The ascension of K. Siddaramaiah, the agnostic-socialist who visits not temples and mutts upon becoming the chief minister of Karnataka but writers and intellectuals, as seen through the words and eyes of S.R. Ramakrishna and Satish Acharya of Bangalore’s Talk magazine.
Posts Tagged ‘Karnataka Elections’
PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: No longer are elections spectacles.
For the uninitiated, everyday life in Karnataka appears to be no different except for two things. First, Bangalore’s notorious traffic is manageable these days, as the political types have been camping in their constituencies.
Second, police chowkis along the highways, especially closer to towns and cities where all the private vehicles are checked for cash and gifts for the voters. According to the most recent estimate, the money confiscated across Karnataka is more than Rs 16 crore.
So, there is this reality constructed and maintained by the Election Commission.
Its rules have taken the pageantry out of elections. No longer nominees can take out a procession to file nominations or strut around with thousands of followers or hundreds of vehicles. In fact, any vehicle used for campaigning will have to be registered.
It’s simple these days: there are severe restrictions on visible campaigning.
Missing are the auto-rickshaw mounted loudspeakers. The norm today appears to be occasional rallies featuring star campaigners especially national leaders, and more frequently, road shows featuring state leaders and cinema stars in open vehicles.
More significantly, each candidate is restricted to spending only Rs 16 lakh.
Perhaps, there isn’t a single constituency wherein a candidate will have a reasonable chance of competing and retaining his deposit if he were to stay within this farcical limit.
However, that doesn’t stop any candidate from officially submitting accounts, which will be far less than sixteen lakhs. The average spending by each winning candidate across Karnataka will be at least one hundred times more.
So, that creates an alternative, parallel reality, the one political parties, candidates, and indeed, even the voting public inhabit. Here notionally the EC’s authority is recognized but the only way to earn the trust of the electorate is to blatantly violate most of EC regulations.
Professional politicians will not complain against each other for obvious reasons. They are all playing the same game.
The smaller players say the leftist groups or the anti-corruption warriors like the Loksatta don’t have the capacity or perhaps even the commitment to document violations and lodge complaints with the EC.
Consider this second reality for a moment.
For the past month, newspapers have been reporting on all the freebies distributed surreptitiously by every politician.
Money is the obvious good and we all know that large sums will have to be spent to pay for campaigners, voters and everybody in between.
Since 2008, politicians have had to be very creative in transporting cash. So, there are numerous stories about motorbike riders carrying money or professional donkey/ black sheep herd owners being couriers transporting cash from one place to the next.
Then there are services and goods that are offered and accepted.
# Tankers carrying water.
# JCBs and tractors to do any kind of earth work in your field, either freely or at heavily subsidized rates.
# Borewell rigs to dig borewells.
# Books for students.
# Access to government welfare programs and services – from old age pension to various subsidies that the state government offers; from subscription to Yashasvini medical insurance scheme to free ration from government ration shops.
# Pressure cookers.
# Set-top boxes for televisions.
# Pilgrimages and trips to constituents.
All kinds of groups and associations too are rewarded liberally.
# Temples are built and renovated during elections if only because all the candidates will make contributions.
# Travel across the state and you will find hoardings for sports tournaments sponsored by politicians. We estimated that the budget for some of these events could run into tens of lakhs since the top prize in a cricket tournament in Shimoga was Rs. 75,000.
Obviously our list isn’t complete and the reader can add more.
However, here is the important point to note. Election results are determined in this second reality. The Election Commission has little sway over this reality and one could even argue that an efficient money spending operation precedes everything else.
The presence of star campaigners – be it Rahul Gandhi or Advani or Narendra Modi – does very little to actually sway the electorate. At best, these stars rouse the party base and raise the enthusiasm of the party cadre.
Politics has changed in this regard in the last two decades. Without this efficient ground level operation that distributes gifts, makes compelling local arguments and mobilizes voters, no candidate shall win.
And that’s true for a political party winning elections as well.
In another significant respect, a politician shows his prowess during the elections. His ability to break rules and distribute as much during the elections is actually an indicator of his ability to manipulate rules and government machinery once he is in power.
While we don’t want to sound cynical, the voting public actually considers that quality an essential trait for a leader.
The Election Commission can’t do much about the second reality. It has never had much control on that reality anyway.
2013 election coverage
Security personnel on election duty search a car at a check post on Hospet road in Bellary on Thursday, even as a new pre-poll survey suggests that the Congress, despite all its troubles, continues to maintain a healthy lead over the BJP in the assembly elections due in the “gateway to the south” next week.
The survey, conducted by the centre for study of developing societies (CSDS), for CNN-IBN and The Week, shows that the Congress could end up with at least 117 seats in a house of 224. Like other polls before this one, BJP comes second with 59 seats, JD(S) third at 44. KJP and others are also-rans.
Former chief minsiter H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) is the most preferred CM candidate, with 18 per cent people voting in favour of him. Ex-BJP strongman B.S. Yediyurappa is the second choice for CM (10%), followed by Congress leader Siddaramaiah (9%), S.M. Krishna (8%), and Jagadish Shettar (6%).
THE POLLS SO FAR
CSDS-CNN-IBN, The Week (April): Congress 117-129, BJP 39-49, JD(S) 33-44
Suvarna News-Cfore (April): Congress 105-122 out of 224; BJP 55-70; JD(S) 30-45
Headlines Today-C-Voter (March): Congress 114-122, BJP 48-56, JD(S) 32-38, KJP 10-14
Tehelka-C-Voter (January): Congress 133, BJP 63, JD(S) 19, KJP 5
Suvarna News-CFore (Decamber 2012): Congress 113, BJP 58, JD(S) 31, KJP 14
Photograph: Karnataka Photo News
2013 election coverage
ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from San Francisco: A week is a long time in politics; it’s even longer in the film industry, where reputations are made and marred over a weekend. But in Boxoffice Bharat, the fortunes of politicians and filmstars happily and conveniently comingle and collide at the turnstile, come election time.
