in the State has been held by Lingayat politicians before him. It is a mystery what prompted Yediyurappa at the pinnacle of his popularity to play the caste card card, which has reduced him from a mass leader to the leader of a single caste.
For years, if not decades, Yediyurappa had painted himself as a leader of all classes and castes. He rose through dint of sheer hard work and sustained organisational strength.
Once he took over as the Chief Minister in 2008, he started portraying himself as the unquestioned political leader of the Lingayats, a prominent community which has a pan-Karnataka presence, with the northern half of the State being the sheet anchor of the support.
Yediyurappa started courting the religious heads among the community and was liberal in doling grants to the institutions managed by them.
If the move was aimed at providing himself with a shield to fight his political battle, it obviously failed.
For sure, the swamijis were at the forefront whenever his throne was in trouble, but it was hardly of avail since he could not prevent his ouster 11 months ago despite the campaigning by the lingayat swamijis. As a matter of fact, the swamijis got their reputation tarnished by the manner in which they winked at corruption.
Furthermore, their attempts to save a government steeped in corruption and a bunch of ministers neck deep in it merely because they happened to be Lingayats made them a laughing stock in public.
The caste politics unleashed by Yediyurappa was on full display during the formation of the third BJP ministry headed by Jagadish Shettar. The Vokkaligas suddenly discovered that D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who was facing the heat, was a fellow Vokkaliga and rallied around him.
Though they could not save DVS’s chair, they gave enough hints that they are also a force to be reckoned with in Karnataka politics.
It was not without insignificant that the Deve Gowda-Kumaraswamy duo which was vocal in the criticism of the Yediyurappa government had suddenly grown soft during Sadananda Gowda’s 11-month regime. The transformation was attributed widely to the Vokkalinga connection.
The post of Chief Minister having gone to Shettar, a Lingayat, the two other powerful castes insisted and succeeded in creating specially two posts of the deputy chief ministers for the first time in Karnataka politics, and these went to K.S. Eswarappa (Kuruba) and R. Ashok (Vokkaliga).
It is expected that the post of the party president, which may be vacated by Eswarappa on his induction into the cabinet, is likely to go to “others” category.
To make the power sharing arrangement more authentic, both Eswarappa and Ashok were specifically sworn as the deputy CMs, even though the Constitution does not recognize such a political office. Normally aspirants are sworn in as a minister and later get designated as the deputy CM. Whether this will be a precedent for ministry-making exercises in future remains to be seen.
The pattern of distribution of portfolios in the BJP-run government has been done according to the same formula, with the powerful caste denominations walking away with plum portfolios while the insignificant groups have been forced to accept minor and less-important ones.
Ironically, there was no Lingayat politician who could command the allegiance of Lingayats and emerge as their political voice. In fact, it was not any Lingayat politician but a Bramhin, the late Ramakrishna Hegde, who commanded the respect and trust of Lingayats as a whole in general and in northern half of the state in particular.
Hegde chose to deny himself what would have been a fresh lease of life for his political career when he resisted the pressure by his followers in the new political outfit the United Janata Dal to take over as the CM in place of J.H Patel, who was reigning then.
This he did because he did not want to hurt Lingayat sentiments.
The BJP’s continued drought of political support in the 1990s came as a byproduct of the electoral tie-up between the BJP and the JDU to fight the Congress. Hedge’s demise created a political vacuum and the BJP and Yediyurappa moved in to fit the bill.
This is what enabled Yediyurappa to claim as a lingayat leader.
But its continued Lingayat fixation coupled with Yediyurappa’s narcissistic tendencies have contributed substantially to the precipitous fall of Yediyurappa from political grace.
When the BJP high command forced Yediyurappa to quit , his ego was badly hurt. He could not countenance his exit from power. Since then he has been ranting and raving for the restoration of his own political hegemony and has been bemoaning the loss of political primacy for Lingayats.
He has only a single-point agenda: he should have political power either by de jure or de facto manner.
If he cannot get power on his own directly, he must enjoy it through proxy. This was the rationale behind his move to get his own nominee Sadananda Gowda installed as his successor.
Gowda, a low profile functionary, happened to be one his confidants and a safe bet to be trusted unlike his other confidant Shettar, a fellow Lingayat, who had strayed away from his path. This, he achieved after virtually brow beating the high command for the selection of successor through voting.
But he got wary of Gowda soon, as the latter showed signs of moving out of his orbit.
Result: Yediyurappa himself launched a virulent campaign to bring down the man he had put in office sometime ago. He blackmailed the high command to have his way again. And this time Yediyurappa chose to bring back Shettar back into the fold to act as his proxy.
In his overt zeal to get back power, Yediyurappa has introduced in Karnataka politics, the canker of caste politics, which is expected to change the political scenario altogether in the days to come.
In his second term, Singh continues to be called weak but with the corruption scandals chipping away at the PM’s image, there is an added twist: he is now called weaker than the former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.
At a function in Madras last week to mark the 40th anniversary of the Tamil magazine, Tughlak, the “former future prime minister of India” L.K. Advani once again repeated the “weaker than Deve Gowda” charge.
“Advaniji says Manmohan Singh is weaker than Deve Gowda. But Deve Gowda was stronger in one respect. Deve Gowda was strong enough to go off to sleep on his own. Poor fellow Manmohan cannot even doze off on his own.”
It provided an opportunity for politicians to share the stage and their thoughts with academics and researchers about the changing role of elected representatives and its implications for legislative institutions.
P.G.R. Sindhia from the Janata Dal (Secular) and Captain Ganesh Karnik of the BJP represented the political class, while Prof Sandeep Shastri and C.V. Madhukar represented the academics.
