Posts Tagged ‘Reddy Brothers’

A sacrificial pawn on Yediyurappa’s chess board

11 July 2012

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Jagadish Shettar, who has been catapulted to the position of chief minister-designate in Karnataka, has been nothing but a political pawn in the game of political chess being played by the scam-tainted B.S. Yediyurappa.

He got a break in 1994 when, as a low-level party functionary, he was asked to take on Basavaraj Bommai, son of the former chief minister, S.R. Bommai, in the Hubli rural assembly constituency, a bastion of Janata Dal.

It was an impossible task by any standard for novice in politics like Shettar but he pulled it off thanks to the afterglow of the controversy over hoisting the national flag at Idgah Maidan, which had been carefully orchestrated by the BJP and had hogged national attention.

Shettar’s role in the controversy was of a subsidiary nature but he emerged a giantkiller thanks to the BJP strategy, and the hand of Yediyurappa was clearly seen in the gamble.

After that, what aided Shettar’s rise was the manipulative politics that Yediyurappa played to keep his rivals at bay inside the party. A one-term legislator like Shettar overnight became a leader of opposition in the Karnataka assembly, superseding many of the seniors in 1999.

The vacancy had been caused because of the shock defeat of Yediyurappa in his home constituency, Shikaripur. Yediyurappa was averse to the post going to anybody else, with senior leaders like B.B. Shivappa, former state party present from Hassan, being one of the main aspirants.

Yediyurappa preferred a rank junior like Shettar, who would be able to keep the seat warm when he would enter the assembly again, which he did in the next elections in 2004. Shettar quietly paved way for Yeddyurappa assuming the role of the Leader of the Opposition once again.

But in 2004 a new situation arose.

The post of the party president fell vacant with the incumbent Basavaraj Patil Sedam demitting his office after the expiry of the term. And Yediyurappa once again plumped for his trusted understudy and as a consequence Shettar moved up one more notch to become the state party president.

In the coalition government which BJP formed in 2006 with the Janata Dal (Secular), Shettar became a minister for the first time.

Shettar, who had seen the benefits of being faithful and friendly with Yediyurappa, soon experienced the latter’s ire. Thus, Shettar was deliberately denied a berth in the first full-fledged BJP government in 2008.

Shetttar sulked publicly and chose to stay away from the swearing-in ceremony when the national leadership of the BJP had descended on Bangalore to witness the historic occasion of the BJP opening its account in the South of the Vindhyas.

Thanks to the intervention of the national leadership, Yediyurappa, who had firmly set his foot against giving a ministerial berth to Shettar, was prevailed upon to make him the Assembly Speaker. Shettar was initially reluctant to accept but had to do so since there was no alternative.

What he did as Speaker is history.

He played a key role in “Operation Kamala” engineered by Yediyurappa with the connivance of the Reddy group of ministers to entice the opposition legislators into BJP with a view to help party gain majority on its own in the 224 member assembly.

He exercised the powers vested in him as Speaker in favour of Yediyurappa by quickly accepting the resignations submitted by the aspirants from the opposition much to the discomfiture of Congress and the JDS, in a manner reminiscent of what Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed did in the seventies in signing Indira Gandhi‘s proclamation of Emergency, despite the procedural flaws in the move.

On two occasions, Shettar very nearly became the Chief Minister but for Yediyurappa.

During the open rebellion by the Reddy group, Shettar emerged as their chosen candidate to replace Yediyurappa.

Later when Yediyurappa had to step down from office in the wake of his indictment by Lok Ayukta, Yediyurappa was unwilling to accept Shettar’s candidature as his successor and got him defeated by forcing the election at the legislature party meet.

Twice bitten, Shettar, who had in the meantime become Minister, was unwilling to take a risk this time. He made up with Yediyurappa as a consequence of which he was considered an apt replacement for D.V. Sadananda Gowda whom Yediyurappa was hell bent on pulling down and helped Shettar to make his dream come true.

A daunting task awaits Shettar as he steps into his new role. The party is a shambles; its image has taken a battering because .of the internecine quarrels and has a fresh election to face in less than ten months.

It remains to be seen how a grateful Shettar would oblige his friend turned foe turned friend, Yediyurappa, in his new avatar.  He has  two options left. He can hang on to the umbilical chord of Yediyurappa and kowtow to his every whim and fancy, especially in shielding him from the maze of the legal cases surrounding him.

If he wants to cut away the chord Shettar risks the fate that awaited his predecessor Sadananda Gowda, who as a friend-turned foe of Yediyurappa made it to the chair of the Chief Minister but lost it in 11 months.

File photograph: Jagadish Shettar with his wife Shilpa (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Why ‘Oye Lucky‘ could be Jagadish Shettar‘s film

How BJP allowed Yediyurappa to become Sonia

9 July 2012

T.J.S. GEORGE writes: Crippled by corruption, Karnataka is now brutalised by blackmail.

Corruption was the collective contribution of all parties. What the Congress carried on quietly, the JD(S) took up with gusto and BJP turned into a celebration. Blackmail is the exclusive contribution of the BJP.

Congressmen can’t think of it because they shudder before their High Command. In the BJP, the High Command shudders before B.S. Yediyurappa. Yediyurappa’s victory is BJP’s tragedy—and Karnataka’s misfortune.

Look at the misfortune first. Historically one of India’s best-governed states, Karnataka witnessed audacious misuse of power from the day BJP’s first chief minister took office. He and some of his colleagues focused on illegal land transactions as a major activity of government.

The principal financiers of the party, the Bellary lobby, took to plain plundering of the state’s good earth in violation of many laws. Wounded by its keepers, Karnataka bled.

When half a dozen ministers, including the chief minister, were jailed, prudence demanded a moment’s pause.

The BJP as a party and the state government as a constitutional entity should have re-looked at where they were going. They didn’t. Instead, they mounted a show of defiance, politicians looking for loopholes in the law and the Bellary Brotherhood making a suspected bid to bribe a judge. The judge landed in jail in a demonstration of the ugliness of today’s politics.

The neglect of governance could not have happened at a more inopportune moment. The state was in the grip of a serious drought, but water resources minister Basavaraj Bommai had no time to bother about it. Farmers were facing starvation, but agriculture minister Umesh Katti was busy with resignation games.

A grand show was held a couple of months ago to attract big-ticket investments to the state. Industrialists were upset that not a file moved since the show because industries minister Murugesh Nirani was in the plot to topple the chief minister.

All this to satisfy one man’s ambition.

So all-consuming was Yediyurappa’s passion for power that even after coming out of jail, he acted as though nothing untoward had happened.  He spent his not-negligible resources to keep a few dozen MLAs on his side.