And so it is in Karnataka, in the year of the bhagwantha, 2013.
Twenty months ago, when “challenging star” turned challenged star Darshan Toogudeep alias Darshan, beat up his wife, stubbed a burning cigarette, tore her dress, bit her ear, threatened their son, and pulled out his revolver and landed up in hospital like a wimp feigning asthma and jaudice, an obnoxious face of the Kannada film industry was revealed.
Homas were conducted, buses were stoned, processions were taken out for his release from police detention. The angels of the industry (including ‘Duniya‘ Vijay, whose own extraordinary marital life recently played out on live TV) put pressure on his wife to withdraw her damning complaint.
The scandal took on a visibly casteist tone, as Vokkaligas jumped into the picture. The “other woman”, Nikita Thukral, was “banned” from acting in Kannada films.
Compromise ensued after “rebel star” Ambarish intervened.
It’s payback time.
As Ambarish, the Vokkaliga leader, contests the elections in Mandya on a Congress ticket, Darshan, his supposed “successor”, is at hand, lending his voice to Sumalatha‘s. And this one picture conveys all there is to be said of the “forgiving nature” of our largely illiterate, star-struck electorate, which can barely make out the difference between art and life and probably doesn’t care.
Meanwhile, Nikita Thukral provides the opium to the unwashed masses on “Bigg Boss“.
Photograph: Karnataka Photo News
2013 election coverage
Whether it was his power-is-poison speech at the Congress chintan shivir in Jaipur earlier this year, where he was elevated to the post of vice-president, or at the CII meet in New Delhi two weeks ago, where he used the beehive analogy to describe India, Rahul Gandhi has shown a very sophomoric, spreadsheet understanding of realpolitik.
He makes all the right NGO-style noises about cutting out power brokers, of rewarding talent, of creating new leaders, about database management, about empowering the grassroots in ticket distribution, etc. But are they really workable in the Indian context, especially in the Congress context?
The elections to the Karnataka assembly, shortly after his elevation, have provided an opportunity to test how ready his party is, and how insistent he is that his writ runs. In the Hindustan Times, Aurangzeb Naqshbandi shows the yawning gap between precept and practice, between Rahul rhetoric and Congress reality:
1. Rahul theory: “Leaders from other parties parachute in just before the elections and fly away after getting defeated.”
Congress in Karnataka: Party has given tickets to those who came from the Janata Dal (Secular). Shivaraj Tangadgi, who was till recently a minister in the BJP government, has been given the ticket from Kanakagiri reserved constituency.
2. Rahul theory: “No person with a criminal background should be given party ticket.”
Congress in Karnataka: Candidates facing criminal cases such as D.K. Shiva Kumar, M. Krishnappa and Satish Jarkiholi have been accommodated.
3. Rahul theory: “Party will not not field candidates who have lost two previous elections with a margin of 15,000 votes and above.”
Congress in Karnataka: Basavaraja Rayaraddi, Kumar Bangarappa and Siddu Nyamagouda, whose defeat margin was much higher than 15,000, have been considered.
4.Rahul theory: “The kin of of senior leaders should be given the go-by.”
Congress in Karnataka: Former chief minister Dharam Singh’s son Ajay Singh, union minister Mallikarjun M. Kharge’s son Priyank M. Kharge, former minister C.K. Jaffer Sharief’s grandson Abdul Rahman Sharief and son-in-law Syed Yasin, Shamanur Shivashankarappa and his S.S. Mallikarjun, M. Krishnappa and his son Priya Krishna have all been given tickets.
5. Rahul theory: “Youth Congress should to get its desired share of candidates.”
Congress in Karnataka: Of the list of 20 names forwarded, only a few have got in. Even state Youth Congress president Rizwan Arshad has been denied a ticket, prompting him to offer his resignation from the post.
Read the full story: Cong flouts Rahul Gandhi‘s guidelines
Opinion polls are crawling out of the woodwork in Karnataka. While most previous surveys have predicted a BJP downfall, a new one by the little-known Prabodhan Research Group, published by The Pioneer, Delhi, suggests it is going to be a hung assembly in the State: Congress 95 , BJP 81, JD(S) 27, KJP and independents eight each, BSR-Congress five.
Narendar Pani of the national institute of advanced studies (NIAS), in Mail Today:
“There are also signs of aggressive Hindutva being a vote loser. Long before the BJP came to power in Karnataka it had a strong cadre-based stronghold in coastal Karnataka.
“When it came to power this area became the laboratory for its strong Hindutva methods. Churches were targeted, young couples of mixed religions were attacked, and moral policing took on a new momentum. But far from attracting fresh support, the BJP appears to have lost ground in this region.
“In the recent elections to urban local bodies in this region the BJP lost several ULBs, including one that it had not lost for 40 years.
“If Narendra Modi were to step in now and deliver Karnataka to the BJP he would be able to present himself to the nation as the political superhero India was waiting for. And within the BJP all challenges to his leadership will fall by the wayside.
“Which makes it all the more interesting that Narendra Modi has not shown any inclination to take over the leadership of the Karnataka battle. He was not among the national leaders who launched the party’s campaign in the state. Is it that the situation of the BJP in Karnataka is too adverse for even the Gujarat strongman?”
THE POLLS SO FAR
Suvarna News-Cfore (April): Congress 115-127 out of 224; BJP 50-60; JD(S) 25-35
Headlines Today-C-Voter (March): Congress 114-122, BJP 48-56, JD(S) 32-38, KJP 10-14
Tehelka-C-Voter (January): Congress 133, BJP 63, JD(S) 19, KJP 5
Suvarna News-CFore (December 2012): Congress 113, BJP 58, JD(S) 31, KJP 14
Prabodhan Research Group (April 2013): Congress 95 , BJP 81, JD(S) 27, KJP and independents eight each, BSR-Congress five
Read the full article: Karnataka elections
Also read: Why is corruption not an issue in Karnataka?