It was interesting to see how people within politics and out of it viewed the proposition:
“In the first phase between 1950s to the 1970s, we had politicians who were role models, like Sardar Patelet al. They had complete knowledge of the country and their constituencies. The expectation of the people from these leaders was constructive community matters, not individual gains. People also had faith in these leaders and not to forget, we also had a stable government.
“In the second phase between 1970s and 1990s, we could see that the people were disappointed that their expectations had been belied. They voted against the Congress and we saw coalition governments coming into power and small political parties taking birth. Though I am totally against Indira Gandhi and was a part of the movement against Emergency, I have huge respect for her. She enthused the people with the 20-point programme and her Garibi Hatao scheme. She was able to gain the confidence of the masses with land reforms which was followed in Karnataka too by Devaraj Urs.
“In the third and the present phase between 1990s and 2011, the people have totally lost their faith in their leaders. People are disillusioned with elected representatives. Due to globalisation, the availability of money to the political parties has increased. Now, people expect money and personal favours from their elected representatives. Our MLAs most of the time are busy attending marriages, funerals and birthday parties.
“During my first election in 1983, Ramakrishna Hegde and H.D. Deve Gowda asked me contest and I won as a result of the anti-incumbency factor. I hardly spent Rs 30,000 and my supporters spent about Rs 1.5 lakh. My caste is microscopic in Karnataka and I did not win on the basis of caste at any time. I have defeated stalwarts like Deve Gowda and M.V. Rajasekharan. My winning margin used to be as high as 50,000 votes. When I contrast it with the year 2004, I spent about Rs 1.25 crore, but my majority was just a few thousands. Money and muscle power rule the politics today. To curb this, we need strong laws and it needs to be implemented through the Election Commission. Democracy is the best form of governance for our country and we need to strengthen it.”
He said that the anti-defection law introduced in 1985 was responsible for destroying state legislatures. He said that, from 1950s upto 1989, we had a maximum of 14-15 political parties. After the introduction of anti-defection law, the number of political parties had reached a peak.
Madhukar said that Indian legislative institutions were suffering because of four reasons:
a. The anti-defection law has silenced independent voices within a political party.
b. The poor participation of our legislators in the house.
c. Lack of adequate and expert research support to the legislators on various matters.
d. While the role of legislators is primarily to make laws, oversee working of the government and represent the voters, what they do in reality are the petty works of their constituencies and their supporters.
He said that during the 14th Lok Sabha, 1,400 documents were tabled. It was impossible for a member of Parliament to go through all the documents. He lamented that when an MP goes to the Parliament library and seeks for material on a particular subject matter, what he gets are the newspaper clippings from the last 60 days.
Madhukar asked: “Should our policy should be based purely on the opinion of a few newspapers?”
Captain Ganesh Karnik of the BJP read out the preamble of our Constitution and asked how many of these aspirations had been fulfilled.
There are three categories of voters. The first category whose choices are fixed; the second category who are intellectuals and vote on the basis of issuesl; the third category are the ones whose votes can be bought by the politicians. Unfortunately, the voters in third category are the ones who play the decisive role in every election.
There is a need to educate this section of voters. Though it is not the role of a legislator to go for marriages, birthday parties and do personal favours such as transfers; he is bound to perform these functions since these are the very people who have elected him and they expect him to do so!
Empirical research suggests that contestants who spent the highest amount of money never always win the elections.
Politicians have been in power all these years and they had all power to make changes in laws, change the mindsets of the people, yet they had failed.
At the end of the session, it was clear that the two politicians blamed the people for taking money for voting; the researcher blamed the lack of expert research support to leaders which failed them in taking proper decisions; and the academician said money power alone doesn’t work and that politicians themselves were responsible for the bad state of affairs.
Who do you think is right or wrong? Or do we need to take a holistic view and say that each group is responsible for the failure of our democracy?
(Gagan Krishnadas is a post-graduate student at National Law School of India University, Bangalore)
Meanwhile, away from the heat, dust and sparks over the 2G scam and FDI in retail and the Lok Pal and Kanimozhi‘s release and whatever will fill up the “hour” between 9 pm and 10.30 pm tonight, life goes on in the “Republic of Bellary” where, beknownst to the ordinary eye, former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy is playing an even more sinister game of running with the Gowda hare and hunting with the Reddy hound.
While he was CM in a strange 20-20 partnership with the BJP, Kumaraswamy was “stung” by hidden cameras of the Reddy brothers that showed him allegedly receiving a “bribe” of Rs 150 crore, allegedly from the miners raping the district. He is now said to be backing the siblings’ nominee, B. Sriramulu, who stood as an independent in the by-elections held yesterday after quitting the BJP.
Tamil Nadu has generally played a big role in the formation of coalition governments at the Centre for nearly 15 years now, and the size and scale of the victory of the AIADMK in the assembly elections recently—and the current shape and state of the Congress, BJP and Left—has put plenty of fuel in the political tank of Jayalalitha Jayaram.
Suddenly, the controversial Mysore-born actor-turned-politician is holding all the cards as both the main parties bend backwards to woo her. For someone whose sole agenda till last month was dislodging the DMK government of M. Karunanidhi, she is now holding forth on national and international issues in a manner born.
In an interview with Arnab Goswami of Times Now yesterday, the Puratchi Thalaivi offered plenty of insight of how she views her enhanced role on the national stage, cryptically suggesting that “anything can happen before 2014″, meaning she could go either way or her own way, or that there could even be a mid-term election before 2014.
Since anything is possible in politics, as the sad cliche goes to explain H.D Deve Gowda becoming prime minister, is it also possible that Jayalalitha, if she stays away from both the two main formulations, could well end up heading the third front? And, if that is the case, could namma hudugi well emerge as a prime ministerial face?