This support base was a weapon with which he threatened the party bosses in Delhi, knowing well that the bosses would go to any length to see that the BJP did not lose Karnataka. Although his threats were effective, Yediyurappa knew that he was too tainted to become chief minister in one go.

He had a solution to that problem too. He found in foe-turned-friend Jagadish Shettar the fittest person to become the Manmohan Singh of Karnataka, and let him, Yediyurappa, be the Sonia Gandhi of Karnataka.

The puzzle is that the BJP’s leaders in Delhi do not see that approving Yediyurappa’s scheme is equal to approving corruption. They are said to condone Yediyurappa’s record, including the jailing, so as to ensure the allegiance of the Lingayat community.

First of all, will the BJP really gain by doing what no party has openly done before, namely, split Karnataka into Lingayats (17 per cent), Vokkaligas (15 per cent) and others (68 per cent)?

Second, how do they know that the silent majority of Lingayats will accept the position that they have no leader other than the second most tainted politician in Karnataka’s history (after Janardhana Reddy)? This is a community that gave India one of its noblest philosophical creeds. It has a proud public record and several eminent leaders.

On the other hand, a principled stand against the threat politics of Yediyurappa could have given the BJP a swing in its favour. Yediyurappa’s flaunted support base is sustained by the feeling among BJP legislators that his bullying will put him back in power. Call that bluff and the support will melt away.

The Congress and the JD (S) are in a mess, which gives the BJP a reasonable chance to beat them at the next election. But the rivals have a propaganda plank that is powerful: that the BJP promotes corruption officially. The BJP could have demolish that plank. All it needed was some guts.

Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today

Who is trying to finish whom is not so easy to see

1 December 2011

Meanwhile, away from the heat, dust and sparks over the 2G scam and FDI in retail and the Lok Pal and Kanimozhi‘s release and whatever will fill up the “hour” between 9 pm and 10.30 pm tonight, life goes on in the “Republic of Bellary” where, beknownst to the ordinary eye, former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy is playing an even more sinister game of running with the Gowda hare and hunting with the Reddy hound.

While he was CM in a strange 20-20 partnership with the BJP, Kumaraswamy was “stung” by hidden cameras of the Reddy brothers that showed him allegedly receiving a “bribe” of Rs 150 crore, allegedly from the miners raping the district. He is now said to be backing the siblings’ nominee, B. Sriramulu, who stood as an independent in the by-elections held yesterday after quitting the BJP.

Cartoon: courtesy Surendra/ The Hindu

Also read: Because the shit has hit the ceiling

External reading (Kannada): How a hero became a villain

Because, well, the s**t has hit the ceiling fan

21 November 2011

The BJP’s disgraceful tandav with democracy in Karnataka is coming full circle in Bellary. It was from the mineral-rich district that the party’s ascent towards power and the State’s descent towards anarchy began in 1999, when Sushma Swaraj rode on the shoulders of the Reddy brothers to take on Sonia Gandhi in the Lok Sabha elections.

A week is a long time in politics; a decade is an eon.

Now Sushma Swaraj has washed her hands off the Reddy brothers. One of the Reddy brothers is in jail. B.S. Yediyurappa, who owed his chief ministerial position to the brothers’ “purchasing power”, has just about managed to come out of it here. The rape of the mines has come to a pause after the Lok Ayukta report.

And the Reddy brothers have declared revolt.

Their Man Friday, B. Sriramulu, who quit the legislative assembly after new chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda would not accommodate him in the cabinet, has quit the BJP, necessitating a poll. And he is now standing as an independent candidate, ranged against the very party he and his benefactors propped up with their dirty money.

As if to show that the ore has hit the roof, the Election Commission has allotted Sriramulu a ceiling fan as his election symbol. Which is held up like an exhaust fan behind him by an aide as he addresses a street-corner meeting, on Monday. Meanwhile, as Yediyurappa prepares to campaign against him (and the Reddy brothers), the tandav continues.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

The cons, cheats & frauds lording over Karnataka

21 October 2011


RAVI KRISHNA REDDY writes from Bangalore: It is truly a sad state of politics in Karnataka.

Charlatans and confidence artists, with none of the qualifications desired by a good and mature democracy, have taken over the polity in the State in general and the ruling BJP in particular.

Fraudulent actions like forging documents and providing false affidavits to swindle the State’s (and the public’s) money is second nature to some of the ruling party ministers, MPs and MLAs.

As can be seen in the case of heavy industries minister Murugesh Nirani, and in the case in which the chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and his erstwhile colleague S.N. Krishniah Shetty are in judicial custody (reported by Praja Vani), people in power have thrown all laws to the wind and behaved like professional cons.

Our elected representatives and their families are putting Frank Abagnale Jr. to shame.

The sad state of the BJP does not end with its senior ministers and career politicians. It extends to greenhorn politicians like Yediyurappa’s son B.Y. Raghavendra, the Chitradurga MP Janardhana Swamy and others.

Instead of using the people’s mandate to steer and shape their own, their party’s (and the State’s) long-term future, they used their election as a godsent opportunity to secure their personal fortunes in double quick time.

These people were granted large 50’x80′ BDA sites worth Rs 3-4 crore for a meagre sum of Rs 8 lakh within months of taking oath, on the basis of false affidavits that carried outright lies in some cases and misleading information in some others.

And all this, in the era of the right to information (RTI).

It may be true that the politicians are the true reflection of our society, and perhaps it is not just politics that has gone wrong in Karnataka. After all, supporting a family’s corruption and protecting errant sons and sons-in-laws is not unknown in our society.

To give just one example, D. Javare Gowda, the former vice-chancellor of Mysore University—a well known Kannada writer who translated Tolstoy to Kannada and a one-time disciple of Kuvempu— went on a fast to save his son from corruption charges.

Octagenarian Gowda’s son is not a child. He himself is probably a grandfather in his late sixties; yet his father went on a fast to influence and threaten the State to scuttle the ongoing investigation on the irregularities he had committed while he was the VC of the same Univeristy his father had served.

A father going to jail for his son’s crimes and a son making use of the father’s influence and power to stay out of it, shows that something is truly rotten here.

Everyone, it seems, has come around to believe that corrupt practices are somehow OK if it involves members of their family.

Everyone, it seems, has come around to believe that corrupt practices are somehow OK if it involves members of their caste.

Everyone, it seems, has come around to believe that corrupt practices are somehow OK if it involves members of their party or ideology.

I know “everyone” is not the right word here, but “majority” is also not the right word as it may imply that 49.9% do not support corruption, as it is not true in this context.

