Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

12-and-a-half steps Congress must take. Or else.

26 December 2007

PRITAM SENGUPTA in New Delhi and PALINI R. SWAMY in Bangalore write: Udaoed in Uttar Pradesh. Pichkaoed in Punjab. Upset in Uttarakhand. Gored in Gujarat. You might think it can’t get any worse for the Congress, but it could. So how can the Congress be resuscitated to believe that there might be life after death?

Your answer might be, why the eff should we be bothered, that’s Sonia Gandhi‘s problem. If that is your answer, stop reading right here. On the other hand, if you spot a management challenge—a 122-year-old brand in dire need of fresh thinking, better positioning—here are 12-and-a-half steps the Grand Ol’ Party must take if it is not to be pummelled in the next general elections.

***

1) Have the humility to recognise that somebody could be better than you at playing this game. Merely because three members of your family have been prime ministers, it doesn’t mean there is something special about the water and air at 10, Janpath that will keep power in the family’s bloodstream forever. In other words, admit there is a problem. It could just be wrong brand of tea you are sipping (Narendrabhai, wink-wink).

2) Stop looking for scapegoats; go into election mode—now. Get thinking heads like Sam Pitroda and Jairam Ramesh to strategise on the key issues you are getting hammered on like terrorism, internal security, minority appeasement. Hire top-flight American image makers to communicate this lucidly to the educated, urban middleclasses—it is they who are deserting the Congress in droves. Use the traditional media like newspapers, radio, television by all means, but also exploit new media to reach out to the young. Set up blogs, send SMSes, have Sonia Gandhi speak on YouTube. Heck, get a “Second Life“!

3) It’s not a nuanced game the BJP is playing. It’s a primal, jugular campaign that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Let the BJP know that two can play the game. Get some aggression into the system. Get a few straight-talking ruffian-types, for want of a better word to describe the Rajiv Pratap Rudys, to fight the nightly television battles with the BJP spokesmen, not smooth lawyers like Kapil Sibal or Abhishek Singhvi or hopeless wimps like Veerappa Moily. Remember, the English channels are a small constituency. And they don’t bloody vote.

4) It’s a young country; get the young into the thick of things. There is no point claiming that Rahul Gandhi is “Our Dhoni” and keeping him in the reserves. Remember, Dhoni doesn’t score his runs in the pavilion. Remember, also, that L.K. Advani has a 50-year headstart in politics. Push Rahul baba to open the innings. Give him the partners he wants, not just other sons he has played with (Jyotiraradhya Scindia or Sachin Pilot). Let him get his hands dirty fighting his battles. He might fail as he has in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, but he will be wiser; he will learn he’s to blame, not somebody else. After all, didn’t he grandly speak of “meritocracy”? Let the boy realise that there’s no such thing as a free prime ministerial lunch. He has to earn every morsel. Ensure that the message gets to every leader down the line.

5) Stop giving out the signal of protecting the “unprotectable” and undeserving. If Jagdish Tytler and his ilk are guilty in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom, allow law to take its own course. In fact, go out of your way to help the law take its course. Not just with Tytler but with every tainted Congressman everywhere in the country. Be open, be transparent, be fair, be fearless. Let the country know that nobody, howsoever mighty, howsoever close to “the family”, will be spared if there is even a taint. Adopt a zero-tolerance approach to criminality, corruption, rape, kidnap, murder, extortion… Like Hindustan Lever, advertise a “New, Improved” Congress. The nation will respect you for this.

6) Pull the rug from underneath the chaddis. Come clean on every single controversy you or your family have been involved in or accused of. Deprive them of readymade issues. If Ottavio Quattrochi is indeed guilty of anything, he should pay for it. In fact, go out of your way to help the CBI catch him. If he is not guilty, communicate to the country on where you stand. But don’t allow the impression to gain ground that you are using CBI to scuttle all moves to get him here. If you really play non-partisan, people will respect you for this. By being transparent, you will win the hearts of people.

7) Demonstrate that you look at all Indians equally, not as Hindus, Muslims, whatever. If you want to hang Afzal Guru, hang him. If you don’t want to hang Afzal Guru, say so why, clearly. Don’t dither. Stop giving the impression that you are shielding him because he is a Muslim. Terrorism has no religion, but terrorism is also not the place to show your secularism. It will fetch you votes, of course, but only minority votes. Remember, the majority is always bigger in size than the minority. Adopt the same strategy in all States.

8) Stop being so bloody defensive. Take the battle into the enemy camp; communicate, communicate, communicate. Shout from the rooftops that the BJP’s claims on handling terrorism are bogus. It sent Jaswant Singh with a known terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar. It released Peter Bleach. Shout from the rooftops that POTA did nothing to halt terrorism. After the IC-814 was hijacked when it was around. Parliament was attacked when it was around. Shout from the rooftops that its grandstanding on Naxalism is crap. BJP-ruled Chattisgarh is the hotbed of Maoist activity.

9) Stop being such control freaks. Encourage party leaders all the way down to the State, district and city levels to demonstrate that they are adult human beings with their own opinions, desires, demands, needs. You cannot win trust and confidence by ruling a State from Delhi all the time. When Modi is being tom-tommed as chief minister, how can you have a Bharatsinh Solanki say, “I will wait for ‘High command’ to decide!” This was good when Indiraji was ruling 25 years ago!” Times have changed. Give people what they want, and hold them accountable if they screw up.

10) Don’t let the tail wag the dog any longer; don’t get bogged down by the Left or by allies like the DMK. They are running the Government by proxy. They have succeeded in portraying you as running a weak government with a weaker prime minister. Stand up and stand firm. It is far better to go to the polls than to be seen and perceived as a weakling by all and sundry. Give the Left an ultimatum to put up or shut up; or tell them to take a long hike.

11) Allow people to stand up to you; encourage them to disagree with you. Where are the Rajesh Pilots and Madhav Rao Scindias? It is important to groom the younger leaders by giving them opportunity to lead. Give one State election to the team of youngsters to try out their plan, their method of working and see what happens. At worst, you could lose, which is happening anyway! At least you would have given them a chance to prove their worth.

12) Above all, stop acting so coy and give Manmohan Singh at the Centre and all the Congress-ruled States an ultimatum: deliver and demonstrate development in the next six months. Come up with quantitative and qualitative results to back your claims. Come up with one killer idea between now and then that you can take to the polls. Show that your growth is inclusive—it includes the majority. As shown by Mayawati, it is better to carry all sections of the electorate than pandering to supposedly minority interest always.And finally, this half-step.

And, finally, this half-step.

Stop giving the impression that you are running the UPA government by remote-control. Stop your cronies and factotums from giving the impression that they only dance to your tunes. Let the country know that Manmohan Singh is not just there to warm the seat but to run the government.

‘India is the loser if Hindus become communal’

22 December 2007

The Jnanpith Award-winning Kannada writer U.R. Anantha Murthy completed 75 years of age yesterday. At an interaction held at the Central College in Bangalore, he articulated his position on a range of contemporary issues.