Could her face, voice and demeanour, not to mention the fact that she is a woman, attract voters? Will she gain acceptance across the nation or will her confrontational style put off coalition partners? Could she be a better bet than whoever the Congress and BJP decide to go with? Or is she counting her vada maangas before they pickle?
BHAMY V. SHENOY writes: I was shocked to read a news item in today’s Deccan Herald—“If Gandhi were alive, he would have been corrupt: HDK”—in which the former chief minister, H.D. Kumarswamy, is quoted as saying that it is impossible to not be corrupt as a politician in today’s India.
While doubting the strong moral underpinnings of the Mahatma, HDK categorically states that “he (HDK) was never involved in corruption” while implementing government schemes and projects as CM, but had received “donations from friends and well wishers” for strengthening the party and fighting elections.
If HDK could be as non-corrupt as he claimed, why did not the media ask him as how could he have doubts about the Mahatma?
“Corruption has become inevitable. Contesting elections and pursuing politics without corruption is impossible in today’s context.” Going a step ahead, he made his quip about the Mahatma.
Two kinds of contemporary people can come to the conclusion about Mahatma’s capacity to be in politics without compromising his principles based on India’s current rampant corruption scenario.
One is the kind that might not have read the Mahatma’s his autobiography “My experiments with truth” or any other book/s on Gandhi and thus do not know anything about him. The other is the kind that is so corrupt that it is impossible for them to think that there could be others in the world who can be honest.
Is it possible that our former CM meets both the criteria?
In this world, there are hundreds of political leaders who are not corrupt. Even in India, though their number may not be huge, we can still find some who have not been compromised. But political leaders like Kumarswamy do not have the time nor the interest to learn about those honest leaders.
They are like the frogs in a well and for them, their well consists of corrupt leaders.
What have Kannadigas done to deserve leaders who do not think that it is impossible to be honest? Can we find some honest leaders like Anna Hazare amongst us?
Ordinary mortals buy roses for their beau on Valentine’s Day. Sons of the soil buy TV news channels.
Well, that’s what Bangalore Mirror, the tabloid from The Times of India stable is reporting.
Former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, son of the former prime minister and “humble farmer” H.D. Deve Gowda, already runs a general entertainment channel called Kasturi through his legislator-wife Anitha Kumaraswamy.
HDK is now reported to have bought the struggling 24×7 Kannada news channel, Samaya, for Rs 60 crore, as a “gift” for chhoti memsaab, the former movie actress Radhika.
Kumaraswamy told Bangalore Mirror, “Samaya channel is up for sale, and I am in talks with its owner. We still have not completed the deal.”
When we asked the ex-CM whether he was buying the channel for Radhika, he guffawed and hung up.
Kasturi channel has already begun running “Coming Soon” promos of its news channel—tentatively titled Newz24. The rumour is that a former print journalist reported to be close to Kumaraswamy and currently heading a news channel is likely to take charge of the news channel operations.
Samaya, launched by Congress MLA Satish Jharkiholi, has been struggling since launch. Former Suvarna News editor Shashidhar Bhat recently joined the channel but what happens to him under the new owner will be breaking news.
The change of ownership of Samaya is only the latest evidence of a massive shakeup in Kannada media in which big money, with the tint of politics and business, is beginning to shape the public discourse in Karnataka like never before, no questions asked.
As if more evidence was required to be proffered to the nation that the BJP’s disgraceful show in Karnataka is a daily dive from the pathetic to the ridiculous, the chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa has accused his detractors of employing “black magic” to finish him off politically and physically.
“There is a conspiracy to finish me off, and those who indulged in ‘black magic’ to unseat me from power but failed are indulging in it.” (Yediyurappa? 2G scam?)
As if on cue, the CM’s family priest Bhanuprakash Sharma has said he has advised his client to perform certain rituals to ward off evil. “I have advised him to perform the sahasra chandika yajna at the Chamundeswari Temple in Mysore and laksha modaka Ganapathi homa (offering 1 lakh modaks to Lord Ganesha),” he said.
The honourable chief minister has even decided to bare all for a surya namaskar in a river next week, according to some reports, although that isn’t a sight that will have people queueing up to see.
Yediyurappa has struck the “maata-mantra, threat-to-my-life” pose before; so if nothing else at least he is consistent in his mind-numbing superstition and obscurantism as the head of a supposedly “hi-tech” State.
“I am facing a threat to my life. I am aware of the places where they are performing the (maata-mantra) pujas to finish me off. Many of his opponents have suffered this fate fate in the past, and I could be the latest victim. They will be responsible if anything happens to my life. I will write to the home department complaining against the black magic of H.D. Deve Gowda and his sons. I will also write my will,” were Yediyurappa’s exact words in 2007.
Moreover, even at the height of the last but one round of the “crisis” surrounding his government, there were rumours that the gates of the Vidhana Soudha had been locked up days in advance of the assembly session after the requisite sacrifices had been made on its lawns to help the CM retain power.
But the real issue for the BJP should be the kind of signals its “Gatekeeper to the South” is sending by elevating witchcraft to the level of statecraft, by making it a part of the political and public discourse with such disdain for public taste?
Does a chief minister who has weathered concerted efforts by his colleagues, by his rivals, by his own party high command, and the now the governor to unseat him, really believe that he minister be ejected by a slice of lime, a piece of coconut and a little vermillion?
Does he really expect the people to believe this balderdash, this junk?
File photograph: Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa taking a holy dip at the Triveni sangama during the Poornakumbha Mela near T. Narasipur, in Mysore district in January 2010. (Karnataka Photo News)
MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Politics does not always pay. This perhaps is the bitter lesson that the political parties have learnt in the just-concluded panchayat elections.
All three parties have all lost more than gained from the polls. In fact, there is hardly any gain for any of the three.
The BJP, Congress and the JDS were all equally invested in the undue hype raised over the polls.