The onus on exposing the corrupt and setting Karnataka back on track lies with our journalists, but they are not very different either, it seems.

I happened to visit Mudhol couple of weeks back. I was shocked to see a palatial bungalow on the town’s outskirts. It belonged to a serving minister. I am not qualified to assess monetary worth of this palace, but it was spread over acres and the people over there were saying that it had lifts inside.

It may be worth half a billion rupees, if not a billion.

The work and expansion of the sugar factory was in full swing. I had gone with a friend to the sugar mill run by the minister as he had not been paid for his sugar cane for the last six months.

So this factory has dues, but the expansion work and the bungalow next door tells the money is flowing. Where is this money coming from?

What are our journalists doing?

Can ministers or elected representatives like MLAs and MPs run private businesses or occupy offices-of-profit when they are serving a public office? I think the laws in our country are vague on this subject but the Reddy brothers’ phenomenon and that of other elected representatives underlines Karnataka’s current rot.

If Nandan Nilekani had to resign from all the posts of Infosys Technologies when he took charge of the UID position, shouldn’t the same rule be applied to our elected representatives to prevent public office from being used, abused and misused for private good?

Why are our journalists not raising this issue?

The media in Karnataka, especially the electronic news media, is now largely controlled by politicians, with four out of the five Kannada news channels being owned by active politicans. Minister Nirani also owns a channel and apparently he does not like bad press.

The BJP leader L.K. Advani said his party “can’t win the confidence of the people if its own house is bedevilled with similar weaknesses.” Kannada journalists merely—and merrily—reported it.

Now is the time for journalists in Karnataka to rid their house of corruption, fear, injustice and insecurity. In that process, maybe the cheats and frauds in the disguise of public representatives would also be controlled and be brought to book.

(Ravi Krishna Reddy is a US-returned software engineer who contested the 2008 assembly elections from the Jayanagar constituency as an independent candidate)

File photograph: Former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa with his son B.Y. Raghavendra (extreme right) and the state BJP president K.S. Eshwarappa at the party’s state executive committee meeting in Hubli in July 2011 (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: My dear IT brothers and sisters of Karnataka

Don’t laugh at the the joke of the year, decade, century

CHURUMURI POLL: L.K. Advani’s ‘Antim Yatra’?

9 September 2011

There is nothing more revealing in politics than a old, doddering politician who buries his head in the sand and tries to gauge the prevailing wind of public opinion. And so it is with the “former future prime minister of India“, Lalchand Kishinchand Advani who has announced what many are derisively calling his “Antim Yatra“.

At one level, Advani’s impromptu announcement of a nationwide tour at the age of 84 is proof that the flame of ambition has flickered feverishly despite the renunciation of key posts (like leader of opposition and party president) at the less-than-gentle nudging of the extra-constitutional knicker lobby that really wears the pants in the BJP.

At another level, the “Antim Yatra” is proof that the BJP is now officially bereft of both ideas and leadership. That it took the success of Anna Hazare‘s campaign for the lead opposition party to take up corruption as an issue reveals plenty about what it has been doing these past two and a half years since the 2009 electoral defeat.

And that the BJP leadership thinks that it has the credibility to talk about corruption, when its own governments and leaders in Karnataka, Gujarat, Uttaranchal and Chhatisgarh are battling (or stalling investigation of) serious charges of corruption shows the hypocrisy of it all.

Above all, Advani’s announcement of a yatra throws cold water on the aspirations of almost the entire second generation of leaders in the BJP, all of whom privately envision themselves as national leaders and almost all of whom entertain dreams of becoming prime minister.

Questions: Will Advani’s “Antim Yatra” evoke any response? Is Advani’s “Antim Yatra” merely to save his skin now that the reprehensible cash-for-votes scandal has landed squarely in his court? Notwithstanding the Congress’s plight, does the BJP have the credibility to talk of clean, corruption-free governance? Will Advani be acceptable as the face of the BJP in 2014, when he will be 86?

Also read: ‘The only person to blame for BJP defeat is Advani

‘The man who spread the dragon-seeds of hatred’

Advani offers nothing creative, only resentment

The Great Debator ducks out of a TV interview

A lifetime achievement award for L.K. Advani?

 

‘Mining scam has destroyed BJP’s 2014 hopes’

8 August 2011

The BJP likes to see the B.S. Yediyurappa problem like it has done the Narendra Damodardas Modi problem: as a local problem of a local leader. But in the era of 24×7 television and with national parties like the BJP and Congress becoming franchise operations, how you deal with a local problem can have far-reaching national impact.

Editorial in the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW):

“The massive loot of iron ore in Karnataka under the BJP government has been known for some time. The role of the “Reddy brothers” of Bellary, both prominent BJP leaders and state ministers, in the affair has also been well known. Until now Yediyurappa and the BJP government had been seen to be unable to stop these two barons of Bellary because of their money power and patronage of the saffron party.

“What the report of the Lok Ayukta and retired Supreme Court judge, Santosh Hegde, has done is to provide strong proof of the direct involvement of Yediyurappa and his family in the illegal mining and export of iron ore. The report has also exposed the entire BJP government in Karnataka as corrupt.

“The two will only further degrade the attempts by the BJP to position itself as a credible alternative to the Congress at the Centre. But given the large number of corruption cases the UPA itself is involved in, the Congress cannot be relieved at the BJP’s discomfiture.

“What the report has really done is to destroy the credibility of the principal opposition party with regard to corruption. This may cost it dearly in 2014….

“While both the BJP and the Congress share a consensus on the broad contours of economic policy, there is one significant difference in the way they deal with the popular anger and opposition to the growth obsession. The BJP tries to deflect this anger by deploying religion in public spaces and communal divisions within communities; the Congress seems to primarily rest its political strategy on throwing sops and making some concessions to popular demands.

“The latter appears preferable only because the former is so dangerous to social life. The real alternative to such corruption and loot cutting across political parties is for the emergence of an alternative politics and a different set of policies. That, unfortunately, does not appear to be a real possibility in the present times.”

Read the full editorial: Karnataka’s landmine

Double-riding in the era of helicopter joy rides

7 August 2011

While his obscenely large colleagues prefer obscenely large SUVs, Suresh Kumar (right)—just about the only minister in the disgraceful Yediyurappa team with whom the word “clean” could have been used without inviting defamation charges—rides pillion on a scooter in Bangalore on Sunday, to reach the residence of the new chief minister, D.V. Sadananda Gowda.