***

# A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is a good, humane and capable man. But it is not right to say that he is so despite being a Muslim. That despite being a Muslim he sings bhajans, listens to music, and eats idlis not mutton.

# The Muslim community would be lost if Muslims become communal but the entire country would be lost if Hindus become communal.

# Pejawar mutt seer Vishwesha Thirtha swamiji should declare that any person, including a dalit, would be allowed to perform pooja to Lord Krishna on becoming a swamiji but not a person who has visited the United States. Such a step would be welcome as India is becoming a “victim” of Americanisation.

# In democratic politics, there were always opponents but nowadays there are only enemies, which is evident from the language and conduct of the politicians. Voting should be made compulsory and there should be a penalty for non-voting.

# The entry of former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy into politics was a move for the benefit of the family but that was not the case with Rajiv Gandhi’s entry into politics, though initially I had thought so.

# The mining lobby has overtaken all other lobbies, like liquor and education and mine owners have become powerful persons in politics. Export of ores should be stopped immediately; government should produce steel and other products locally using ores.

# The UPA and West Bengal governments should be ashamed of the way in which they are treating Taslima Nasreen. One can agree, disagree or criticise her for her writings and thoughts, but nobody has right to harass her in this manner.

# From the days of partition, through the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and till the recent Gujarat riots, people who indulged in mass violence have gone unpunished. Now the people know that they can escape from law when they indulge in mass violence.

# George Fernandes was someone I liked, but when he said the Americans were behind the killing of a Christian priest in Gujarat, I lost all respect for him.

Also read: The Mahaan elastic buddhijeevi of the year is…

‘Who’s Anantha Murthy? What’s his contribution?’

Special: The U.R. Anantha Murthy interview

Why the Gujarat model won’t work across India

21 December 2007

Gujarat has been the great Hindutva laboratory, and there are many who have articulated the belief that the “Gujarat Model”—a combination of muscular cultural nationalism and unstoppable China-like economic growth—can be embraced and replicated across India, to give the BJP a much needed shot in the arm and to transport the country into a new era.

Pamela Philipose writes in the Indian Express that both assumptions are flawed:

“Can the politics of communal polarisation practised successfully in Gujarat be replicated in the country? There is the argument that Narendra Modi’s model of governance has a certain resonance in the New, Resurgent India, which is impatient with the burdens of the past, and its legacy of poverty, backwardness and encrusted Nehruvian values….

“But Gujarat is not, and cannot be, India and Modi’s future ascendancy to prime-ministership is a political pipe dream. First, we need to clarify that Gujarat’s ‘growth’—on which Modi has put his personal imprimatur— actually dates back a thousand years in a region that has been at the intersection of innumerable trade routes. Gujarat’s economic history is bound to its geographical location both as a border region and a maritime one….

“That apart, Gujarat itself has a social composition that does not approximate India’s. Not only does it have a higher percentage of upper caste population, it has lower Muslim representation. At the all-India level, Muslims represent 13.4 per cent of the population, while they constitute 9.1 per cent of Gujarat’s population. This combination of a higher upper caste/lower Muslim presence makes Gujarat unique (in UP, for instance a higher upper caste presence is accompanied by a significant Muslim presence), and makes it easier for Gujarati politicians across party lines to practise the politics of communal polarisation, something that is considerably more difficult to do at the national level”

Read the full article: Is Gujarat the new India?

What the BJP should do after winning Gujarat

16 December 2007

Sudheendra Kulkarni, former media advisor to Atal Behari Vajpayee and trusted aide of L.K. Advani, in the Sunday Express:

“A victory in Gujarat should neither make the BJP overconfident nor tempt it to think that what works for it in Gujarat will do so in the rest of India…. The BJP leadership should take advantage of this situation to broaden its appeal, and, in particular, reach out to the Muslim community, without losing its traditional support base.

“A sincere and credible assurance by the BJP to address the legitimate concerns of the Muslim community would, far from being an act of appeasement, help the party politically. This strategy may not bring a lot of Muslim votes for the BJP, but it would certainly enlarge the acceptability of its leadership, and help expand and strengthen the NDA.”

Read the full article: Lesson for victor: shun confrontation

Moment of reckoning is here for Narendrabhai

10 December 2007

Yogendra Yadav of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in The Indian Express:

“Democracy is taking revenge on Narendra Modi. This election may well be the long deferred moment of truth for the man who invoked popular mandate to bypass norms, laws or the Constitution.

“Democracy’s revenge is of course not taking the expected path. For one thing, Modi is not being punished for presiding over the massacre of Muslims in 2002. Nor is it a routine case of anti-incumbency, or more appropriately a punishment for mis-governance. This is not a popular rejection of Narendra Modi either.

“Democracy’s revenge is taking an unusual and perhaps unholy form in this election. Modi’s success depended upon shutting down the routine and normal business of politics, on not having to share power with anyone. While Modi could tame the opposition and shut up his critics, he could not shut down democratic politics.

“This election is about the resurfacing of normal politics. The quotidian, the mundane, the local and the parochial stuff of politics refused to die, thus forcing Modi to play on a turning pitch that he is not comfortable with. He cannot win this election in one, single, grand masterstroke. He has to win it bit by bit, constituency by constituency. This may well prove the nemesis of Narendra Modi.

“Rebellion within the BJP is just one of those forms. Another form is the rise of media, and not just the Delhi-based English and secular media, as counter-establishment. Finally, caste-community equations have resurfaced in a much stronger way than before, defying all attempts to subsume these under an overarching Hindu identity.”

Read the full article: Modi’s moment of truth

Illustration: R. Prasad/ Mail Today

Advani’s Hindutva vs Narendra Modi’s Hindutva

9 December 2007

Vir Sanghvi in The Hindustan Times:

“The conventional view of Narendra Modi is that he is a Hindutva hero. It is true that he represents an aggressive brand of Hindu politics, but it’s very different from the kind of Hindutva that the likes of Lal Krishna Advani have espoused since the mid-1980s.

“Advani’s view of Hindus is that they are tolerant, mild-mannered people, who have been driven to anger by the favours shown to Muslims by vote-hungry politicians…. In Advani’s Hindutva, the target is not the average Muslim, but the pseudo-secular establishment whose pursuit of vote-bank politics has left Hindus feeling like second-class citizens in their own country.

“That’s not Modi’s position. His brand of Hindutva is angry, vituperative, aggressive and overly macho. Advani is the elderly, cultured uncle who tells you that enough is enough. But Modi is the brash demagogue shouting questions at the crowd and waiting to hear the roar that emanates in response.

“Nor is there any subtlety to his politics. Like all crypto-fascists throughout history, his style is to isolate an easily identifiable group and to then portray it as the enemy. Adolf Hitler used this strategy to turn Germans against the Jews. Modi uses a variation to sow mistrust of Muslims.

“Modi’s brand of Hindutva has more in common with classic fascist demagogues than it does with the Sangh Parivar tradition. The BJP realises that it cannot afford to subscribe to this philosophy…. So, that’s the ultimate paradox: the BJP finally has a leader who can deliver an entire State but it simply cannot afford to let him rise any further.”