Though the elections to the second and third tiers of the three-tier panchayat system hardly have any bearing on the continuance or otherwise of the party in power, it was portrayed as if the panchayat poll would be the decider.
It was the Congress and the JDS which set the ball rolling. Both launched a vitriolic campaign baying for the head of the scam-tainted B.S. Yediyurappa government. The voters, they maintained, would “surely teach” a lesson to the BJP government.
On the other hand, Yediyurappa once again exhibited his propensity for breast-beating and asserted that the voters would give a fitting reply to his critics. He staked the performanance of his government for seeking a renewed mandate from the rural voters.
The campaign was shrill to the core.
The Congress, which had got a new state president a couple of months earlier, roped in the high flying national leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. The father and son team of the JDS’ “national” leadership, M/s Deve Gowda and H.D. Kumaraswarmy, bore the brunt for their party.
And for the BJP, the chief minister stomped the districts in a bid to woo the voters. There was nothing unusual in the blandishments offered to the voters, since it has become an integral part of present-day canvassing.
What ultimately happened came as an anticlimax to the hype raised.
There was no improvement at all for the three parties; each of them had their own share of setbacks.
The expectations of the political parties that the voters would either “teach a lesson” or give “suitable reply” was totally belied. The political parties today are happier over the discomfiture of the other parties than about their own share of humiliation.
What happened was that rural voters ignored both and went in their own nonchalant way in expressing their opinion. This was something to what they had done in 2008 election. They preferred BJP but held back their hand to deny the half way mark both in terms of the control of the ZPs and TPs, and also in number of seats won and kept the two others far behind.
Of the 30 zilla panchayats, the BJP gained control of 12, four each went to Congress and handed down fractured verdict in the remaining ten. In the 178 taluk panchayats also, the same trend emerged. Of the 176 taluk panchayats, BJP gained could gain control of 68, Congress 31, the BJP 29; instability stares at 48 remaining taluk panchayats.
BJP as the party in power was expected to put up a good show to obtain control over the majority of the ZPs and TPs, going by the track record of elections held previously.
This did not happen.
It was four short of the halfway mark in the ZPs and 20 short of the half way mark in the TPs. Its only consolation was that as against one ZP it had controlled in 2005, it has captured 12 now. In terms of seats, as against 145 it had bagged last time, its tally has gone up to 441 in the ZPs.
Whatever brave face its leaders may put up, the fact that the party had to huff and puff in the chief minister’s home-district of Shimoga and the Reddy brothers’ bastion of Bellary cannot be hidden at all.
It had also to live with the humiliation of not being able to open the account in two districts of Mandya and Ramnagar.
As far as the Congress is concerned, the elections have shown that the party has been slowly losing its hold in the rural areas. While the BJP has been foraying into the Congress pockets of northern Karnataka, the JDS has been doing the same in the old Mysore areas.
The number of Congress-controlled ZPs has come down from 22 to 4 and the number of seats has come down from 493 to 353. The party has to live with the mortification that in the home district of the state president, G. Parameshwara, it has been drubbed very badly.
While the JDS is happy that it is on a par with the national party like Congress in the number of ZPs won, the fact cannot be hidden that its influence remains confined to a few pockets of the vokkaliga-dominated old Mysore districts including the home district of Deve Gowda, Hassan.
Compared to 2005, the party has suffered erosion of seats, which has come down from 273 to 180. The party has not been able to win a single seat in eight districts.
If the political parties had addressed the core issues bothering the minds of the rural voters, instead of haranguing them about their own plans, they could have better captured the imagination of the rural voters.
The parties went about their political campaign forgetting the fact that the smaller the constitutuencies, the lesser has been the impact of the politics and what matters in these small territorial constituencies is the personal standing of the candidates and the interplay of caste.
As a matter of fact, none of the parties referred to the empowerment of the panchayat raj institutions and how they would improve the delivery system in reaching the benefits to the people or strengthening the financial base of these institutions, which are reeling under the impact of a centralized administrative system in the name of decentralisation.
MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: When politicians as a tribe have failed the state, a quasi-judicial body like the River Water Disputes Tribunal has come as a saviour in safeguarding the interests of Karnataka in the Krishna waters’ dispute.
This in a nutshell sums up the net impact of the verdict given by the second Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT) headed by Justice Brajesh Kumar last week.
Uniformly inept policies pursued by successive governments of all political hues, including the present one, had cumulatively pushed Karnataka to the brink on the utilisation of waters of the Krishna river.
Everything appeared to be lost.
The State had failed to utilise its one-third share of water allocated by the first KWDT, even 10 years after the expiry of the deadline.
If the new tribunal had taken the (under) utilisation as the basis for the fresh allocation, Karnataka faced the prospects of losing around 250 tmcft and whatever extra that might have accrued in the later allocation of surplus water.
As a result, Karnataka would not have got a drop of water extra, which would have been the end of the road for the State as for as the irrigation development is concerned.
On top of this underutilistion, there was an overactive Andhra Pradesh, which had laid its claims for the unutilised water and, in anticipation of the same, had gone ahead with its plans to create permanent infrastructure created with huge investments.
In contrast, Karnataka’s plans to raise the raise the height of the biggest dam across the Krishna in Karnataka at Alamatti had been stymied by the Supreme Court.
It was a self-inflicted problem that Karnataka had invited, thanks to two men in power, H.D. Deve Gowda and J.H. Patel.
In their eagerness to humour the Telugu Desam chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Nara Chandrababu Naidu, they had landed Karnataka in the soup. Naidu raised a hue and cry over Karnataka’s move to raise the height of the Alamatti dam to 534 meters.
Gowda, then the Prime Minister of the United Front government, of which Telugu Desam was an important component, referred the matter to the steering committee of the UF, instead of allowing the State government of Patel to handle the same. The steering committee constituted a four-member panel, which in turn constituted an expert committee.