On the pages of Talk magazine, S.R. Ramakrishna and Satish Acharya look at the great Indian poll waltz in Karnataka where a 29-year-old sitting Congress MLA has happily declared assets of Rs 910 crore, up from Rs 768 crore four years ago, as it heads into dance of democracy called elections.
Also read: Why is corruption not an issue in Karnataka?
PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: “Narendra Modi vs Rahul Gandhi“: It makes for a sexy headline. And for an audience drawing shouting match on television. But as an analytical frame to understand the upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections, it just doesn’t make any sense.
Let me explain.
Neither Modi nor Rahul is on the ballot in Karnataka. They aren’t likely to lead the government if their parties are voted into office. Nor will they be difference making vote gatherers, and to say otherwise is to misread democratic politics.
Narendra Modi’s spectacular success in Gujarat is neither unique nor is it solely based on claims of good governance and absence of corruption allegations. In fact, Shivraj Singh of Madhya Pradesh, Nitish Kumar of Bihar and Naveen Patnaik of Orissa too claim similar track record of both electoral success as well as efficient administration.
If anything, all four of them (Modi, Singh, Kumar and Patnaik) may have in common is the social alliance they have managed to create in their states, which has enabled them to triumph in the electoral arena. Sure good governance and a clean image always help.
But elections are fought and won based on caste equations, finding the right candidate and moving the right pawns. Modi has done exceptionally well in building that combination, in addition to economic development of Gujarat.
Astute political observers have always pointed out that the secret of Modi’s success in Gujarat is not that he is a practitioner of Hindutva politics; but he has rebuilt the old social alliance (of Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim known popularly as KHAM) Congress relied on for electoral success until the 1980s.
Admittedly, Muslims aren’t a key element of Modi’s social coalition but there is evidence to suggest that he has secured significant Muslim support in the last few years.
Yet the point is Modi has turned out to be an exceptional political strategist within Gujarat, and his administrative acumen has only helped in consolidating these political gains.
Does that make him a star campaigner outside Gujarat, especially among people who haven’t benefited from good governance? No one is suggesting that BJP invite Shivraj Singh or Nitish Kumar to campaign in Karnataka!
This is where Rahul Gandhi may start out with a small advantage, which accrues to any Gandhi-Nehru dynast, and that gets him the initial name recognition nationally as well as some loyalty of Congressmen. That may have been enough in the past even until the 1980s when his father entered politics. But Indian democracy has changed and has become more competitive since then.
Political loyalties are only skin-deep these days even in a High Command centric party like Congress.
Rahul gives the impression of being a reluctant politician, who given a choice would do something else. He hasn’t shown the commitment or stamina of a professional politician who will breathe politics every waking moment.
Can he be the adept strategist and star campaigner that Congress party, and indeed even the media expect him to be?
I remain skeptical. The voter has gotten better at seeing through masks and evaluates his self interests in ways that media or political scientists do not recognize.
What Rahul and Modi will accomplish, if they campaign vigorously in Karnataka, is bridge and/or raise the enthusiasm gap for their parties. That is their appeal will be limited to committed supporters of Congress and BJP respectively, who will be energized to vote for their candidates instead of staying home.
A recent survey by Suvarna News and Cfore media bears this out: more than two thirds of likely BJP voters admit that Modi’s support will make them vote for BJP.
What neither will be able to do is to convert the undecided voter or the opponent. Hence their impact will be limited and marginal at best.
So, why do we still see stories like this in prominent newspapers?
Is it because the media is lazy and cannot come up with better explanations?
IAS – KAS conflict: Are only direct IAS recruits efficient and capable of running fair and impartial elections?
The Karnataka Election Commission seems to think so and has replaced twelve deputy commissioners, who are IAS officers but promoted from Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS). Sashidhar Nandikal reports in Vijaya Karnataka on April 1 that this has created a rift among direct recruits and promotee IAS officers.
Majority of the direct recruits into IAS are non-Kannadigas and therefore lack deep roots in local caste politics or personal / family connections to leading politicians. That’s the not case with KAS recruits, whose initial selection will largely be because of their powerful connections.
Still, we must file this question among the inexplicable mysteries!
On Actresses and Politics: Recently, I was asked to explain why actresses are getting into politics in Karnataka. While the elders in the business, like Umashri, Tara and Jayamala relied on MLC nominations or an Academy chairmanship to launch their political career, the younger lot like Rakshita and Pooja Gandhi is sweating it out, traveling across the state and taking part in party conventions.
Lest the reader mistake their political activism to the tireless campaigning of a Mamata Banerjee or a Mayawati, I hasten to add that these actresses haven’t offered a compelling reason for entering politics. In fact, we don’t hear much about their political commitments or track of social service.
The talk in Bangalore revolves around the money they are being paid. Pooja Gandhi is supposed to have received Rs 2 crore for joining BSR Congress and when asked by Vijaya Karnataka, she strongly denied that rumour. Yet in a political career spanning a little over a year, she has been a member of JD (S) and KJP.
To my questioner, a journalist-friend, I suggested that for someone like Pooja Gandhi a political party is no different than a product or a business she endorses. I suspect she looks at herself as a brand ambassador for a party, and taking a fee for that work isn’t the worst thing in the world.
NIKHIL MORO writes from Mount Pleasant, Michigan: The alleged use of “mine power” by the Bharatiya Janata Party to lure newly elected legislators from the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka is passé.
The real story is elsewhere.
Star of Mysore reports that swamis “of Veerashaiva mutts” are in an “operation to woo” Siddaramaiah into the BJP. No matter that Lal Krishna Advani continues to condemn “vote-bank politics”. Or that Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay rejected politics which impeded “integral humanism.”