Read the full column: The Gujarat paradoxes

‘The real battle in Gujarat is Modi versus BJP’

8 December 2007

Coomi Kapoor in The Indian Express:

“If Narendra Modi succeeds in pulling through despite the wide spectrum of forces ranged against him, the BJP may not necessarily be the gainer. The autocratic Modi is unlikely to allow his party to share the credit. In fact, the BJP central leadership will have to contend with a man who, bolstered by a second electoral victory, will assume he has a legitimate claim to play a decisive role in shaping the party’s future.

“Modi would be encouraged to believe that his tactics of divisive demagoguery, mud-slinging and cocking a snook at the judiciary and the rule of law have been vindicated. A victorious Modi would push the BJP further towards hardline Hindutva, the consequences of which would be the party’s growing isolation.”

Read the full article: Modi vs BJP

The Economist calls Narendra Modi a “disgrace”

7 December 2007

The Economist, one of the world’s most influential weekly magazines—and a champion of the free market, to boot—has weighed in on Narendra Modi and the Gujarat elections in the latest issue:

AS A cheerleader for the emerging India, a giant democracy with—at last—an economy to match, Narendra Modi is a disgrace. His six-year leadership of Gujarat, a booming western state, is widely cited as a paragon of economic management. But double-digit growth is not all that Modi—who is seeking re-election in a poll due to begin on December 11—is alleged to have orchestrated.

There is also the small matter of 2,000 murdered Muslims, victims of a 2002 pogrom carried out by his Hindu-nationalist followers with the collusion of Gujarat’s bureaucracy and police…. A small matter, however, is just how the pogrom is viewed in Gujarat, the birth-place of Mahatma Gandhi, and a bastion of prohibition, vegetarianism and gnat-respecting Jains. Its last election, later in 2002, gave Modi a thumping majority, biggest in those districts where the bloodshed was worst….

This time Modi’s campaign has been more sober. He has unleashed the odd rant against “terrorists”, and a few barbs at Musharraf. But the BJP’s leader has been much keener to trumpet Gujarat’s recent economic performance—including growth of 11.5% last year. The change of tack may be because he is chary of the contempt the outside world holds for him. In 2005 America revoked his visa. EU countries have also denied him diplomatic status. This has been damaging to his ambitions to lead the BJP, and India. Modi is already its most globe-trotting state boss. This year he has visited China, South Korea, Japan and Switzerland.

But elections in India are not won by leading trade delegations—even in Gujarat, which has 24% of India’s coastline and a proud commercial tradition. Moreover the slogan Modi is most associated with, “Vibrant Gujarat”—the name of a biennial trade fair he has staged—recalls the ill-fated “India Shining” campaign run by India’s last BJP-led government for the general election in 2004. It was turfed out by the masses for whom India did not shine. Many in the Congress party, which leads the coalition that won that election, predict that Modi will suffer the same fate….

Text courtesy: The Economist

Read the full text here: Don’t mention the massacre

Because a piano keyboard isn’t of just one colour

7 December 2007

As the professional cooks stir the communal cauldron in Gujarat, CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY forwards a YouTube video of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder making “a beautiful statement about trust, love, respect, understanding and education that we are more alike than meets the skin!”

Isn’t there something un-human about our netas?

7 December 2007

RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: I was watching the tug-of-war, sparked by Narendra Modi‘s latest disgrace, on different TV channels last night, when I was struck dumb by one simple fact: our politicians, be they pseudo-secularists or pseudo-nationalists, are the only humans proudly defying the most basic tenets of the human spirit.

A school child wants to score more marks than her best friend. A mother wants to bring up her children better than her neighbour. A father wants to excel in the assignments at his work place. An athlete wants to get stronger than other athletes. An engineer wants to build taller buildings. An industrialist wants to set up a bigger facility.

A singer wants to shine in a concert. An Udupi waiter wants to serve faster. A doctor wants to earn a good name. A shopkeeper wants to serve his customers better and earn more. A sweeper wants to keep his street cleaner and earn the compliments. A journalist wants to do different stories to catch reader’s attention.

More. Better. Stronger. Taller. Faster. Bigger. Excel. Shine. Different.

When was the last time you heard those nine words, in any combination, from the mouths of your politician?

As I watched the smug, supercilious lawyers of the BJP and the Congress masquerading as spokesmen splitting hairs deftly last night, I was left with the uncomfortable feeling that our politicians are the only humans who are not aspiring for something better, something different.

They are the only humans in our midst who are trying not to excel or shine. The only brand-managers trying not to put out a better product in the electoral marketplace.

This may seem like a cynical outpouring. It is not. It shows what we are fast losing as a democracy in the midst of the finger-waving and name-calling. Our politicians seem completely contented being what they are. It’s as if they have reached the apogee of achievement; nothing higher, nothing larger, nothing nobler guides them any longer.

# If the shameless Congress guy points a finger at Gujarat 2002, the shameless BJP guy won’t cringe in shame or embarrassment. What about 1984, he says. And what about Nandigram.

# If the shameless Communist guy says, “Modi said for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction,” the shameless BJP won’t express regret. “Didn’t Buddhadeb say, ‘Our boys were paying back with the same coin’. Didn’t Rajiv say, ‘When a big tree falls, the earth shakes’?”

# And if the shameless Congress and Communist guys say, “Minorities have never felt more vulnerable in Gujarat,” the shameless BJP guy won’t seek to reassure. “Where were your feelings for the thousands of Pandits who were driven out of Kashmir?”

Be it corruption, communalism, casteism, criminalisation or coalition, our parties have achieved a neat balance of terror. They are proud of it. They are unapologetic about it. And they give a damn to what “We, the People” think of it.

There is no grand, democratic, inclusive, optimistic vision about India i.e. Bharat. It’s all about the here and now. They are everything we try not to be, and they seem very happy about it.

Looking at them, you might almost be led to wonder: are they human?

CHURUMURI POLL: WILL YOU VOTE FOR MODI?

6 December 2007

A deeply disturbing aspect of Narendra Modi‘s domination of the public discourse is the amount of “goodwill” he appears to generate among “decent” and “educated” Indians, not just in India but across the world, despite the blood on his hands and that trickling down his gleeful mouth. Deeply disturbing, because it bodes ill for our democracy, not just in Gujarat but across the country, in the near to medium term.

Seemingly pious people, with vedas and upanishads on their lips, seem inclined to ignore, even forget, the bestial massacre of 2002 as a minor, even necessary, aberration. Gandhians who aver “an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind” in anguished letters to the editor, say the Hindu hitmen did the right thing after Godhra. Supposedly cosmopolitan types speak as if the economic, social and now even electoral boycott of Muslims is a good, even right, thing to show “them” their place. Those who abhor generalisations, seem eager to buy into his demonisation of all Muslims as terrorists.