During their heyday of shameless consumption, the Reddy brothers were rumoured to hop into a helicopter for coffee, lunch and/or dinner. Suresh Kumar, whose wife is a journalist, was briefly mentioned in the media as a potential chief ministerial candidate, but his caste is said to have gone against him.

That, and maybe his mode of transport, too.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: No helmets please, they are for the aam janata

And what happens to the indicted IAS officers?

28 July 2011

B.S. Yediyurappa is on his way out after the clamour following the Lok Ayukta report, and so will the politicians who have been named alongside him: G. Karunakara Reddy, G. Janardhana Reddy, B. Sriramulu and V. Somanna. On the Congress side, too, Anil Lad will be expected to show some repentence.

Say what you will of our politicians—they may be crooked, corrupt, criminal, whatever—but eventually in the temple of democracy, they pay a price for their transgressions.

Kicking and screaming, they step down, but at least they step down, before they are thrown out at the hustings. But what about the fatted cows of the bureaucracy—the “officers” lording over everything they survey—who aid, abet and do their master’s bidding while partaking of the loot, and still go on as if nothing happened?

Justice Santosh Hegde and his men have found 787 government officials, from clerks to Indian administrative service and Indian forest service officers, who had their hand in the Rs 16,000 crore mining scam that has spelt disgrace for Karnataka’s politics and environment for years now.

What about them?

And what about the industries and industrialists, like the Jindals, who were party to the daylight loot?

Cartoons: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today, Surendra/ The Hindu

About time politics is covered on the comics page

31 May 2011

Cartoons: courtesy Keshav/The Hindu and R. Prasad/Mail Today

***

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Why did Sushma Swaraj ditch Reddys?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

Getaway of the louts in the Gateway to the South

BJP’s lotus grows in muck, so do BJP’s people

One question I’m dying to ask Yediyurappa & Reddy

12 times lucky, will 13 be lucky for Yediyurappa?

23 May 2011

With the Congress-led UPA government once again dismissing governor H.R. Bharadwaj‘s recommendation to dismiss the BJP government in Karnataka, a quick recap of the amazing life and dangerous times of Karnataka’s most famous trepeze artiste, chief minister Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yediyurappa (2008-2011):

1) Survives rebellion by the Reddy brothers and their bosom buddy, Sriramulu

2) Survives concerted attacks by Congress, JDS

3) Survives another rebellion by Reddy brothers and their godmother, Sushma Swaraj

4) Survives the various sex and financial scandals involving his ministers and MLAs

5) Survives first attack by governor H.R. Bharadwaj

6) Survives threat of removal by his party high command, acting in concert with the RSS

7) Survives the Lok Ayukta, high court and Supreme Court

8) Survives dozens of media exposes of his sons’ assets and land dealings, and Shobha Karandlaje‘s

9) Survives repeated pinpricks of party colleagues, Ananth Kumar and K.S. Eswarappa

10) Survives rebellion by section of party MLAs on the floor of House

11) Survives another attack by governor Bharadwaj

12) Survives 21 May 2011, the day the world was supposed to have come to an end

Cartoon: courtesy Prakash Shetty

Why Yediyurappa is on a strong wicket (for now)

23 January 2011

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: A  protracted legal battle, especially over the issue of the discretionary powers enjoyed by the governor, appears likely to be the most important fallout of the spat between H.R. Bharadwaj and B.S. Yediyurappa, over the sanction of prosecution of the chief minister.

Of  secondary importance is the impact of the governor’s action on the political equations in the State in general, and the propriety of the CM continuing in office despite the go-ahead for prosecution in particular.

From all available indications, Yediyurappa is unlikely to oblige his detractors and prefers going down fighting rather than throwing in the towel. As a matter of fact, he finds himself in an advantageous position, much to the chagrin of those who have planned and executed this move.

***

The discretionary powers enjoyed by the governor is a grey area, which still needs to be fine tuned through judicial interpretation, like Article 356 of the Constitution (on imposing President’s rule) was done by the Supreme Court in the S.R. Bommai case.

Under the present frame of things, the governor enjoys two kinds of discretionary powers, namely the one given by the Constitution under Article 163, and the others given under the relevant statutes including section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code (for sanctioning of prosecution).

While the former has been clearly defined, the latter has some areas of doubt on the question of whether the discretionary power enjoyed by the governor is individual, or whether he is bound by the advice of the council of ministers.

***

There have been three important rulings of the apex court in this connection: a 1974 judgment in the case of dismissal of two judicial officers of the Punjab government; a 1982 case of a special leave petition (SLP) filed in connection with the prosecution of then Maharashtra chief minister A.R. Antulay; and a 2004 case of prosecution of two ministers of the Madhya Pradesh government.

What stands out in the three judicial pronouncements is that the governor has to necessarily act on the advice of the council of ministers.

The question of the governor exercising individual discretion comes only in the rarest of rare cases and in cases involving the choice of the chief minister or the dismissal of  a government which refuses to resign after losing majority and the dissolution of the house.

Justice P.N. Bhagwati and Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, who were members of the seven-judge bench, had something more to add while concurring with the other judges:

“The President, like the King, has not merely been constitutionally romanticised but actually has been given a pervasive and persuasive role. While he plays such a role, he is not a rival centre of power in any sense and must abide by and act on the advice tendered by his ministers except in narrow territory, which is sometimes slippery…[and]  should avoid getting involved in politics.”

In the case of Antulay, a two-member SC bench led by Justice Chinnappa Reddy noted that the discretionary powers exercised by the governor (in sanctioning the prosecution of the CM) arose out of the concession made at the high court by the attorney-general, who had appeared for the respondents.

“The governor, while determining whether sanction should be granted or not, as a matter of propriety, necessarily acted on his own discretion and not on the advice of the council of ministers,” said the bench, and expressed its satisfaction that concession given by the attorney-general was to advance the cause of justice. But it made amply clear that this applied to this particular case only.

***

As for the sanction of prosecution of the Madhya Pradesh ministers, the Supreme Court upheld the governor’s decision in view of the bias, inherent or manifest, in the cabinet decision.

It is this 2004 judgment on which the Karnataka governor has relied while giving permission for the prosecution of the B.S. Yediyurappa.

But there is an essential difference between the  Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka situations. In Madhya Pradesh, the matter went to the governor after the cabinet had rejected the permission. And the governor had the benefit of the Lok Ayukta report on the charges made against the two ministers to act upon.

But in Karnataka, the lawyer’s petition seeking the sanction went straight to the governor, and the governor conceded to the request even when the matter was pending investigation with the Lok Ayukta and the judicial commission especially appointed for the purpose.

The Karnataka episode has thrown up another new problem: what validity should the discretion exercised carry when the governor’s action is perceived as biased/ prejudiced/ or one sided?