Without commenting on what might, or might not, make Siddaramaiah politically eligible, the real story is how the BJP has given a new meaning to ‘Swami and Friends‘: Should swamis, who are presumably living vows of renunciation, associate with particular castes?
Should they be playing such an avowedly political role?
Further, is communal advocacy consistent with Basava’s teachings? Might it create disaffected communities, cynicism, bitterness; even lead away from the constitutional egalitarian ideal?
Specifically, should Shivarathri Desikendra Swamiji (of Suttur) and Shivamurthy Shivacharya Swamiji (of Taralabalu) visibly advocate for Veerashaivas? Should Balagangadharanath Swamiji (of Adichunchunagiri) bat for Vokkaligas?
But most interestingly, the swamis’ political activism exposes a severe disconnect between theory and practice.
Vedanta, the system of philosophy which forms “the foundation of the spiritual culture of India” (Swami Nikhilananda) lays an unequivocal emphasis on vairagya—a renunciation of temporal objects and of ego.
Swami Vivekananda in Raja Yoga declares renunciation as the “real heart of all spiritual culture,” central to the four yogas of religious practice—Karma, Bhakti, Raja and Gnyana.
The goal of religious practice, Vivekananda writes, is to manifest the
“Divinity [which is] within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy—by one, or more, or all of these—and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.”
Separating religion and politics may not come easy in Hindu cultures because Vedanta prescribes merging of the temporal life with spiritual. That’s why Hindu dharma is sometimes described as a pan-religious “way of living”. Still, that’s little threat to Western-style democracy or secularism, given that Hindu religious practice is inclusive and personal (non-proselytizing).
Karnataka has more than 50 large mutts which, together, possess real estate worth numerous billions, manage vast business and philanthropic empires in education or healthcare, and seem to be treated with kid gloves by reverential tax authorities.
The mutts are led by swamis who command the reverence of millions. Many swamis are renowned less for spiritual accomplishment, or for intellectual wherewithal, than for social service.
Which begs the question: What sort of religious gurus do we want?
Should they resemble spiritual giants such as Vivekananda or Ramana? Economic titans like Ratan Tata or Anil Ambani? Storytelling maestros like Morari Bapu or Bhadragiri Achyut Das? Intellectual hulks such as Rajneesh or Rajaji?
The “Veerashaiva swamis”, acting as BJP agents, are recruiting a six-time legislator whose persona is underwritten less by statesmanship than by an abiding frustration. From being part of a 1980s’ “dream team of second-line leaders” Siddaramaiah today seems clueless to confront Deve Gowda’s Machiavellian politics.
So why is the BJP recruiting him other than to access the substantial Kuruba vote which he controls?
What should be swamis’ social role, if any?
Should they indulge in scholarly pursuits—explications of philosophy, tradition and ritual? Give us new interpretations of text? Prescribe tests for dharmic hypotheses? Or run schools and hospitals?
Or act as agents of political parties?
They should know best who own the least.
Photographs: (Left to right) Shivamurthy Shivacharya swamiji of the Taralabalu mutt, Visvesateertha swamiji of the Pejawar mutt, Deshikendra swamiji of the Suttur mutt, Balagangadharnath swamiji of the Adichunchunagiri mutt
The decision of four newly elected MLAs, two each of the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), to resign from the Karnataka Lesiglative Assembly and join the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party with the intention of contesting and winning from their constituencies once again, exposes the inadequacies of the first-past-the-post system. In theory, the MLAs are well entitled to quit, trotting out any reason they wish. In this case, they seem to uniformally believe that the development of their constituencies was not likely with their parties in the opposition.
The resignations are designed to sidestep the anti-defection law, on the one hand, and the opprobrium of power-mongering that usually accompanies defection, on the other, while giving the BJP government a semblance of greater stability. But they raise fundamental questions. One, is being part of the ruling dispensation the only hope for legislators and their constituencies? Two, can a legislator come to the conclusion inside 45 days of 5-year, 1825-day tenture that his constituency is not going to be well-served if he sits on the opposition benches?
Questions: Is it right of the MLAs to quit so early? Is their reason valid? Or have the constituents who had plumped for these candidates been tricked? Is the BJP right in admitting these MLAs for whatever reason or requirement? Or is a stable government more important? Should the parties be made to pay for fresh elections at such breakneck speed? And, at this rate, hypothetically speaking, if all opposition MLAs decide to join the ruling party, are we headed for one-party rule?
E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Indra jumped off his simhasana as if struck by a million volts. He had just been told that somebody in the southern Indian state of Karnataka was out to usurp his seat in Amravathy.
“It’s not a joke. In his name some 30,000 temples in this place will start doing puja daily. That can only mean he is trying to topple you and take over. Even if he stops the mass puja due to objections, he reeks of incense doing hourly puja in his office, at home and on tours. In short, everywhere. Before doing anything, he does a quick puja. This includes daily chores like bathing, eating and sleeping and other things I cannot mention. That is very ominous.”
That was Deep Eye, Indra’s earth watcher.
“Indeed it is. It looks like he is eyeing my seat. How can I stop him? Can I give him say 100 elephants and 200 horses as a gift and make him my friend?”
Indra sounded desperate.
Deep Eye shot down the proposal: “With inflation reaching 11% there, prices of horse gram and coconuts going through the roof, how will he feed the brood? He will consider your gift an insult. It will create the opposite effect. He might start serial pujas. There is only one way. He is a Chief Minister, equivalent to a Maharaja. He is heading a rickety government propped by some independents. If we can get the independents away, his government will fall and you are then safe.”
“How can we get the independents to ditch the government? Can I send Narada to create some trouble?”
“That won’t work. There are persons who are equal to 1,000 Naradas down there. On the other hand, we should send Narada some other time to get some advanced training.”
“What can I give these independents? Ruby, Sapphire? Can I send Menaka, Urvashi and Rambha? Can I loan them my Airavatha?’