When Modi screams vacuously that Gujarati asmita is being targetted by those who question his actions; when he shouts that the land of Gandhi and Patel is being defamed; when he cocks a snook at the human rights commission and the election commission; when he makes fun of Miyan Musharraf and James Michael Lyngdoh; when he walks out of media interviews; when he says Sohrabuddin deserved what he got and that he is ready to hang Afzal Guru if the Centre cannot, there are many who silently applaud his belllicosity.

So what, they say, look at the “development” in the State, the 12 per cent growth; the “Gujarat Model” is what the nation should adopt. Result: a hate-monger who plays on the deepest fears and fantasies of his people, and who stands for everything Hinduism doesn’t—intolerance, hatred, exclusionism—has not only attained an air of acceptablity but is being touted as “prime minister material” by the likes of Arun Shourie. Voters in Gujarat do not have too much of a choice considering that many of those plotting his downfall were those who propped him up and took part in the bloody revelry.

But…

But, if you are a voter outside Gujarat and if somebody of the noxious notoriety of Narendra Modi was the chief ministerial aspirant in your State, would you vote for him given his record, his reputation, his statements, his arrogance, his venom?

Cartoon: E.P. Unny / The Indian Express

Save Gujarat. Save India. Save BJP. Kick out Modi

6 December 2007

With the development mask falling just in time to reveal a coldblooded killer’s mindset, the legal knives should soon be sharpening for Narendra Damodardas Modi. But, in a very fine piece in The Hindu today, Harish Khare writes that the coming elections represent an opportunity for various “stakeholders” of Gujarat—the people, the parties, the corporates—to break free of the psychological blackmail of the chief minister many love to hate and most hate to love.

# “Since 2002, he has managed to graft on the Gujarat citizens impulses and attitudes that are very much at odds with India’s liberal political culture—as also against Gujarat’s own history and Gandhian legacy. Five more years with Modi at the helm will set Gujarat apart from the rest of India.”

# “Though a rather tiny slice of the (Gujarati Hindu) community actually participated in the riots, most were made to feel a complicit part of the mob. Modi contrived to make most of the Gujarat Hindus co-conspirators.”

# “BJP takes considerable organisational pride in not giving in to the personality cult. Modi has redefined and challenged this ethos (and) become the Sanjay Gandhi of the BJP, relying on a clever mix of intimidation, coercion and individualism to manufacture a constituency for himself. The 2002 verdict has been used to justify arrogance and stubbornness. He has acquired an autonomy that cannot be curbed by the normal disciplinary tools available to the party leadership.”

# “Gujarat’s industrial and business classes have… bestowed the maximum respectability on the Chief Minister (because) unlike other CMs, Modi has not made unreasonable demands on them, has been kind and receptive to the entrepreneur’s needs for incentive; in return, they have not seen anything amiss or amoral in extending support to him…. Nonetheless, the business leaders have also had a taste of high-handedness of a capricious Chief Minister, answerable to none, accountable only to himself. All industrial tycoons who pretend in private to have been humiliated now have an opportunity to rectify the state of affairs.

# “The economy remains 99 per cent outside the reach of the Muslim consumer. Modi can thrive only on a state of permanent hostility between Hindus and Muslims, and this would not be in the long term interests of social peace and harmony. Five more years of Modi can only perpetuate this state of instigated civil war.”

# ‘The Muslims have the most painful opportunity. They desperately need reassurance that the Indian constitutional arrangement retains its fairness, its inclusive representativeness, and that they have not been disfranchised. The BJP has chosen not to field a single Muslim candidate.”

# “The last, and perhaps the most important, stake-holder is every decent, law-abiding Indian citizen who hopes Gujarat will firmly turn its back on an appeal that threatens the very fabric of modern India.”

Read the full article here: Stake-holders and their opportunities

‘Majority only worried about their bread, money’

5 December 2007

The outcome of the Gujarat elections was supposed to be a foregone conclusion. Everybody, it was said, was eager to forget the post-Godhra pogrom, which is why the Tehelka expose was given such short shrift. It was all about development and the 12 per cent growth that had been racked up in the Narendra Modi regime.

But Modi’s shamefully provocative “Shohrabuddin got what he deserved” speech shows that either some late doubts have popped up in the BJP camp. Or, equally likely, that the party finds it very hard to shake off the communal monkey; in fact it finds it rather irresistible to kiss and hug it in public to the delight of the cheap stands for a few votes more.

Activists like Arundhati Roy have bravely wondered what Modi’s victory in the 2002 elections says about our democracy. But the sociologist Dipankar Gupta provides a rational explanation in the Mail Today. Modi, he says, is joined at the hips with the Russian president Vladimir Putin who won this week despite Chechnya.

“Neither in Russia nor in Gujarat is the ordinary voter even thinking of Godhra or Chechnya respectively. This may be hard to stomach, but the unadorned fact is that the majority community everywhere is concerned more about bread on the table and money in the bank than with what happens to poor Muslims somewhere.

“The majority like an iron hand so long as it does not affect them. In other words, people think in terms of crude self-interest and not as noble citizens. Fraternity does not emerge just because it has been watered by constitutional ink.”

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Will law catch up with Modi?

‘Gujarat is a Nazi type of society’

MUST READ: V.K. Shashikumar: Report no evil

‘Peninsular arrogance + contempt for the North’

4 December 2007

M.S. PRABHAKARA in The Hindu:

“A recurring theme in much of the analysis of the recent political drama in Karnataka is that the ‘dirty politicians’ have brought disgrace to the glorious history and heritage of the State and its people, bringing them down to the level of Bihar, the very nadir of ‘dirty politics’….

“Such assumptions about the exceptional nobility of the character and sensibility of the Kannada people necessarily have to have as an extreme contrary contrast the despised other. This, conveniently, is Bihar. Unlike those nasty others, we in Karnataka have always taken the high road of political morality and virtue….

“Has contemporary Karnataka any claims on this imagined heritage of loyalty and fair play towards the vulnerable? In actual fact, Karnataka’s politics has always had its seamy side going back even to the halcyon days of the princely state of Mysore, now viewed nostalgically as having been immaculate, uncontaminated by ‘dirty politics’.

“With such an authentic and unbroken tradition of political skulduggery and very little social conscience, why is Bihar so frequently cited in deploring Karnataka’s seamy political drama? Perhaps peninsular arrogance and contempt for anything north of the Vindhyas, once seen as the exclusive vice of the Tamil but now assimilated by the more prosperous and successful Kannadigas, may be the explanation.”

Read the full article here: Our own exceptionalism

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Karnataka, Bihar of the South?

And the parrot said, Rahul Gandhi will be next PM

3 December 2007

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I was surprised to see the Ace Political Expert (APE) sitting in front of a crystal ball in his office. He also had a bull—kole Basava—next to him along with a parrot in a cage. Obviously, with the assembly dissolved, he had taken up gili shastra as a pastime.

“You are one of the keenest political observers in the State. You could analyse events and people and predict the future of governments and its leaders. What has come over you?” I asked.