The  BJP has a long list to prove its charge of bias and its spokesmen, including the chief minister, have been harping on this aspect. This may also be put up for judicial scrutiny.

***

As far as the impact of the current imbroglio on political equations in Karnataka, the answer is simple. Nothing worthwhile is expected to happen. No doubt Yediyurappa and the BJP are terribly embarrassed. But Yediyurappa is a person who will not easily give up office and so won’t his party.

However, it must be said that The problems faced by the BJP are its own creation. It has needlessly provoked the governor.

The BJP should have been careful in its dealings the moment a longtime Congress loyalist like Bharadwaj, who is known to have no scruples in serving party interests in whatever capacity he is holding, was sent as governor.

But it did not so and is now paying the price for its indiscretion and lack of sophistication in dealing with the governor. The relations between the governor and the government have never been on even keel at any time and both have stoked the fire of mutual animosity and acrimony and find themselves caught in a cleft stick.

The governor, in the name of exercising caution, has cornered them.

***

Going by the names figuring in the complaint, on the basis of which the sanction to prosecute Yediyurappa was given by the governor, it is clear that it is his family members rather than party functionaries or dissidents, who have landed him in trouble.

This was the point which the BJP leader in charge of the State, Arun Jaitley, had reportedly made to upbraid Yediyurappa’s son B.Y. Raghavendra at the height of its last crisis to save the CM’s chair two months ago. The remarks by the BJP president Nitin Gadkari that the actions of Yediyurappa “may be immoral and not illegal” have only added spice to the same.

But with all this, the BJP finds itself in a politically advantageous position. This is because the denouement smacks of  political bias. The governor has acted unilaterally in acting on the allegations hurled at the CM repeatedly by the opposition JDS and kowtowed to by the Congress, without giving a hearing to the concerned.

Nothing under the circumstances prevents Yediyurappa from launching a political campaign to proclaim that it is all a pre-planned conspiracy to unseat him. He may stomp round Karnataka narrating the  sob story of his continued persecution by his detractors, who are envious of his success and want to undo the mandate given by the people, in the same manner he had when H.D. Kumaraswamy refused to hand over the reins as had been agreed upon.

This has a bright chance of success for two things. Firstly, the corruption has ceased to be an issue influencing the poll, barring the solitary exception of Rajiv Gandhi losing the 1989 general elections in the wake of the campaign against the Bofors payoffs.

Secondly the BJP’s image remains high in the eyes of the people, as has been proved in all the elections for the different fora held ever since BJP came to power in Karnataka more than two years ago. The latest in the series has been its success in the panchayat elections.

The performance of the BJP, which was practically a non-starter in the realm of panchayats, has been much better than its rivals, who have been left far behind, despite a vigorous political campaign.

Moreover, in general parlance, the sanction by the governor to launch the prosecution, hardly means anything.  It merely presages the starting point of a legal battle and has so many phases to be covered, for which the party is getting ready. The first step has been taken with a complaint already filed before the Lok Ayukta court.

Yediyurappa is not obliged to resign merely because the governor has sanctioned his prosecution. He is the company of his peers like L.K. Advani, who continued in office despite a chargesheet filed in an Uttar Pradesh court in connection with the demolition of Babri Masjid.

Yediyurappa may have a long legal fight on his hands to clear himself of the charges made but none of this warrants his resignation.

Knowing his nature he is not the one to give up the office that easily. He may refuse to resign and may dare the governor to dismiss him if it comes to that. This would surely enable him to take his fight to the people. In this, he apparently has the full backing of the party at the national level.

BJP has made an  opening gambit of taking the issue to the people by calling for a bandh. Efforts are underway to mount pressure for the withdrawal of the governor, which are doomed to fail  going by the manner in which the Congress is backing the Governor.

What happens to the common man in the process is not difficult to guess.

(Mathihalli Madan Mohan (in picture, top) is a former special correspondent of The Hindu)

Photograph: Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose‘s birthday celebrations, in Bangalore on Sunday (Karnataka Photo News)

A naataka mandali for the theatre of the absurd

23 January 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I bumped into yesteryear’s Ace Dramatist (AD) at the Ranga Shankara last night.

AD is an actor, playwright and producer who has seen better days. He even the played the role of a thief—kalla known as chor to Hindi audiences—in Gubbi Veeranna’s classic Sadaarame.

As we ordered coffee in the canteen I asked him how theatre was faring these days.

“Our company could survive talkie cinema, cricket, television, even the internet, but now we are being wiped out by another drama company from our own State.”

AD looked down and out.

“You now face extinction from one of your own? Et tu brute!” I sympathised.

AD continued: “You may say so, Ramanna. Ours is a small group of just 8 to 10 artistes. So we do multiple roles in a play, we squeeze ourselves in a small car and go around playing to small audiences in obscure corners of the State. It is hard life but we were eking out a living somehow. But with the entry of KaraNaama,  nobody will call us to stage plays anymore.”

KaraNaama? What is it? A new drama company?”

“Yes. KaraNaaMa is a short form of Karnataka Naataka Mandali. It’s a government company specialising in ‘theatre of the absurd’.”

“What do they do?”

“They do what their name says, naama haakodu, on the gullible public! They also stage plays.”

“How big is this troupe?”

KaraNaama has 224 members. They have a loudSpeaker and a speedGovernor, making the total 226.”

“This is the age of liberalisation, you must learn to face competition from market forces, kanaiah.”

Ayyo, Ramanna, KaraNaama is a huge company with bottomless resources. They have artistes for any role: drunkard, debaucher, broker, agent, killer. If they fall short of cash, they can create fictitious companies and make banks give them crores of rupees. They can play the role of politicians on a padayatra and dance on the street wearing goggles. They can play devout, religous roles. They can play incurable lovers.”

“Really?”

Some can even cry at the drop of a hand kerchief. Cauvery and Kabini are always ready to start streaming down their cheeks at a moment’s notice. Even Master Hirannaiah says he is nothing compared to these pros.”

“This is a big compliment. How do they travel?”

“They move around in A/C Volvo buses which their sponsors have donated for the cause of theatrics in the State.  Every now and then they go and stay in exotic resorts for days together and depending on the situation, kidnap their own members, threaten them and sometimes even auction themselves.”

“Don’t they fight when they travel? After all, 224 is a big number?”

“Yes, they do. Some of them even tear their shirts on stage. That’s where the loudSpeaker comes into operation. Through the loudSpeaker comes the voice repeating itself hoarse: ‘I say, keep quiet!’ or ‘Dayamaadi,dayamaadi, koothkoli’.