The expert committee was given a red carpet treatment when it visited Karnataka. The plea made by H.K. Patil for boycotting the committee since its interest would be detrimental to the interests of Karnataka fell on deaf ears. The expert committee recommended that the height of the dam should be pegged at 519 meters.
With the fall of the Deve Gowda government, no followup action was taken. But it came in handy when Supreme Court was hearing the case. The apex court adopted the expert panel’s recommendation to bar Karnataka from raising the height of the dam beyond 519 meters.
If this ban on the height were to be continued by the second KWDT, it would have been the end of the road of irrigation development in northern Karnataka since the ban would come in the way of storing the surplus water of Krishna as and when allocated.
Karnataka would have had no place to store water.
But the IInd KWDT has mercifully cleared Karnataka’s case for raising the height of the dam to 524 tmcft, providing Karnataka with the scope for storing surplus water.
The Krishna basin, spanning over more than thirteen districts and bulk of the drought prone areas in northern Karnataka, is the biggest basin in Karnataka, much more than Cauvery.
The basin area has the potential to turn Karnataka into a food granary with the proper exploitation of the irrigation potential of Krishna. But this has not happened due to the totally inept and slipshod handling of the issue by the successive state governments in Karnataka.
Nobody has been an exception to this, be it the Congress governments, the Janata Dal/Janata Dal U or the BJP/JDS coalitions, or the present BJP governments.
Barring a few individual leaders like the late S. Nijalingappa, Deve Gowda, the late H.M. Channabasappa, late H.N. Nanje Gowda and H.K. Patil, none who handled the portfolio had any semblance of understanding of the issue and its potential to change the fortunes of the State.
As a consequence of the follies of its rulers, Karnataka had missed the bus completely and was condemned to suffer and pay a heavy price. It is in this context that verdict of the IInd KWDT has brought cheer on the face of the farmers in Karnataka.
The tribunal has not only protected the allocation Karnataka had got despite its failure to utilise fully, it has not countenanced Andhra Pradesh’s claims for use of the unutilized waters and allocated more water to Karnataka from the surplus arising after the previous allocation.
This has resulted in Karnataka getting an overall allocation of 911 tmcft. The aspirations of the Karnataka farmers get a new lease of life.
Of all the people, it is the tribe of politicians of all hues who are extremely happy over the final allocation of share of Krishna waters. Because it has literally saved them from the consequences of an adverse verdict.
The people indeed are happy. But the happiness over the increased allocation and the removal of the ban on the height of the dam are nothing more than notional.
To use a Kannada adage, it is akin to the treasure visible in the mirror. You can see it, but you can’t touch it.
For the key factor is the expeditious utilisation of the allocated water. It is here that Karnataka has been faltering. It has poor track record of execution of irrigation projects.
The politicians of Karnataka have shown that they lack vision and commitment and are not averse to politicising development issues at the drop of the hat.
After nearly four decades of the award being made by the Tribunal, the Karnataka has been able to impound around 500 tmcft. But not all the water available in the dam has been able to reach the farmers fields even to this day.
In this context, the task of utilising a total of 400 tmcft as a consequence of the judgment of the IInd Tribunal is a tall order by any standard. Very few doubt whether it will be able to utilise the water within the 40-year deadline fixed by the Second Tribunal.
There could yet be a slip between the cup and the lip.
PRASHANT KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: Looking at the wide-eyed, over-the-top coverage of US president Barack Obama‘s 100% sanitised weekend break to Bombay and Delhi, you can only wonder what he and Michelle are missing by not coming to namma Bengalooru.
2) By not coming to Bangalore and meeting the Reddy brothersulu, brother Barackhas lost a manch powerful chance to know that all trade barriers can be easily surmounted by simply shifting the borders.
3) By not coming to Bangalore and meeting the geniushris behind ‘Operation Lotus‘, Barackshri will go back without the wisdom that that what he really needs to shore himself up is ‘Operation POTUS ‘.
4) By not coming to Bangalore, Barackgaaru won’t know that the Rs 900 crore per day bill he is running up during his visit, would have easily fetched the loyalty of a couple of dozen MLAs for three months.
5) By not coming to Bangalore and filling up at Deve Gowda petrol bunk, Barackgowdru won’t that there others like his pal, Rahm Emmanuel, who break into expletives at the break of dawn.
7) By not coming to Bangalore and being interviewed by Ranganath Bharadwaj, Barackwaj won’t know that the biggest existential question on 24×7 Kannada news television is, “yaake antha” (why).
8) By not coming to Bangalore, Rockline Barack won’t know that Jackie, Tsunami, Y2K, Excuse Me, Psycho et al are actually titles of films in the language of the locals.
9) By not coming to Bangalore, change agent Barackaiah won’t know that BMTC conductors have always insisted on “change you believe in” before you board the bus.
10) By not coming to Bangalore, Barackanna has lost a golden chance to know that our darshinis serve better bisi bele bath than Bukhara. And that there is a resort near Yelahanka called The White House.
11) By not coming to Bangalore while worrying about jobs in Buffalo being “Bangalored”, namma Baracku won’t know that the jobs are actually being “Bengalurued”, thanks to U.R. Anantha Murthy.
12) And by not coming to Bangalore, Michelamma won’t know that for all our outsourcing prowess, pakkada mane Parvathamma still cannot find a maid when she wants one.
What other local specialities do you think Mr and Mrs O are missing by not coming?
Massaging the media by tickling the underbelly of its movers and meisters is the cheapest trick in a politician’s handbook. And never does it get more obvious (and more obscene) than when Karnataka Rajyotsava is round the corner, and it’s time to honour the good and the great of journalism for their “contribution” to the State.