“The politics in Karnataka has gotten so bizarre there is no point in doing political analysis any more. Anyway the State is mostly run on the advice of astrologers and soothsayers. I am earning far more ever since I switched over to this.  You can ask whatever you want to know. I will do it free for you.”

I asked him the first question on everybody’s minds: “Who will win the next assembly elections?”

The APE mumbled something in Basava’s ears, scribbled something on a pad, and held it in front of the animal. The Basava nodded his head sideways.

“Obviously he doesn’t like your query. He feels nobody will get the majority. We will be back to square one.”

“Can your parrot at least say who will become the next chief minister?”

“Why not?” said the APE. He scribbled some names and held the chits of paper in front of his gili. I was about to watch gili shastra in action. The parrot made a screeching sound, made couple of sorties in its cage, and fiercely poked repeatedly on one of the sheets of paper.

H.D. Revanna will be our next CM!” announced the APE after deciphering the torn sheet the bird had poked. “I myself would not have been able to predict this with such pinpoint accuracy with all the political acumen gathered over the years. But that’s how it is! Birds and Basavas will be better judges of political situation in future at least in Karnataka.”

“What about national politics? Can our Basavanna predict who will win the next Lok Sabha election?”

“Politically, I can’t even make a guess at this stage. But let’s see what Basava has to say.” The APE placed a set of colour-coded index cards depicting the symbols of various parties in front of Basava. Basava nodded his head up and down when he was shown the red card.

“Basava says, the Left will come to power after the next Lok Sabha elections!” said an excited APE.

“Will it be Prakasah Karat, Brinda Karat or Sitaram Yechury who will be the next Prime Minister?” I asked.

I was impatient.

“Don’t rush me. My gili will pick the name.”

“The gili did not pick up any names from the papers kept in front of it. Finally, it flew off the cage and tore a sheet off an old newspaper on which the APE had spread all his wares and dropped it in front of APE.

The torn sheet had a picture of Rahul Gandhi on it! That’s out-of-the-box thinking for you.

“Although the Left may win the election, they will not have the numbers to form the government on their own. They will form a coalition government with the Congress, with Rahul Gandhi as prime minister, and one of the Karats as deputy prime minister! My Basava and gili will never go wrong in their predictions,” said the APE.

As I came out, I saw quite a few ministers and MLAs of the defunct assembly waiting patiently for their turn outside.

‘Don’t blame us. We’re just the beedi lighters’

30 November 2007

The resident poets of the BJP  in Karnataka are slipping into their creative best as the party mounts a shrill campaign to alert voters of the “worst betrayal ever” by the JDS, as if it had no role to play in bringing upon this disgrace.

Variations of the “Appa kalla, maga sulla” slogan are doing the rounds, of course, but party president D.V. Sadananda Gowda has upped the ante comparing H.D. Deve Gowda & Sons to a beedi company at public meetings:

“A beedi company put up advertisements which screamed, ‘If you smoke beedis manufactured by us, thieves will seldom enter your houses, stray dogs will never bite you, and you will stay young all through your life.’ Gullible people fell for the claims and started smoking the beedis.

“However, after a few days, the company’s claims actually started coming true. Smokers started coughing incessantly through the night keeping thieves at bay. Indisposed smokers, unable to stand on their legs, started using walking sticks. Seeing those missiles in their hands, stray dogs ran helter-skelter. Having smoked continuously, people started dying as early as 30 years and never got to know what old-age was!

“Like that beedi company, Deve Gowda and his family members have continuously cheated the electorate and have injured democracy to the core. Political ethics and values have been completely shattered by them. No one will trust them now. A day is not far off when Deve Gowda has to restart the beedi company and spend the rest of his life.”

CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win next election?

29 November 2007

The abrupt end to Karnataka’s latest coalition experiment, the reimposition of President’s Rule, the ratification of it by Parliament, and the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly pave the way for fresh elections in the State. Originally due only in May 2009, the mid-term polls, in all likelihood, will be held about a year in advance. The simple question is: which party will most likely win the next Assembly elections in Karnataka? Or, if a single party fails to win a majority on its own, which combination of parties will occupy the gaddi at the Vidhana Soudha next?

Will the JDS be wiped out of existence because of its “worst-ever betrayal”? Or will the public’s short memory come to its help? Will the BJP, which has not been tested, be able to sustain the sympathy wave for another six months so as to encash it at the hustings? Or will a fresh round of internecine warfare between its leading lights curtail its performance? Does the Congress stand any chance of benefitting from the fracas? Will either the Congress or BJP join hands with the “untouchable” JDS given its behaviour and record?

What are the factors that will influence the elections? And what is most likely to be the seat share in the 224-member House for the three parties? In 2004, it was BJP 79, Congress, 64, JDS 58.

By bureaucrats. Of bureaucrats. For bureaucrats.

28 November 2007

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: With the imposition of President’s Rule in the States becoming more of a rule rather than an exception, the time has come to ponder the possibility of a system that ensures people’s say in the decisions taken during the regime.

President’s Rule, by any stretch of imagination, is a substitute for rule by the people’s representatives. It is essentially, a stop-gap arrangement arising out of some aberration, till normality is restored. But if it tends to continue for an extended period of time, as is now likely the case in Karnataka, comes the rub.

The people would lose their right to be heard by the powers-that-be and are even denied the simple opportunity of pouring out their woes before their representatives, and remonstrate if need be for any case of inaction. Certainly, the people in general cannot be penalised for the waywardness of and the political avarice of their elected representatives, because of their fault in trusting them to run the show.

President’s Rule under the prevailing circumstances is essentially, rule by bureaucracy, of bureaucracy and for bureaucracy—and the people figure nowhere in the picture in the absence of any institutional arrangement providing for the same.

One Governor and couple of advisors sitting in Bangalore cannot be accessible to the people at large on the whole. And experience shows that problems facing the people at the grassroots level hardly reaches the top in the such a hierarchical system of government.

It is against this backdrop that the suggestion made by the Chairman of the Karnataka Legislative Council, Prof. B K Chandrasekhar, to restore the powers and privileges of the upper chamber of the legislature deserves consideration. The Council comprising of indirectly elected members can hold the fort till the regular assembly resumes its functioning.

Other alternatives could also be thought of, like involving the MPs from the State in the matter of governance.

Or the Karnataka Panchayat Council, a forum comprising of the nominees of the panchayat raj institution, could be activated, as provided for the Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, to serve as a clearing house on matters pertaining to rural development, if need be. But there has been little or no thought in this direction so far.

What is currently happening in Karnataka should be an eyeopener to every body. Two spells of President’s Rule in just two months.

In the first instance, the bureaucrats had started calling the shots much earlier due to the political flux arising out of the dilemma on the part of the H.D. Kumaraswamy government in handing over (or not handing over) power to B.S. Yediyurappa of the BJP.

With those in government busy in politicking, it was the bureaucracy which virtually ran the government then. The imposition of President’s Rule merely turned a de facto situation into a de jure situation. And the Seven Day Wonder that was Yediyurappa’s government hardly made any difference.