“I don’t know in which yuga, you are living in, Raja,” said Vishwamitra who joined in the discussion. “My divyadhristi tells me they have all these and much more. They have mines which are more than all these things put together. Some of them have helicopters which can carry your Airavatha!”
“Can’t we do something? Anything?”
The Deep Eye came in: “We can’t, Maharaja. I understand that as per the local custom, the two political parties usually take the independents to a ‘Resort’ and do ‘Political Churning’ with the help of local Naradas. It is somewhat like our ‘Samudra Manthana‘ done by Devathas and Rakshasas. I can’t guess who is who here. After continuous churning, the colours of independents change when more and more mines and lands are added to their kitty. When the independents are satisfied with the size of their kitty, the Government will fall and the new Government takes over. Till that happens your seat won’t be stable. Further, even when a new Government is formed, the same independents, now richer many times, will play a key new role. This goes on and on and is very popular in Karnataka.”
“It’s amazing to see the power of these Independents! We should have some of them here.”
Vishwamitra replied, “Raja, if we get them here they will create an imbalance of power that is hard to comprehend. First they will side with Shiva and later ditch him by joining with Vishnu. They will even combine with both and take on Brahma. They are capable of creating havoc in all the Lokas and Swarga will become Naraka in no time. But they will do all this by first invoking Gods’ names!”
Indra by now had decided what should be the next course.
He left for the forest early morning without telling any one. They searched him all over and finally found him in the Himalayas.
To a sobbing Shachi Devi, Indra’s wife, Vishwamitra comforted thus: “It’s too late. Nothing can stop him. He is praying all Gods to make him an Independent!”
A photograph may convey a thousand words, but a cartoon conveys a few thousand more. With Karnataka home minister V.S. Acharya caught on the wrong foot twice within a fortnight, once on the Haveri firing incident and then on the Padmapriya suicide, Praja Vani linesman P. Mahmud hits where it hurts most.
Cartoon: courtesy P. Mahmud/ Praja Vani
Three-time Mandya MP and former Union minister of State for information and broadcasting, M.H. Amarnath Gowda alias Ambarish, who lost in the assembly elections from Srirangapatna, quoted in Star of Mysore:
“I don’t want to be in politics anymore. After this election, I have come to realise that only if one has money, it is possible to win. Where can I loot to bring that much money? Though I am not disheartened by this defeat, I feel I do not want politics.
“As an MP, I helped in the developmental works in Srirangapatna by getting funds released for several projects. Even though I had submitted my resignation to the Minister’s post and the Parliament seat, the Central Government has not yet accepted it.
“The High Command is aware of my charisma. But the voters of Srirangapatna did not realise it.”
Photograph: Karnataka Photo News
Link via Nikhil Moro
The transmogrification of the fortunes of our representatives upon ascending the steps of the Vidhana Soudha doesn’t seem to trouble voters as evidenced by the election of scores of stinking-rich candidates. Nor, it seems, does it interest the Election Commission and the media after the affidavits are filed away.
But what of the parties themselves?
Where do they stand in this nanga naach of the nouveau riche? Do they have any pangs at all of their own profligacy when they shepherd away legislators to “resorts” to prevent them from fleeing; when they conduct meetings in “five-star hotels” to decide ministerial teams first, to allocate portfolios later?
For weeks now, Sushma Swaraj has been smugly talking of the prices of “akki, bele, yenne” and how it impacts the common man. Rajiv Pratap Rudy imperiously talks of how the UPA government has unleashed “economic terror” by raising the prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas.
And other subedar-majors of the shouting brigade like Ravi Shankar Prasad have been demanding the resignation of the prime minister and finance minister for mismanaging the economy, etc, from the safe confines of armoured OB tanks of the TV companies.
But where does the BJP itself stand in this pantheon?
Neerja Chowdhury, the old Statesman political correspondent, has a column on the edit page of today’s New Indian Express, and just one paragraph of it is enough to demonstrate the disconnect between what our political parties spout and what they spew.
“The tension amongst the Gen X leaders is an open secret, and there was heartburn over who got the maximum credit for the victory in Karnataka. L.K. Advani went out of his way to thank them one by one by name in his speech at the national executive, though he failed to mention Rajnath Singh.
“Though the party chartered a special plan to take BJP leaders from Delhi to Bangalore for the swearing-in ceremony of B.S. Yediyurappa, curiously Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi decided at the last moment not to go. This led Arun Jaitley who had been the master of ceremonies of the victory to cry off.
“The plane, reportedly chartered at the cost of Rs. 27 lakh, finally carried only Advani, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, and the Punjab, Uttarakhand and Gujarat CMs Prakash Singh Badal, B.C. Khanduri and Narendra Modi and younger BJP leaders.”
The operative part is not the crosswires between party president and prime minister-hopeful, or the tu-tu-main-main among the second rung leaders. The operative part is the plane.
Rs 27 lakh?
To ferry a dozen people @ Rs 225,000 per person, or two dozen @ Rs 112,500 per person?
Admittedly, the swearing-in of the first BJP government in the South is a matter of great pride for the BJP and its stars, faithfuls and followers. Maybe, it is convenient to take everybody in one plane and have them all land in one place at one time.
Assuming the Rs 27 lakh figure is accurate (an official denial should quickly establish its veracity), where does a “party with a difference” get the dough for such spending?
If it is a legitimate expense from its own coffers that will get reflected in the party’s account books next year, should the BJP be splurging it this way? If it is some rich businessman’s private plane, what is the likelihood that the businessman will forget this small favour to the big wigs?
Maybe, the BJP was just so delighted on laying its footprint in the South that it didn’t bother to ponder the costs in these super-inflationary times, but has it heard of something called the carbon footprint?
When a parivar of three of a civil aviation minister spends Rs 2.69 lakh for a five-day holiday in Goa and sends the bill to the government, is there nothing wrong if a parivar of a dozen or two dozen sends a bill of Rs 27 lakh to the new government in Karnataka, or the potential one in Delhi?