“What about the speedGovernor?”

Avankathe ne bere. The speedGovernor makes sure the bus stays within the prescribed speed limit but sometimes when the bus exceeds the speed limit, passengers and public hear words such as ‘Ulta chhor Kotwal ko daante!’ from the microphone attached to the speedGovernor.”

“Amazing.”

“The problem is, the troupe members are unable to see who is the Chor and who is the Kotwal. I understand the speedGovernor is gradually getting defective and needs either an overhaul or some tuning.”

“Ha, ha! Where has KaraNaama staged their plays so far?”

“To a wide variety of audiences actually. The bootleggers association of bewdaas. The illegal gold diggers’ association of Bellary. The benaami land holders’ association. When the attention flags, they manage to get the TV stations to simultaneously stage their plays”

“Which are their most famous plays?”

“They have reworked Hiranniah’s Lanchavatara. They have done an English play called The Last Resort. They have a Telugu bilingual called Reddygaaru-Cheddygaaru. They have a medico-criminal play called Nursoo-Purseoo.”

“With so many artistes don’t they fight among themselves.”

“Fight? They call each other loafers, liars, landgrabbers, they come to exchanging blows, they kidnap each other, they stand on their seats and tear their shirts etc. But when money is offered in crores they hug each other and declare their undying loyalty. Even the experts at NIMHANS can’t explain their behaviour.”

“That explains everything. Do the artistes have any personal ambition?”

“It seems they all aspire to become MLAs one day.”

“What about the loudSpeaker and the speedGovernor?”

“They are disposables. As the Speaker gets old  and cranky, they may sell it off and get a new one; when the speedGovernor loses control and goes crazy, her Boss will throw it and replace the same with a new one,” replied AD.

File photograph: Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa after inaugurating a forest camp project at Sakrebylu in Shimoga district in July 2010 (Karnataka Photo News)

A governor whose reputation precedes him

22 January 2011

Much like it is difficult for all the scams in theUPA-II regime to be mentioned without invoking the “personal integrity” of the prime minister Manmohan Singh, it seems it is difficult to view the sanction of permission for the prosecution of the Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa on “grave charges of corruption” without invoking the dubious history of the governor, H.R. Bharadwaj.

***

Deccan Herald says the governor, H.R. Bharadwaj, has exceeded constitutional boundaries:

“As a constitutional authority, he has every right to guide the administration, offer counsel and even pull up the government where it goes wrong. Yes, the Yediyurappa government has committed many wrongs in the 32 months that it has been in power, and as the constitutional head of the state, the governor was duty bound to ask questions and seek remedial actions. There are clearly defined constitutional boundaries and well-established conventions for the governor’s conduct.

“But Bhardwaj has adopted a crudely confrontationist approach, which was totally unwarranted. Where he was expected to exercise caution and discretion in his actions, he used his loud mouth to get himself into a tangle. If chief minister Yediyurappa and some of his colleagues have openly accused the governor of acting in a ‘partisan manner’ or like ‘an agent of the Congress party,’ Bhardwaj has nobody to blame but himself.”

The Hindu says the governor’s action is legally correct but politically coloured:

“It is one thing to turn the Raj Bhavan into a retreat for elderly or inconvenient politicians. It is quite another for the government at the Centre to use it as a political stage for undermining State governments run by rival parties. H.R. Bhardwaj has often looked more the part of an opposition leader than a constitutional head, with his politically-loaded barbs against the Yediyurappa government.

“In the latest instance, he likened the ruling BJP making complaints against him to a ‘thief scolding the police’. In the context of his earlier statements against the State government, asking Yediyurappa to take action against two of his Ministers and publicly talking about their alleged profiteering from illegal mining operations, the ‘thief’ remark certainly raised serious doubts about his motives.”

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask H.R. Bharadwaj

When a governor gets it left, right and centre

From Murthy to Reddy, and from IT to ‘looty’

22 January 2011

On the eve of the 61st anniversary of the Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic of India, the historian Ramachandra Guha bemoans the state of the State in the latest issue of Outlook*:

“At the close of the last century, my home town, Bangalore, was a showpiece for the virtues of liberalisation. Access to global markets had allowed the skilled workforce of the City to generate vast amounts of wealth, which in turn spawned a new wave of Indian philanthropy.

“At the beginning of the presen decade, my home State, Karnataka, has become a byword for the darker side of globalisation. The loot of minerals and their export to China has wreaked large-scale environmental damage and polluted the political system through the buying and selling of legislators.

“A State once represented to the world by N.R. Narayana Murthy was now being represented to itself by Janardhana Reddy…. Had Manmohan Singh not been so reluctant to act against his tainted ministrs, B.S. Yediyurappa would not so easily have ridden out press exposure of his corrruption and that of his cabinet colleagues.”

* Disclosures apply

Read the full article: A nation consumed by the State

Also read: ‘A heady confluence of crime, business & politics’

How China changed the face of Karnataka’s politics

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

ARAVIND ADIGA: A 21st century Adiga’s call to Kannadigas

The end of liberal democracy in post-global India?

19 January 2011

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The post-globalisation era in the country has witnessed the collapse of liberal democracy and a good example is Karnataka which has been under the BJP  rule for more than two years.

An assertion to this effect was made in a paper presented at the 34th Indian Social Science Congress held at Guwahati in the last week of December 2010, by Prof K.S. Sharma, senior vice-president of the Indian academy of social science congress.

The theme of the  social science congress was  “India–Post 1991” and Prof Sharma presented a case study  of Karnataka to highlight  the adverse impact that the globalization has on the political system in the country.

All the three political parties in Karnataka—the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress and JDS—have together contributed to the emerging scenario by their acts of sins of omission and commission, though the major share of the blame has to be shouldered by the BJP.

The role of the constitutional authority, the Governor, has also not been above reproach, says Dr Sharma.

Dr Sharma has catalogued a long list of the happenings in Karnataka to buttress his point. It includes:

# The open dissidence by a senior leader miffed over his non-inclusion in the cabinet; a farmer getting killed in police firing even as a self-professed pro-farmer government was assuming office, and the open rebellion by the Reddy brothers intended at jolting the government.

# Means more foul than fair used by the BJP  to gain a majority in the 224-member assembly and the phenomenon of the opposition legislators resigning from their seats, being rewarded with ministerial posts even before they could get themselves elected on the BJP ticket, which has now become a national phenomenon.

# Continued run-ins with the governor ever since he refused to address the joint session called by the new government unless the Chief Minister proved his majority, and after he openly expressed his dissatisfaction over the performanance of the government.