It did not take time for the impact of the change of government to percolate down the line. Those who immediately felt the pinch were those who had been affected and dislocated by the widespread rains and floods in the Northern Karnataka districts. They were eagerly waiting for the promise of assistance made by Kumaraswamy and Yediyurappa to materialise to get some relief. But they were shocked to find the official machinery turning its face the other way, the moment Kumaraswamy went out of office.

The temporary arrangements made for providing shelter, food and other basic amenities got botched up too. And the promise of compensation for the loss of houses, cattle and crop, got sucked in the bureaucratic juggernaut to become a mirage of sort. The official machinery feigned ignorance about the suffering of the people and trotted out the usual explanation of absence of proper instructions from the top as a veneer of their inaction.

Result: while the entire State was gleefully celebrating the festival of lights, these unfortunate people had to go hungry in the absence of food grains’ supply and had to spend their time huddled in temporary shelters in the dark, for want of kerosene, and put up with other inconveniences like the absence of drinking water.

The fact of the matter was that their plight hardly attracted any attention of the people’s representatives, who were otherwise busy or had no time for listen to the tale of woe. The plight of the people hardly provided any meat for the media which was more obsessed with political news than the human suffering.

In another case, the workers of a cooperative sugar factory in Haveri who had not been paid wages had launched an indefinite hunger for days demanding the same. But it hardly evoked any response from the powers. The Governor’s regime woke up only when one of workers committed suicide and fellow workers took the dead body to the office of the deputy commissioner to lodge their protest. The reports are that several other cooperative sugar factories are facing similar problems, which are yet to be heard by the powers-that-be.

At the macro level, too, President’s Rule comes with its own set of limitations.

The proposal of the Cabinet acceding to the request of the Lok Aayukta for suo motu powers to deal with incidence of corruption in the government is pending with the office of the Governor. It was there when the Kumaraswamy government was in power and continues to be so, without any action being taken.

Knowing the zealousness with which the higher echelons of the bureaucracy had resisted the proposal, it is doubtful whether something will happen in a Governor’s regime dominated by bureaucrats.

“We, the People”, it seems, have no option but to grin and bear it.

Absolute power corrupts the mind absolutely

26 November 2007

Politics in Karnataka has gone to the mutts with such vengeance that even mutt heads, with their hands deep in the political till, are beginning to talk and make sense.

Sri Shivarathri Deshikendra Swamiji of the Suttur Mutt in Andolana:

“Man has invented a cure for everything including mental retardation. Any madness can now be cured by humans. But how can we cure people who go mad just for the sake of power?”

Also read: ‘90% of us are dishonest; 75% are status quoists’

Gandhiji was right about Congress, BJP and JDS

25 November 2007

Sudheendra Kulkarni in The Indian Express:

“The lesson to be learnt from the political skulduggery in Karnataka is this: It is easy to eulogise the Mahatma, as Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh have done on numerous occasions in recent years in their unconcealed bid to project the Congress party as the sole inheritor of his legacy. But are they heeding what he preached as principled political conduct?

“As one enters Raj Ghat, an attentive visitor will not fail to notice a red-stone plaque that bears Gandhiji’s message about ‘Seven Deadly Sins’. These are: Wealth without Work; Pleasure without Conscience; Science without Humanity; Knowledge without Character; Politics without Principle; Commerce without Morality; Worship without Sacrifice.

“The exhortation about the fifth deadly sin—Politics without Principle—applies to all political parties, to a greater or lesser extent. But there is an additional lesson the BJP must learn from the happenings in Karnataka. After tasting the first betrayal at H.D. Deve Gowda’s hands, when he refused to hand over power to B.S. Yediyurappa in October, it should not have given him the opportunity to administer the second betrayal. By committing this mistake, it too is seen as a party hankering for power—even at the cost of self-honour.”

Read the full story here: Congress party’s fifth deadly sin

Because: “Government Work is Dog’s Work”

24 November 2007

With seven-night stands becoming the order of the day, with politicians squabbling amongst each other and marking their turf with canine zeal, strays in front of the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore have all the time in the world to examine each other’s dark underbellies, to pick and remove ticks without security men brusquely shooing them away, and to generally ponder the future of humankind.

Photograph: Gangadhar Poojar/ Karnataka Photo News

INSIDE STORY OF THE BJP-JDS NEGOTIATIONS

23 November 2007

If there has been anything more intellectually inadequate than the recent politics in Karnataka, then it has been the media coverage of it. Especially in the mainstream English media. Rarely rising above “he-said, she-said”, mind-reading, or plain speculation, a blow-by-blow first-person inside account of the jostling and backroom manoueuvring has been missing. The king makers, the powerbrokers, the middlemen have all been absent from the narrative.

Result: one side has been painted like angels betrayed, the other as devils personified.

One of the few exceptions is an interview by the television journalist B.S. SATYA with former state public prosecutor S. DORE RAJU, which aired on Udaya TV on Thursday. Dore Raju, a lawyer close to the sangh parivar who, by his own admission, has filed more than 10,000 affidavits for virtually every BJP leader of note, played a key role in the negotiations with the JDS, which resulted first in the formation of the H.D. Kumaraswamy government and then in the shortlived B.S. Yediyurappa formulation.

The interview, more than anything else, reveals how completely ideology has vanished from a grandstanding party like the BJP; how politics has become only about intrigue, position and money at the hands of the the backroom boys of the JDS; how, despite all its public posturings and protestations, the RSS plays a active role in the political decision-making process of the BJP; and how the State has been brought to its knees by “suitcase politics” in the name of the people.

***

HOW THE JDS-BJP STRUCK UP A FRIENDSHIP

“In the May 2004 elections, the BJP got 79 seats, the Congress got 64 and the JDS 58. As a longstanding BJP member who had been close to the sangh parivar since 1988, having been associated with the Jan Sangh, RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, I privately wondered if in this situation there was a chance for the BJP to form a government.

T. Venkatesh, the editor and proprietor of the evening daily Ee Sanje was a professional friend of mine. I had handled many of his cases. Probably because he also used to run a film magazine called Aragini, H.D. Kumaraswamy, who was also a film producer, used to come to Venkatesh’s office every day. It was there I struck up an acquaintance with Kumaraswamy.

“The BJP leader Ananth Kumar was aware of my interactions with Kumaraswamy. Arun Jaitely was the BJP secretary in charge of Karnataka. One day, Ananth Kumar called me and asked me to talk to Kumaraswamy and see if there was any possibility of the BJP and the JDS striking up a relationship.

“This happened even before Dharam Singh had formed a government in alliance with the JDS.

“I talked to Venkatesh. The meeting took place at Venkatesh’s house one day: Ananth Kumar, Kumaraswamy, Venkatesh and I were present. Because Venkatesh’s family members were around, we held the meeting on the first or second floor. I don’t know if H.D. Deve Gowda knew about what was happening. But it was clear that with so many seniors in the Congress, Dharam Singh, Mallikarjun Kharge, et al, Kumaraswamy, who was just an MLA, realised that it was too early to realise his chief ministerial ambitions. Thus Dharam Singh came to power, with the JDS in coalition, but Kumaraswamy was already talking to us.”