Or do these things just not matter because, after all, the Congress has been doing it for 60 years?
M.J. Akbar lays his hands on the personal jottings of the prime minister for the benefit of Khaleej Times:
“What I can’t understand is why the geeks of Bangalore never voted for the Congress after all I did for them. I don’t get it. The Indo-US deal is for their India! I’ve sacrificed my future for their future! And yet they’ve shifted to the awful BJP, which didn’t have the decency to support a deal that they would have happily done themselves. I only sold the right to test — which fool wants another bomb, in any case; the BJP would have sold the whole store! Politics is so unfair….
“Young Prithviraj Chauhan was wrong when he said we lost Karnataka because Deve Gowda split the secular vote. Judging by the speed with which Gowda’s secular vote rushed towards the BJP rather than towards us, we are lucky Gowda held on to 16 per cent. If he had sunk further, the margin between the BJP and us would have been greater.
“I can’t understand why chaps keep talking of inflation as the reason for the Congress slump. My economic policies are beyond reproof. What have prices got to do with defeat? Millions of honest Kannadigas voted for Congress. Don’t you think their wives go to the market? If prices did not affect them, why should they affect anyone else? I can’t stop the price of oil from rising, can I — and when I offer peaceful nuclear energy in 2020 no one wants it! I could have been a Gulliver during these four years but little men from Lilliput have tied me up, made me immobile.”
Read the full diary: The secret diaries of Manmohan, Advani
Ashok Mitra in The Telegraph, Calcutta:
“Chikmagalur on the Nilgiri foothills was a special situation. Indira Gandhi was a damsel in distress, chivalrous Karnataka had to bail her out. It was slightly less of a moral challenge in the case of her daughter-in-law; gallantry, however, re-asserted itself and she could romp home from Bellary. But those were ancient times. The dynasty with the big D has meanwhile lost its lustre; it has also to compete with similar species at the local level.
“The people in Karnataka have anyway finally made up their mind; they had enough of the two political formations — one supposedly leaning towards the Vokkaligas and the other representing Lingayats — which played Cox and Box in the past decades in the name of running the state administration. They have now opted for the unknown devil, the Bharatiya Janata Party; what has been at work is a try-anything-once kind of practical philosophy.”
Read the full article: State of the nation
MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Call it lack of skill and experience in political management, or the manifestation of an authoritarian streak for which B.S. Yediyurappa is known, or just a simple case of lack of communication. But the twin hiccups that marked the beginning of the BJP rule in Karnataka were eminently avoidable.
Thankfully, the controversies over the composition of the ministry and the Governor’s address to the joint session of the legislature have blown over as quickly as they surfaced, with Jagadish Shettar agreeing to be the Assembly speaker and Rameshwar Thakur agreeing to read out his address before the majority test, but there can be little doubt that the two episodes have painted BJP in not very glowing light.
What is particularly galling is that the two issues came to the fore on the day the BJP’s national leadership had congregated in Bangalore to witness history being made below the fold.
Shettar, despite his senior status, stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony on being denied the berth in the ministry being sworn in and gave public expression to his sense of disappointment.
Worse, while BJP cadres all over the state were celebrating the occasion with gusto, Shettar’s followers in hometown Hubli were staging a dharna protesting his non-inclusion. They torched buses in the process, which prompted Congress chief Mallikarjuna Kharge to demand that the loss to public property be recovered from Shettar.
It would be interesting to see what Shettar’s stand would be if Kharge were to raise the issue in the assembly when it meets.
The omission of Shettar was not the only sore spot in the Yediyurappa ministry. It was imbalanced to the core and the approach of new Chief Minister appeared totally flawed.
As many as eleven districts went without representation. One would understand BJP not being able to give representation to the five districts of Chamarajanagar, Chikkaballapur, Hassan, Mandya and Ramanagara, where the party drew a blank in the elections.
But six other district where the BJP had done well, like Dharwad (where BJP had won six of the seven seats), and Gadag (where BJP had all the four seats), and not so well in other four districts including Mysore, were deprived of their due in the arrangement for sharing power, for which no reasons were given.
What led to Yediyurappa dropping Shettar, who was once considered as his protégé is still a mystery.
Shettar owes his rise from being political lightweight to the leader of the opposition in the second term, state party president in the fourth time, and as minister in the coalition government entirely to Yediyurappa.
Yediyurappa’s shocking and unexpected defeat in 1999 catapulted Shettar to the position the latter had held mainly because Yediyurappa was determined that his traducers in the party should have no chance.
Again the same reason came in way of Shettar being anointed as the state president when the tenure of incumbent president Basavaraj Patil Sedam came to an end. He was the automatic choice for a berth in the coalition government which was formed by the BJP with JDS on the fall of the Congress led JDS supported coalition.
Whether his exclusion was due to the fact that Shettar had been identified with the Ananth Kumar, a bete noire of Yeddyurappa, or due to vigorous campaign Shettar and others had launched during the days of the coalition against a cabinet berth being given to Shobha Karandlaje, a confidante of Yediyurappa is not clear.
But Yediyurappa’s rationale in offering the post of the Speaker as a sop to Shettar was not very convincing either.
On the other hand Shettar took the denial of cabinet post seriously and personally and considered it as a deliberate affront. His supporters went to the extent of accusing Ananth Kumar, his new mentor in the BJP’s faction ridden politics, of sacrificing him for the sake of his political designs.
Shettar, who is associated with the realtors lobby, did not consider the Speaker’s post as quite attractive and this would come in the way of his doing the “people’s work”. “Speaker’s post or nothing else” was his motto, as his supporters went on the rampage and sought to portray it as injustice done to Northern Karnataka.
What is intriguing in the whole matter is the communication gap between Shettar and Yediyurappa before and after the ministry making exercise was completed.