The year of the lord 2010 was no exception, with representatives from every news channel and newspaper finding—if not cajoling, pressuring, even threatening—their way into the list of 182, including one worthy who has spent less than three years on the Kannada nela, and would be hard put to name one restaurant in Bangalore besides quote-unquote ^^Koshy‘s^^.
Could this, therefore, be one reason why these telling pictures of a tired chief minister, who had to greet, garland and honour the giants of the nadu at the rate of one person every 45 seconds at the Rajyotsava fete, did not make it to any newspaper this morning?
Or, could it just be plain courtesy, if not patriotism; a desire to not show a beleaguered and battered CM in negative light on a day as luminous as November 1?
Or, is only poor H.D. Deve Gowda destined to be shown yawning or sleeping?
Below is a letter shot off by the editor of Kannada Prabha, Shivasubramanya K., in late October, to colleagues and friends expressing his disinclination to receive the Rajyotsava honour, while firmly asserting, apropos of nothing, that he did not “apply” for it.
After the B.S. Yediyurappa government acceded to his “request” by not including his name in the final list, Shivasubramanya put the matter on record with a front-page box announcement, stating that the only reason he had made such a request was because the task of building the newspaper was still ”incomplete”.
Indian politicians, cutting across party lines, cutting across States, have two, standard quotable quotes for the camera. One, “nothing is impossible in politics”. And two, “there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies”.
Ordinary, law-abiding citizens who have something called self-respect and self-esteem cringe when they hear such cliches but they know that this is just shorthand for the extremely malleable disposition that modern politicians are blessed with.
These pictures are proof.
For years now, Karnataka’s politics has been held hostage to the Holenarsipur-Ramanagaram-Kanakapura worldview of H.D. Deve Gowda and his sons, H.D. Kumaraswamy and H.D. Revanna. And the Bellary worldview of the Reddy siblings and their bumchum, B. Sreeramulu.
There is nothing the two sides have not done to throw mud and muck at each other.
And for a week now, an entire nation has watched agape as Karnataka’s reputation for decency, honesty and civility has been made mincemeat in the clash of the two worldviews, that manifested itself with the latest “rebellion” against the B.S. Yediyurappa regime last week.
On Judgement Day Monday, as the BJP’s members trooped out of the Vidhana Soudha after the “voice-vote” in favour of the BJP regime, guess who shook hands and pressed flesh like long-lost friends, and whispered sweet-nothings like lovers into each other’s ears in the full glare of the cameras?
MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The two key players in the latest round of the political tamasha currently underway in Karnataka are the inveterate political rivals, former chief minister, H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JDS and G. Janardhana Reddy, the BJP minister and mining baron.
While the beleaguered chief minster has been on a temple-hopping spree seeking divine help for warding off the dangers to his ministry, on the ground, the battle is mainly being fought between these two worthies.
The political career graph of HDK and Reddy runs on almost uniform lines.
Both had a stratospheric rise in politics, thanks to the clout, political, financial and otherwise, that they wield. Both have a long innings ahead, though at the moment it has been blotted by their sins of omission and commission. Both are politically ambitious, care a penny for scruples and are ready to adopt any means to reach their goal.
And, as far as their relationship with B.S. Yediyurappa is concerned, it has been a mixture of love and hate for both.
After befriending Yediyurappa to achieve the otherwise impossible task of landing himself in the gaddi of the chief minister in 2006, Kumaraswamy chose to drop him like a hot potato, once the latter’s utility was over. He wants people to forget the 20-month honeymoon and has now turned out to be Yediyurappa’s chief critic.
It appears that the plot for the current rebellion by a section of the BJP has been scripted by Kumaraswamy and his father, the former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.
The Reddy story is a bit different.
After worming their way into the BJP while managing Sushma Swaraj‘s election campaign against Sonia Gandhi for the Lok Sabha elections from Bellary, Reddy and his brother Karunakar Reddy and their colleague B. Sriramulu moved closer to Yediyurappa.
They showed their “talent and skills” in mustering support through the infamous “Operation Lotus” for the latter to CM after the 2008 elections. They extracted their pound of flesh all right for their services and quickly donned the role of king makers in the BJP.
When Yediyurappa showed some signs of liberating himself from their clutches and started acting independently, the Reddys hit back hard, launching a campaign for his ouster last November. Yediyurappa had no alternative but to pocket his pride and kowtow to the wishes of the Reddys despite the intervention of the national leadership.
The manner in which Yediyurappa procrastinated on the report of the Lok Ayukta on illegal mining in Bellary district, spoke eloquently of the Reddys’ power to call the shots.
The antipathy between Kumaraswamy and the Reddys goes beyond politics and extends to the realm of mining too.
Being an MLA of one of the constituents of the BJP-JDS coalition, did not come in the way of Janardhana Reddy launching a diatribe against Kumaraswamy and hurl open the charges of corruption against him in the realm of mining. Despite all the ballyhoo it created and embarrassment caused to the BJP, Reddy got away with it.
The present farcical political drama, which has put the future of the Yediyurappa government in jeopardy, has provided one more platform for the two rivals to flex their muscles.
Initially Reddys were quiet, when the dissidents made the first public move.
Rumours were afloat hinting at their hand in the happenings, because of some of their known supporters were in the dissidents’ camp. But when it became clear that the whole thing was being masterminded by Kumarswamy, the Reddys opened jumped into the bandwagon in a bid to save the ministry, which they themselves wanted to remove a couple of months ago.
The Reddys are known to employ money power, where the legislators’ loyalty is openly on sale.
Kumaraswamy appears to have been endowed with the resources abundantly in starting the game and in sustaining it against Reddy this time round. This is evident from the manner in which legislators were herded from one posh resort to another in Madras and Bombay only to be holed up in south Goa before returning to Madras.