HOW SHOBHA KARANDLAJE CALLS THE SHOTS

“After the Congress-JDS government had been in power for several months, I received a call from Kumaraswamy. He was in Tirupati. He asked if a meeting with the BJP could be arranged again.

“I spoke to Ananth Kumar. He said, ‘See if you can.’ There was a reason for this visible disinterest on his part. Because, by this time, there had been a clear division of duties in the BJP. Ananth Kumar had been put in charge of national affairs, and B.S. Yediyurappa was in charge of the State.

“But I didn’t know Yediyurappa personally and didn’t have access. As a state secretary of the BJP, I had been in charge of Basavangudi assembly constituency during the May 2004 elections and had met Shobha Karandlaje, an MLC known to be close to Yediyurappa. I asked her if a meeting could be arranged between Yediyurappa and Kumaraswamy. She said she would get back to me.”

WHERE THE DECISIVE MEETING TOOK PLACE

“The meeting took place early one morning, at around 7.30, at Chickpet MLA Zameer Ahmed‘s guest house in Sadashivanagar. There were four from the JDS: Kumaraswamy, Nagamangala MLA N. Cheluvaraya Swamy, Magadi MLA H.C. Balakrishna and graduates constituency MLC Puttanna. On the BJP side, there were Ananth Kumar, Yediyurappa, Jagadish Shettar, and myself.

“Because the Congress-JDS coalition was still on, we did not want word to leak out of the meeting. So we entered the guest house through the back door. It was at this meeting that it was decided to form a BJP-JDS government. There was even talk at this meeting of how the chairmanship of the boards and corporation should be split. The BJP with more MLAs obviously wanted a large share of the boards and corporations.

“Yediyurappa even told Kumaraswamy after this meeting that since all the meetings between the two sides so far had taken place in houses belonging to the JDS camp followers, he should come to his house next!

“But by this time, the intelligence department seemed to have gathered that something was on. An assistant commissioner of police called K.N.K. Reddy asked me as did a lady officer. But I was cagey and did not reveal much.”

HOW KUMARASWAMY MADE SURE HE BECAME CM FIRST

“We next met at Venkatesh’s house. Kumaraswamy came after the BJP side had already assembled. He clearly said at this meeting that he wanted to be chief minister first and that Yediyurappa should be CM after him. Yediyurappa disagreed. After all, the BJP had more seats than the JDS. But Kumaraswamy stuck to his guns.

“In fact, Cheluvaraya Swamy and Balakrishna, who were present, mildly threatened me—‘dhamki haakudru‘—to make sure that Kumaraswamy got the first shot! Eventually Ananth Kumar, Yediyurappa and Shettar agreed. It now boiled down to the portfolios.

“The JDS was to get 16 portfolios and the BJP 18. The JDS wanted to take up the portfolios held by the Congress in the Dharam Singh regime, but Kumaraswamy was insistent that the power, irrigation and public works departments be with the JDS.

“These portfolios had been held by H.D. Revanna in the Congress-JDS coalition. I don’t know if Kumaraswamy was already sure if Revanna would join the JDS-BJP coalition, but he was sure that the portfolios should stay with the JDS in the new coalition. By now some 10-15 meetings had taken place between the two sides. I don’t know if Deve Gowda was in the loop, but Kumaraswamy was very confident of pulling it off and we were talking to him.

“Eventually, somebody, I don’t know who, pulled out a small spiral bound notebook from his shirt pocket and noted down which party would get which ministry as per the negotiations. One copy was given to the BJP, another copy to the JDS. There was no formal agreement beyond this.”

HOW KUMARASWAMY LONGED FOR AN EXTENSION

“Once the JDS-BJP coalition government was formed and the two sides started tasting power, mutual distrust and suspicion crept in. Kumaraswamy and Yediyurappa barely spoke to each other. They stopped meeting each other. There was a communication gap after the two sides had spoken of a 20-year coalition.

“As the 20-month period veered to a close, Kumaraswamy called me at least two or three times asking me to convey to Yediyurappa that he would like a 3-month extension beyond the original 20 months. He so desperately wanted it to last just a bit longer that he even asked if he could stay for one extra month. But the BJP national leadership was very clear that there would be no going back on the previously agreed arrangement in any form.”

HOW STATE BJP WAS READY TO MEET THE JDS CONDITIONS

“When the BJP pulled out of the government resulting in the imposition of President’s rule, Kumaraswamy called again. Backroom negotiations had been going on even when the BJP had kicked off his yatra to drive home the JDS betrayal. This time we met at a forest guest house around 11.30 at night. Yediyurappa was there. Kumaraswamy said he was once again ready to give support. Later we met at Cheluvaraya Swamy’s residence.

“By now the “conditions” had become the contentious issue. There were so many of them, 12 sometimes, 10 sometimes, 8 some other time, it is difficult to remember. But there were conditions, which I helped give a legal framework, and surely the issue about the mines and geology, and housing and urban development ministries staying with JDS was one of them.

“The state BJP leaders agreed to the conditions, but the BJP national leadership again put its foot down and said nothing doing. Eventually, the renegotiations broke up. Was there an exchange of suitcases? I do not know, I did not see it. Did Ananth Kumar want the renegotiations to fail? No. He never said no; he was involved in many things at various stages.”

HOW RSS PLAYS AN ACTIVE ROLE IN BJP’S POLITICS

“Both during the first phase of negotiations and the second, a senior member of the Rashtriya Swamyamsevak Sangh, a man whose name or face does not appear in the media, was in the know of things.

“We would directly report to him at each stage of the negotiations, and often there were things that the RSS man knew about what was happening that Yediyurappa himself did not know.”

BJP’s political intelligence lies horribly exposed

23 November 2007

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: There have been some strange sights on the political landscape of Karnataka over the last couple of months, but nothing is stranger than the spectacle that the BJP is trying to create over being done in so brutally by H.D. Deve Gowda and H.D. Kumaraswamy.

The wailing of the seven-day wonder, B.S. Yediyurappa, on live television; the rage and outrage of MLA C.T. Ravi; and the accumulated finger-pointing, chest-thumping and breast-beating by everybody, Rajnath Singh downwards, paints a not very wholesome picture of a national party comprising fully grown adults.

It is true that the JDS reneged on its promise of handing over power and, later, in backing Yediyurappa in the confidence vote moved by him on the floor of the House. But the BJP’s inclination to blame the JDS for the humiliation it has suffered, and to absolve itself of any role in bringing upon this ignominy, rings hollow.

The BJP’s handling of its ties with JDS has been very amateurish from the very beginning, to say the least. What prompted it to woo a party whose national president has been a known BJP baiter for decades is not very clear. By dealing with Kumaraswamy without keeping Deve Gowda in the loop may have been a safe strategy on paper, but in reality?

Who did the BJP think it was kidding by pretending it could deal independently of Gowda?