Yediyurappa could have easily explained his rationale to Shettar in person, assuaged his hurt feelings and sought cooperation. On the other hand, Yediyurappa chose to let the national leadership resolve the issue rather than talking to Shettar himself.
Shettar, who was reluctant to change his mind under any circumstances, could not resist responding the summons from the party bosses. He went to New Delhi, where he was given a piece of the mind by the leadership and was left with no alternative but to fall in line. The national leadership made it clear to Shettar that it had taken his tantrums seriously, and delivered a “speaker or mere legislator” ultimatum. Shettar meekly acquiesced.
Even as the ripples caused by the Shettar episode continued to linger in the BJP, the row over the governor’s address broke out. It is customary for the governor after every election or at the beginning of the year to spell out the policies of the government, but Thakur insisted on the government proving its majority before delivering the address.
BJP circles saw red in the stance of the Governor, since he had not expressed any doubts of the numbers the BJP ministry commanded, when he sworn in the cabinet, which included five independents, who had pledged their support.
Why was the Governor suddenly making this an issue, and was the Congress behind the move to needle the government needlessly?
Legal circles hold different points of view on the propriety or otherwise of the Governor’s action. Quibbling apart, what the BJP’s initial confrontationist approach with the Governor underlined was the lack of tactical political wisdom in getting over the ticklish situation.
Since the BJP had the necessary numbers on its side, why did it flinch from proving the majority as desired by the Governor? After the Speaker’s election, it could have done had a floor test and proved the point convincingly.
The Governor subsequently changed his stand after a team led by the Chief Minister called on him, bringing a happy end to what would have emerged as a thorny problem. But the two episodes go some way in showing that the BJP would do with a dose of tactical wisdom.
The ministerial ambitions of H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, the four-time BJP MLA from the Chamaraja assembly constituency in Mysore, have once again been cruelly thwarted.
Gowda vents his feelings in today’s Star of Mysore:
“The leaders of the party have favoured some MLAs, who were elected for the first time due to their personal influence on the powers-that-be….
“During his visit to Chamundi Hills on 29 May, B.S. Yediyurappa invited me to his residence the next day. When I called on him on the morning on May 30, my footwear went missing. Before my return from the store after purchasing a pair of shoes, I missed out on becoming a Minister.
“The time was 12.26 pm. Yediyurappa was proceeding to the Vidhana Soudha for taking part in the oath-taking ceremony. He told me that I was not being made a Minister. When I sought to know why I was not getting a berth in the Cabinet, he just said, let us talk about it later.“
The newly elected MLA from Vijaynagar, Anand Singh, continues on his lyrical journey, this time expressing undying gratitude to the Brothers Reddy—Karunakar and Janardhan—and their common pal, B. Sriramulu, by congratulating them on their becoming ministers, through half-page ads in the newspapers.
MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The BJP hoisting the saffron flag for the first time on its own south of the Vindhyas is remarkable indeed. But what is equally remarkable is the manner in which the Election Commission ensured a peaceful poll after delimitation to give an elected government in six months—and how quickly and easily the voters of Karnataka warmed up to it.
In a way, both the EC and the voters happen to be the real winners in a seesaw and nerve-racking battle of the ballot in the State.
It was trying time for both.
The electorate had to rise above the array of allurements proferred by the parties, to make their choice clear and categorical, especially in the context of the political havoc brought about by the fractured mandate of the previous poll.
They proved wrong the political parties, who had cried foul when the EC took measures to ensure strictest adherence to the code of conduct, wrong, and gave open expression to the parties’ apprehension of the deleterious impact the restrictions may have on the turnout.
In fact, the electorate put in a better poll turnout than last time, with an additional 10 lakh voters exercising the franchise over and above the 251 lakh people who had voted in 2004. While the politically articulate urban voters exhibited their usual indifference in participating in the poll process, their rural counterparts gave an exhibition of their better commitment to democratic values.
The Election Commission, on the other hand, resisted the pressure from the higher echelons of the UPA government in New Delhi, to ensure that the Karnataka got its elected government on the expiry of six months of the President’s rule, a feat which has come in for commendation by all those interested in upholding democratic values and strictest adherence to constitutional niceties.
The EC also took steps to ensure that elections were held in a clean atmosphere free from environmental and noise pollution, and curbed the open flaunting of money clout by the contestants.
Now that it is all over, what is particularly noteworthy is the political maturity displayed by the voters in making their political preferences.
For, it is a case of the electorate trusting BJP but not fully. The voters have trusted the BJP enough to give it an additional 31 seats over and above the seats which it had won previously. This could be attributed to electorate finding merit in the BJP grievance of betrayal by the JDS and positive response to the BJP’s plea for being given “one chance” to rule.
But that the electorate has not trusted it fully is evident from the fact the BJP was caught three short of the magic number with 110 seats. A slip in its home turf, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, has been the main contributory factor for its embarrassment. It lost three seats out of the eleven held by it last time in these districts, which happens to be same margin by which it has missed the majority mark.
The post poll scenario as desired by the collective wisdom of the voter was thus clear.
Only the BJP could form the government with the help of independents, which is precisely what has been done now. And the Congress (80) and the JDS (28) did not have the requisite numbers on their side to even harbour thoughts of cobbling up a coalition or of upsetting the present government.
Whether they like it or not, the BJP and the independents have to stick together, since the collapse of the arrangement would lead to the fresh poll, a prospect dreaded by all the parties and the MLAs put together. Herein lies the safety clause, which should give durability to the present political arrangement worked out.
The only inference one could draw by the Congress making a gain of 15 seats is that the electorate has softened its attitude towards the party and has preferred the Congress wherever it has given short shrift to the JDS in the old Mysore area in general and the first phase of polling in particular.
In the case of the JDS, the message is quite clear. The electorate has punished the party for its treacherous role in the destabilisation of the two coalition governments in the past and the political tantrums thrown by it have cost a loss of 30 seats out of the 58 it had earlier.