# A government cast in caste mould, contrary to what Lord Balfour had said of a bureaucracy having rigid neutrality and rigorous impartiality and notwithstanding what the late Ramakrishna Hegde had told his colleagues not to choose anyone based on caste to occupy positions of office under them.

# Governor’s  patently unconstitutional action of giving a direction to the Speaker on how to conduct the proceedings of the vote of confidence in the assembly, after a set of eleven BJP legislators gave a letter withdrawing their confidence in the leadership of B.S. Yediyurappa. This is despite the known and proved constitutional position of the speaker’s writ being supreme in the conduct of the proceedings of the house. And his recommendation for the imposition of the Presidents rule being turned down by the Central Government.

# Suicide by farmers; communal flare-ups; attacks on churches; moral poling by fundamental groups and related matters. And attempts to talibanise, by advising Hindus not to mix with Muslims and avoid pubbing, partying and dancing in the dark.

# Continued onslaughts on the statutory and constitutional institutions like the Lok Ayukta, state human rights commission, the backward classes commission, the child rights commission, the termination of the terms of the Somasekhar Commission on the disturbances in Mangalore, even as the latter was preparing to give a final report, with the interim report not going in favour of the government.

# The running battle with Lok Ayukta, starting with the government sitting on report on the illegal mining activities involving the Reddy brothers, the latest move being appointing a separate judicial commission, even as the Lok Ayukta had been asked to probe into charges of nepotism, favouritisim  and corruption.

# The opposition parties being more interested in unseating the government rather than playing the role of a constructive opposition.

Dr Sharma has noted in the final analysis that the globalization has led to more number of land scams, nepotism and favouritism in the allotment sites and corrupt practices, to the extent of Karnataka acquiring a dubious distraction of being the No. 1 corrupt state in the country.

But, the  paradox is that the reputation this government has acquired and accumulated has had no impact on the elections to the various bodies held during the period, to the assembly,  legislative council, parliament, the Bangalore city corporation, and the zilla  and taluk panchayats.

As a consequence, democracy has been equated with electoral politics and the liberal democracy has been a casualty, even as the State’s standing in the Human Development Index in the country puts it at 25th place. Fascism is raising its ugly head. And there is no real democracy in the State. “This model of democracy can be witnessed on a larger scale in the whole country.”

The question Dr Sharma raises is, what next?

The theory of the “end of history” as propounded by the capitalists and imperialists has come to an end. The socialist model appears to be the only model available. But it is imperative that the faults and blunders committed in Soviet Union, China and Latin American countries be remedied, before they are applied to Indian conditions.

India today, says Dr Sharma, needs a cultural revolution, without which a real socialistic secular democratic India cannot emerge. The legacy of feudal remnants, colonial past, and myth of liberal democracy needs to be eradicated before the new order could be ushered in.

A matador takes the bulls by their horns (almost)

27 November 2010

At the close of what perhaps has been his most successful week in political life—when he showed that not just the Reddy brothers, his party MLAs, the governor or the opposition, even his party high command can’t dislodge him—Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa strikes a valiant pose during a visit to the house of an organic farmer in Bijapur district on Saturday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

***

The B.S. Yediyurappa photo portfolio

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

2) One leg in the chair, two eyes on the chair

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

4) Kissa Karnataka chief minister’s kursi ka: Part IV

5) Why did the chief minister cross the road divider?

6) Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down

7) Dressed to thrill: Yedi-Chini bhai bhai in Shanghai

8) Survival of fittest is a great photo opportunity

9) Drought relief one day, flood relief the next

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

11) Let the rebels know, the CM will not bow one inch

12) Even four pairs of hands can’t stave off the flak

13) Yediyurappa regime slips into yet another sandal

14) Behind every successful cyclist, there are a few men

15) Life’s a cycle. What goes up must come down.

16) A leg up for the one is a leg up for the other

17) The emperor’s new clothes has a loose button

18) Why does this poor, selfless soldier cry so much?

19) The great Indian rope trick adds inches to a giant

20) Even Alan Donald would quiver at such a glare

21) One sanna step for man, one giant leap for anna

22) A party of loafers, thieves, liars and land-grabbers

23) Three years in power = three rings, or is it four?

24) Say hello to the sarsanghchalak of the ‘ling parivar’

25) Why you didn’t this picture in today’s papers

26) Across, the line, feet wide apart, head still high

 

Sauce for Cong goose isn’t sauce for BJP gander?

19 November 2010

Ashok Chavan and B.S. Yediyurappa: chief ministers of neighbouring States, one of the Congress, the other of the BJP. Both caught in heavy-duty nepotism. One for allocation of flats in the name of his relatives, the other for allocation of sites and industrial plots in the name of his relatives.

As public pressure mounts, Chavan’s kin “return” their allotments but the party gets him to resign. As public pressure mounts, Yediyurappa brazens it out, pointing fingers at other politicians, even suggesting that nothing was wrong in promoting one’s own children, and finally gets them to “return” their allotments.

But will the BJP ask him to do what the Congress did?

Editorial in The Indian Express:

“If the BJP is indeed satisfied, if Yediyurappa’s explanation that “all CMs do it”, is considered sufficient, then Karnataka politics is in a deep, deep hole…. The sinkhole that Karnataka politics has become is the most persuasive of arguments that real estate and mining desperately need depoliticisation and reform unless they are to poison politics across this country….

“Bangalore, for so long a beacon of progress, is being held hostage to the extractive politics these exemplify. For Karnataka’s sake, Yediyurappa’s attempt to brazen out these revelations must not be allowed. He and his government have shown themselves to be mired in the worst sort of crony capitalism. He must go — and if he refuses, he must be asked to go.”

Editorial in The Times of India:

“It’s time the BJP looked within and ensured its leaders too measured up to the ethical standards the party has demanded from its political rivals…. Corruption in the past can’t be cited to justify current actions. By all means probe previous out-of-turn land allotments and take remedial action. That, however, should not come in the way of clearing the present mess in Karnataka. A clean-up there is urgently called for.

“The BJP leadership needs to set its house in order in Karnataka. The moral register it has adopted in Parliament will sound hollow if the party persists with the current leadership in Bangalore. The Congress has at least asked Ashok Chavan to step down in Maharashtra. Where is the BJP’s Prithviraj Chavan?”

Photograph: Agence France Presse via The Tribune, Chandigarh

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt state?

CHURUMURI POLL: Dismiss Yediyurappa government?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Yediyurappa survive?