Politics is the art of the possible, but to commit the same mistake twice in a barely concealed quest for power requires a particular naviette, but none in the BJP seem to be willing to own upto it. Instead, by getting hysterical, the BJP is only underscoring what is plainly obvious to the people: that it, too, will do anything to sate its thirst for power.

Why the BJP has been so desperate has always been clear—because Yediyurappa wanted to realise his life’s ambition to somehow occupy the chief minister’s chair. Kumaraswamy’s charge that Yediyurappa demanded Rs 5 crore not too long ago to dump the BJP and join the JDS with his men underlines that desperation.

While ambition may be natural, and trust is important, the BJP has much to explain.

First, it parted with the Chief Ministership, which should have come to it legitimately by virtue of its numbers. Then, for months, the party which prides itself on its metal, bent backwards to keep the JDS pleased. It haplessly watched the loot of State power for the satisfaction of a family. And finally, when snubbed, instead of learning its lessons, it harboured fresh hopes.

How is one to feel sympathy for a party like this?

For a national party that likes to think it has the solution to every problem, the BJP totally misread the minds of both father and son, and more importantly overestimated its own political intelligence.

It thought Kumaraswamy was acting alone when he approached it. It mistook Deve Gowda’s show of anger, when Kumaraswamy “defied” him, as genuine. It thought it could do business with Kumaraswamy alone. It thought it could run circles around a former prime minister with 56 years in politics.

After befriending a foe, not once but twice, and burning its hands, not once but twice, BJP is now playing victim and crying hoarse that it has been let down. The BJP may be naive but not the people of the State.

(with PALINI R. SWAMY in Bangalore)

Is ‘Brand Bangalore’ all that there is to our State?

22 November 2007

SAVITHA G.R. writes from Bangalore: As the political dramayana took one embarrassing turn after another last week, NDTV 24×7 had a poser one night: ‘Is the Bangalore dream turning sour?’ The provocation was the political instability in Karnataka.

Now, I am not, by any stretch of imagination, defending the political nataka taking place in the State. However, for me, the question smacked of a certain attitude, an attitude that told me that in the eyes of the country, if not in the eyes of the Delhi-based TV channels, Bangalore is all that matters, and not the State.

Of course, the perception is that Bangalore is thriving, thanks to its huge, young, IT workforce, and this will eventually trickle down to other parts of the State. But, when an entire State is wobbling under the weight of the political games, surely it is naivette to think of only Bangalore being affected?

Also, the term ‘The Bangalore Dream’ set me thinking.

The media has been quick to latch on to the coinage. Variations include ‘Brand Bangalore’. Now, who dreamt this dream? And what is it? When they say ‘The Bangalore Dream’, is it something that every Bangalorean is part of? Or do they, by any chance, mean the dreams of the IT industry?

The infrastructure is crumbling, everyone complains. Yes, it is true. It takes hours to reach Electronic City, they say. But, the same is true of every other part of the City. There are cities within cities, and by equating ‘The Bangalore Dream’ with the dream of the IT industry and investors, aren’t we leaving out a huge percentage of Bangaloreans?

Also, are we implying that flyovers, mass transit, noveau-workplaces, big brands, maketh a city? And is it implied that as long as the head honchos of the top firms are happy, we have made sure the ‘fair name’ of the City is not tarnished?

Yes, we all want the best for our cities. We all want our politicians to be progressive, pro-active, and not indulge in the natakas that they are indulging in, right now. No one wants a polluted, bursting-at-the-seams City. But why is it that we talk of infrastructure, cleanliness, decent public transport only in terms of attracting investors, in terms of retaining an image of ‘Brand Bangalore’?

What have the people who have lived here all their lives done? Don’t they deserve anything from governments on their own?

Infrastructure means improving a city in totality. Irrespective of whether you want to retain its so-called brand name, or to draw investors. If you are going to build a city for the convenience of only a segment of its population, it’s no city at all. The soul is lost, forever.

So, if you ask me if the ‘Bangalore Dream’ is turning sour, I would like to ask, “Which dream? And what is it all about?”

Will our old Bangalore structures be retained, preserved, or will they be demolished to make place for yet another mall? Do we have a healthy respect for history at all? Will traffic be streamlined on the perenially clogged Gandhi Bazaar Main Road? Will garbage be cleared regularly on streets corners in Jayanagar? When is the Vijayanagar Main Road going to get back its old shape? And so on and so forth…

And as far as investors are concerned, Gauri Lankesh, Editor, Lankesh Patrike, made a pertinent point on the NDTV show: ”I don’t think political climate is going to change the business prospects of the MNCs, because when the Russian or the Japanese President comes to Bangalore, he is going to visit the Infosys campus before he visits the CM. Whichever government comes to power in Karnataka in future will pander to the Nandan Nilekanis and Kiran Mazumdars, so I don’t think it will be affected.”

Sigh, The End is nigh for the Janata Dal (Secular)

21 November 2007

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: After riding the crest of a wave over the past 40 months, by hook and by crook, the writing is on the wall for H.D. Deve Gowda. With the State headed for fresh polls, a year earlier than expected, it is the end of the political road for the Janata Dal (Secular).

Too clever by half, the party has burnt its bridges with the BJP, squandered its recently acquired goodwill among the people, spoiled its long-term prospects in the quest for short-term gains, and has been hoist with its own petard not once but twice in the space of two months by a wily Congress.

That all this has happened while Gowda was sitting pretty, exulting in his role as a master strategician, having manipulated matters deftly to ensure a large slice of the political cake than to which his party was entitled commensurate with its strength in the 224-member assembly, is sweet irony.

On two occasions, first through M.P. Prakash and now through the party supremo himself, the Congress led Gowda down the rose garden, dangling the carrot of a fresh alliance to thwart the BJP from forming a government south of the Vindhyas at a time when party is prepared to take on the might of Narendra Modi in Gujarat next month.

And on both occasions, the Congress coolly reneged, landing Gowda, his party men, and the former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy with a bagful of problems, the most important being the problem of survival.

As it is, the JDS has only a sub-regional presence. In the Northern Karnataka districts, it has absolutely no base and Kumaraswamy’s rule hardly made any dent. And whatever little headway was made in terms of public visibility, has been botched up, first by the reluctance to pass on the baton to the BJP, and then by the refusal to endorse it.

A BJP-led coalition would have assuaged the feelings of hurt simmering in Northern Karnataka since the JDS’s phalanx of support in the assembly essentially comes from this region. The party legislators are nursing a feeling of being used and thrown, and most are apprehensive of facing the voter again.

This apart, with all other known leaders outside the Gowda clan having been drummed out of the party under one or the other pretext, the party leadership has become a privy of the Gowda family. Kumaraswamy, who had gained some acceptability, now has a tainted image as the one who cannot be trusted.

That leaves only Gowda and his other son in politics, H.D. Revanna. Age is taking toll of Gowda and Revanna has no public image. The party has no plank, political or otherwise, to face the people in the hustings. The future for the party appears quite dark, indeed, and this is what is worrying the rank and file, and perhaps Gowda, too.


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