Despite the media glare, both made a sojourn to Goa to talk to the dissident legislators.
It is a battle of nerves between Reddy and Kumarawamy. Who wins ultimately will be known tomorrow, of course, since they appeared to be well matched in strategies and counter strategies.
MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Going by the chaotic developments within the BJP, ever since it assumed power more than two years ago, one must admire the common sense displayed by the Karnataka voters in the last assembly election.
The voters’ response to the plea for power made by the three contending parties was quite categorical.
They rejected in no uncertain terms the claims made by the Congress and JDS and put them in the dog house as it were, even making it impossible for them to share power through an unholy alliance between them.
On the other hand, they were taken in by the plea made by the BJP to give it a chance to govern but were quite cautious in their response. The voters put BJP ahead of all the parties by giving them 110 seats and ensured that the party missed the majority mark by a whisker.
The other two parties were left far behind, making it a mockery of the mandate even if they were to join hands. The message from the voters was clear. They had actually put the BJP on probation and wanted it to prove its credentials before fully backing them at the hustings next time round.
This has a parallel in what had happened in 1983.
Then, too, the voters preferred a non-Congress combination led by the Janata Party to the Congress.
When the government led by late Ramakrishna Hegde won the approbation of the people by its performanance, they voted the Janata Party back to power with its own majority. (That it lost the advantage due to internecine squabbles engineered by H.D. Deve Gowda is of course another matter.)
In the present case, only the first part of the saga has been played out.
Before the ruling BJP could have the second opportunity to seek a fresh mandate, the BJP government has got into all sorts of imbroglios, which has made the party fall in the esteem of the people, who had trusted them to deliver the goods promised.
Right from the day, the party contrived through the execrable “Operation Kamala” to firm up its majority, it has been steeped in scams, scandals and dissidence which hardly brings credit to anybody.
What has been causing concern and consternation is the unabashed manner in which BJP MLAs are pursuing with single minded determination their quest for power and pelf , throwing to the winds all the known niceties of the “party with a difference”.
The casualty in the process has been governanance.
What has made the matters worse has been the behaviour of the ministers, who appear to be landing the party and the government in one or the other controversy (Hartaalu Halappa, Bachche Gowda, D. Sudhakar, et al)
Even before the controversy of illegal mining surrounding the Reddy Brothers could be forgotten, has come the instances of others ministers getting bitten by the bug of lucre, be it allotment of land (Katta Subramanya Naidu) or jobs in hospitals (Ramachandre Gowda).
The problem with the BJP government is that the leadership has failed.
B.S. Yediyurappa has been unable to provide the needed leadership to carry and instill the sense of responsibility among the legislators, most of whom are newcomers to public life. He should have led by example and shared the burden of steering the ship of the State with others.
His autocratic behaviour has been the cause of the party’s colective misery, going by the grievances of fellow party workers. As a result political atmosphere is turning murkier and murkier with every passing day.
Two main rumours are afloat at the moment.
One is the behind-the-scenes efforts made by JDS with the tacit backing of Congress to put a ragtag government in place of the present one. The second one is the talk of change of leadership within the BJP for which some of the dissidents are burning midnight oil.
In the present permissive atmosphere, both efforts, which basically distort the mandate of the people, have hardly any chance of propping up a credible alternative.
The best solution under the circumstances is to remit the problem back to the people.
Let the people decide what should happen, instead of allowing the powerbrokers in every party to misutilise the occasion for their personal and political aggrandisement while making a mockery of the State in the eyes of the nation.
There are plenty of hints that Karnataka is hurtling towards the hustings once again: a high-decibel Congress padayatra on the illegal mining issue followed by a high-profile Rahul Gandhi visit; an execrable series of “sadhana samaveshas” by a BJP government which spews “development” like a mantra; loud whispers of a JDS tieup with BJP once again, with the unthinkable actually becoming a reality in Chamarajanagar; the launch of new Kannada news channels belonging to the BJP and JDS and so on and so forth.
All those straws in the wind can get blown away, of course, but if there is one substantive issue that is setting the political theatre on edge, it is the proposed ban on cow slaughter by the B.S. Yediyurappa government. The “historic” Karnataka prevention of slaughter and preservation of cattle bill, 2010, was passed without debate in mid-July when the opposition was on a dharna. After that, it has been a circus of deft electoral posturing.
The BJP, which otherwise has little use for Mahatma Gandhi‘s idea of India, conveniently falls back on the father of the nation (and its other pet hate B.R. Ambedkar) to explain its rationale. It says the ban is already in force in seven-eight (mostly BJP ruled) states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, and in such cradles of democracy as Iran and Cuba. It says the Supreme Court has upheld the ban. And, it says allowing the slaughter of a sacred animal goes against the beliefs of Hindus.
For their part, the Congress and JDS trot out a variety of dietary and economic reasons opposing the ban, chiefly the fact that it is a cheap meat for poor people, especially among Dalits, Muslims and Christians. The leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah has said the State has no business proscribing certain meats. Karnataka Congress chief R.V. Deshpande has talked of the damage to the leather industry. Former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has spoken of a potential law and order situation if the ban were to enforced, and said the bill could be misused to harass minorities.
The BJP’s stand is posited on its farcical concern for “compassion”—cruelty to the cow—when most animals are malreated. Do all Hindus worship the cow (when India’s biggest beef exporter, Al Kabeer, is owned by a Hindu)? Do all Hindus support the ban? Do all Hindus spurn beef? Do all Hindus want to be stuck with animals, howsoever sacred, beyond their utility?