However, at the end of the day, it is not the distribution of seats which evokes interest but the manner in which the votes have been shared reveals another curious facet of the current elections.
Out of the total of 261.56 lakh voters who exercised their franchise, the Congress got 90.48 lakhs, followed by 88.57 lakhs for the BJP, 50 lakhs for the Janata Dal, and the others including the independents, none of whom was able to reach the victory tape, accounted for the remaining 32.49 lakh votes.
The gain for the BJP was around 17 lakhs, the Congress gained 2 lakhs, and the JDS lost by equal margin.
The gain by 17.39 lakhs, helped the BJP close the yawning gap that stood between it and the Congress at the hustings. The gap was around 45 lakhs in 1999 (Cong 90.77 lakhs, BJP 45.98 lakhs). It came down to 35 lakhs in 2004 (Cong 88.61 lakhs, BJP 71.18 lakhs). And it is less than 2 lakhs now (Cong 90.48 lakhs, BJP 88.57 lakhs).
Going by the trend, the BJP may be able to overtake Congress on the next occasion, which may have a bearing on the outcome of the parliament elections, where the political affliliation rather than the stature of the candidates rule the roost.
There was an addition of 15 lakhs to the voters list this time, with the electorate going up from 385.86 lakhs to 400.10 lakhs this time and the polled votes went from 251.29 lakh votes to 261.56 lakh votes.
Since none of the new voters would have missed the opportunity of casting the votes, one could safely assume that all have voted and all of them must have plumped for the BJP only.
The Congress gained around two lakh votes, with the vote share moving up from 88.61 lakhs to 90.48 lakhs. Despite the gain, the Congress could only regain the mark of 90.77 lakhs of 1999, from which it had slipped subsequently.
Since the JDS had lost the ground by around 2 lakhs, it can be safely assumed that it benefited the Congress, since the party made gains in the Old Mysore area in the first phase of polling.
JDS was unable to get a single additional vote this time. As a matter of fact it had lost the ground to the extent of 2.20 lakhs between the two elections, with the total votes going down from 52.20 lakhs in 2004 to 50.00 lakhs this time. It is precisely this factor which spoilt Deve Gowda‘s desire of playing a pivotal role in the formation of the government this time.
Who says that the Karnataka voters are dumb? They have enough political sagacity to see through the political game and make their own independent decision.
The view of the swearing-in ceremony from the roof of Visvesvaraya Towers (top); the lone woman minister Shobha Karandlaje urges the new chief minister to greet the hordes after the ceremony (middle); and all the members of the B.S. Yediyurappa family pose for the camera in his office after he takes charge (bottom).
Photographs: Karnataka Photo News
Three days before the Karnataka results were declared, the BJP had accused the UPA of criminalising governance. And the party loses no opportunity to dredge up Shibhu Soren, Mohammed Taslimuddin and Lalu Prasad Yadav as epitomes of all that’s wrong with our polity.
But there’s such a thing as complaining too much.
Almost one out of every four MLAs of the BJP elected the new Karnataka assembly is tainted by criminal charges, and 60 per cent of all MLAs who face criminal charges belong to the BJP, says The Telegraph, Calcutta, citing Election Commission records.
Infographic: courtesy The Telegraph
Read the full story: Crime-taint on BJP foot
Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN-IBN:
“Karnataka is only the latest example of the time warp the Congress is trapped in: a campaign remote controlled from Delhi was doomed for failure in the distant Deccan….
“S.M. Krishna‘s predicament reflects the growing isolation of regional chieftains in a political party apparatus where there is a Supreme Leader and the First Family while the others are all expected to play the role of faithful lieutenants….
“The Congress’s Karnataka in charge, Prithviraj Chauhan, was constantly undermined by a party structure in which alleged proximity to Sonia Gandhi of a handful of drawing room politicians becomes an instrument of undiluted power and petty ambition.
“How does one explain, for example, the attitude of a Margaret Alva, who appeared to lose interest in the Karnataka elections once her son was denied a ticket? Or the clout of a former state chief minister like Veerappa Moily, who would struggle to win a municipal election in his home district of Udipi?”
Also read: Congress, the ageing family firm
L.K. Advani, Narendra Modi, Prakash Singh Badal, Rajnath Singh join Karnataka’s 25 chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and his ministers from the Vidhana Soudha after taking oath on Friday, 30 May 3008.
Photograph: Karnataka Photo News
The defining feature of the Karnataka elections of 2008 is the legitimisation of big money as being central to the political process. Whereas in the past, the various lobbies—excise, education, infrastructure, etc—were happy to bankroll their chosen ones and stay behind the scenes, the new moneybags like miners and land sharks are hands-on in their political ambitions and not at all cagey about advertising it.
And the BJP, for all its sanctimonious self-righteousness, is only too happy to play the game.
Leaders like Sushma Swaraj, whose election campaign in Bellary against Sonia Gandhi saw the mining lobby obtain a stranglehold on Karnataka politics, offer two very predictable responses. One, if the Congress has done so all these years, why should the BJP be stopped? And two, when there is no law against moneybags from entering politics, how can we keep them out if they want to “serve the people”.
Little wonder, the Reddy brothers—N. Karunakar Reddy and N. Janardhan Reddy—played a key role in wooing and winning over the independents whose support is crucial for the B.S. Yediyurappa government.
Little wonder, Anand Singh (in picture, above), the newly elected MLA from Vijaynagar, has taken out a full-page advertisement in today’s Hindu, larger than Yediyurappa’s own ad in Vijaya Karnataka.
Singh declared assets of Rs 74.56 crore, according to Karnataka Election Watch, and faces criminal cases for “unlawful assembly, rioting, rioting, armed with deadly weapon, voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means, voluntarily causing hurt, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace, criminal intimidation, house-trespass, mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees, member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object, and attempt to murder.”
Lest we forget, M/s Singh, Reddys, et al, will be making laws for the people of the land.