Professor D.N. Jha of Delhi University wrote in “The Myth of the Holy Cow, that in no major scripture…:
“…is killing a cow described as a major or grave sin, unlike drinking liquor or killing a Brahmin… It is only in the 19th century that the demand for banning cow-slaughter emerged as a tool of mass political mobilisation by right-wing Hindu communalists”.
Also, a ban tests the Constitution on two fronts: the freedom to live and act (and eat) as one wishes (provided that doesn’t infringe on other people’s rights), and the right to “carry on any occupation, trade or business”. Could a ban on cow slaughter spark competitive demands for a ban on slaughter of other animals which are part of the diet, like say pigs?
Questions: To overturn a political stereotype, does the BJP’s plan to ban cow slaughter, in the name of “beliefs and aspirations of Hindus”, amount to “majority appeasement” that plays with individual dietary taste and constitutional freedoms? Is the political temperature being artificially pumped up by all sides to encash their political votebanks when the time is ripe? Are elections nigh?
E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Assembly hall of the Vidhana Soudha had gradually turned into a must-see tourist spot in Bangalore beating the likes of DoddaGanapathy, museum, Bannerghatta zoo, Lal Bagh, etc.
I was one of the lucky ones to get a seat on the KSTDC bus that held a conducted tour every day.
When we reached the venue, Vidhana Soudha resembled Tirupati with pilgrims/visitors waiting in long queues to get a darshan of MLAs staging a dharna in the House.
Some pilgrims/visitors were complaining they could get more time in Tirupati to catch a darshan of Thimmappa than they could get to see Nanaiah.
But our driver–cum-guide was quite confident of getting us our money’s worth.
“It is not for nothing I have paid enough to get the last visit of the day allotted to us. There won’t be any restrictions. If some of you want to join them, you are free to do so. Yellargu chennagi thinsidini.”
As we approached the MLAs, the guide continued: “Stay with me and listen to me. You will get the inside story. They have just finished dinner. The vegetarian dishes came from Adigas. Hotel Atria and Eden Park supplied the non-veg items. Now they are waiting for desserts from Corner House.”
“What is the that tiny room with officers at the desk at this hour,” I asked.
“BBMP have opened a small office to streamline water supply, garbage and sewerage clearance. They have opened special ‘do-it-here’ kiosks for the convenience of protesters. Before the session starts, they clean the whole area and spray lavender perfume all over the place. The place has two distinct smells, one is lavender and the other is….”
“No need to mention that, please,” interrupted Ramesh Ramanathan of Janagraha who is a champion of civic rights in Bangalore and specialises in bringing transparency into BBMP work.
“How are they able to manage legislature work as well as dharna in the same place and at the same time?” asked MindTree’s Subroto Bagchi, an authority on work culture.
“That’s the beauty, sir. They are living where their work is and are working amidst their daily life. Nobody can tell the difference. They are fighting against corruption in politics even as they eat, snore and rush for nature’s calls,” said our guide.
“This is an unusual symbiosis. I know the “home-office” method of working. But the “office-home” concept is revolutionary; must study this in detail,” said Bagchi self-importantly.
As we were going around, the MLAs broke into a chaotic chorus of the song, KuNiyoNa bara, KuNiyoNa bara.
The reason for the sudden outburst was the arrival of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda along with his son and former chief minister, H.D. Kumaraswamy, to look up H.D. Revanna.
“How do they manage to sing songs while doing dharna?” asked Rajesh Krishnan, playback singer and music composer who had taken a break from his recording sessions.
“Old Kannada songs are the backbone of their struggle for power. It is because of this they are able to sleep better here than they could ever sleep at home,” justified our guide.
“If they had shown the same zeal and dedication all these years in their work, Karnataka would not be so backward and would not be amongst the top in corruption,” thundered a voice.
When we looked in its direction, it was not difficult to identify the voice.
It belonged to Shakuntala Narasimhan, crusader of consumer interest and an expert in Carnatic and Hindustani music among countless skills.
Just then the desserts arrived and the MLAs got busy eating.
Meanwhile somebody suggested they must eat dry fruits to stay healthy and some MLAs ran out to buy whatever was available from Russel Market in Shivaji Nagar.
As we were about to leave after the darshan, we heard that there was an arathi every night for its success.
Suddenly, the Purohithru who seemed to be in a hurry to finish the arathi and catch Heegu Unte on TV9, dropped the silver thatte.
My wife was banging on the plate to wake me up. I had dozed off after breakfast while watching the daily nautanki on television, and it was already time for lunch.
“You are just like the MLAs in Vidhana Soudha,” she said, “busy with only ‘ooo-ma-hey’.”
Justice Nanje Gowda Venkatachala and Justice Nitte Santosh Hegde. Both former judges at the Supreme Court of India. Both Lok Ayuktas of Karnataka, under four different chief ministers; the former cleaning the augean stables loudly in front of TV cameras; the other less visibly but more effectively.
On paper, the two “could have transformed Karnataka and set an example for a cleaner, more honest India, whose official motto, inscribed below the national coat of arms, is ‘Satyameva jayate’ (Truth alone prevails),” writes Samar Halarnkar in the Hindustan Times.
In reality, though:
“For years, successive Congress chief ministers [S.M. Krishna and Dharam Singh], and the Janata Dal (S) of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda [through son H.D. Kumaraswamy], ran administrations that ensured only deceit and dishonesty prevailed in Karnataka.
“Given its pledges of delivering a righteous Ramrajya, the BJP was the great political hope against corruption. That hope even led Justice Venkatachala to the BJP in February 2009. “You need political will to fight corruption,” Venkatachala had said then. “Such political will is there in the BJP.”
“Instead, the BJP has joined in the plunder of what was once India’s metropolis of the future. Crooked politicians and bureaucrats drive SUVs and own multiple mansions and businesses, as corruption worsens, the city crumbles, and the revelry begins over Justice Hegde’s impending departure.”