What Obama missed by not coming to Bangalore

7 November 2010

PRASHANT KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: Looking at the wide-eyed, over-the-top coverage of US president Barack Obama‘s 100% sanitised weekend break to Bombay and Delhi,  you can only wonder what he and Michelle are missing by not coming to namma Bengalooru.

***

1) By not coming to Bangalore and meeting B.S. Yediyurappa, Barackappa, whose Democratic party has suffered a drubbing, has missed picking up a lesson (or 11) in political management.

2) By not coming to Bangalore and meeting the Reddy brothersulu, brother Barack has lost a manch powerful chance to know that all trade barriers can be easily surmounted by simply shifting the borders.

3) By not coming to Bangalore and meeting the geniushris behind ‘Operation Lotus‘, Barackshri will go back without the wisdom that that what he really needs to shore himself up is ‘Operation POTUS ‘.

4) By not coming to Bangalore, Barackgaaru won’t know that the Rs 900 crore per day bill he is running up during his visit, would have easily fetched the loyalty of a couple of dozen MLAs for three months.

5) By not coming to Bangalore and filling up at Deve Gowda petrol bunk, Barackgowdru won’t that there others like his pal, Rahm Emmanuel, who break into expletives at the break of dawn.

6) By not coming to Bangalore, Barackopal will understand that the government of Karnataka gives away Rajyotsava awards even more whimsically than the Alfred Nobel foundation did two years ago.

7) By not coming to Bangalore and being interviewed by Ranganath Bharadwaj, Barackwaj won’t know that the biggest existential question on 24×7 Kannada news television is, “yaake antha” (why).

8) By not coming to Bangalore, Rockline Barack won’t know that Jackie, Tsunami, Y2K, Excuse Me, Psycho et al are actually titles of films in the language of the locals.

9) By not coming to Bangalore, change agent Barackaiah won’t know that BMTC conductors have always insisted on “change you believe in” before you board the bus.

10) By not coming to Bangalore, Barackanna has lost a golden chance to know that our darshinis serve better bisi bele bath than Bukhara. And that there is a resort near Yelahanka called The White House.

11) By not coming to Bangalore while worrying about jobs in Buffalo being “Bangalored”, namma Baracku won’t know that the jobs are actually being “Bengalurued”, thanks to U.R. Anantha Murthy.

12) And by not coming to Bangalore, Michelamma won’t know that for all our outsourcing prowess, pakkada mane Parvathamma still cannot find a maid when she wants one.

What other local specialities do you think Mr and Mrs O are missing by not coming?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Sushma right about Modi?

28 October 2010

Yet another inkling of the internecine war in “Generation Next” of the BJP has come, with the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, brusquely turning away Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi from campaigning in Bihar, with the categorical assertion that “his magic need not work everywhere.”

As it is, with Modi’s anti-minority image rendering him persona non grata in several States,  Sushma’s matter-of-fact remark reveals that the leadership of the BJP for (and post) the 2014 elections is far from being sealed, signed and delivered in Modi’s favour, despite the growth and development mantra he keeps chanting.

At another level, the ambitious Sushma has struck a telling blow by raising Modi’s “acceptance” problem outside “Vibrant Gujarat”, which was evident in the 2009 general elections. Of the 300-plus rallies Modi addressed in the 2009 election campaign, BJP won 37 seats (against 75 for the Congress from Rahul Gandhi‘s 102 meetings).

For a party which has near-zero presence in 143 Lok Sabha seats, and whose seatshare and voteshare have been going downhill since 1999, Modi’s image is the elephant in the room. And the new infighting reveals that not everybody within his own party is enamoured of Modi , nor willing to accept his “leadership” without a fight.

At the same time, Sushma Swaraj’s appeal is not to be sniffed at. One of the few women of stature in the BJP, Swaraj came to faraway Karnataka to take on Sonia Gandhi, speaks English with reasonable fluency unlike Modi, has never been afraid to face interviewers, unlike Modi, and has cultivated her own resources, vide the Reddy brothers.

Question: Is Sushma Swaraj right in asserting that Narendra Modi’s “magic” need not work everywhere? Or has Modi overcome his past to emerge as a leader of national importance? Has Sushma revealed her cards too soon? Or are the battlelines drawn in the BJP for another leadership squabble? And between Sushma and Modi, who is  likely to be the bigger vote-getter in the long run?

When cops had to be called in to save the crooks

11 October 2010

11 October 2010 will go down in the annals (and anus) of Karnataka politics for a number of execrable reasons, but also for the role played by the police commissioner of Bangalore, Shankar Bidari, in the proceedings in the legislative assembly when the House convened to take up confidence motion moved by the chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa.

Bidari rubbed shoulders with opposition legislators (and the marshals), glared eyeball to eyeball with the leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah, and himself got into the act with his staff to clear members of the media to leave the Assembly hall in the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore on Monday.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Why Karnataka politics has reached this sad state

8 October 2010

KIRAN RAO BATNI writes: The now out-in-the-open fissiparous tendencies  in Karnataka’s BJP government can make anybody question whether State politics in Karnataka can ever rise above corruption, in-fighting, inefficiency, ignorance and mindless stone-throwing.

There are two inter-related reasons for this mess, each reinforcing the other in a vicious cycle: one, the presence of lower-calibre politicians at the State level; and two, the relative unimportance of State-politics due to half-hearted federalism.

The high-decibel noise of empty vessels: A basic problem with the politics of Karnataka is that the politicians themselves are often of too low a calibre—often uneducated, corrupt and ignorant. Such politicians in the Vidhana Soudha repel higher-calibre people (who just can’t match up to their level of corruption to even get elected) and attract even lower-calibre ones.

Not just electoral candidates, but even the general public is repelled from state-level politics because of the bad name which the low-calibre politicians of Karnataka have brought to State-level politics.

Admittedly, State-level politics is more “hands-on” into the dirty mess of casteism and mindless largesses to a population which should ideally be better educated and taught to work instead of expecting those largesses.

Karnataka’s politicians have been unable to solve these issues to anybody’s satisfaction, basically because they lack the necessary grey-cells for doing so. Instead of solving these issues, the inability and ignorance of our politicians makes them exploit the issues to water their own vested interests.

And of course, amidst all the high-decibel noise created by the empty vessels that Karnataka’s politicians are, governance has taken the back-seat. The little that the Karnataka government has control over is also mishandled by our low-calibre politicians.

With this being the performance of Karnataka governments right from 1956, hearing the word “State-politics” mentioned itself has started to become a nauseating experience.

Karnataka should look to Gujarat: True federalism is the right way for India to progress, since New Delhi simply cannot run a country which has more than a billion people if it continues to poke its nose into state-level issues. New Delhi can never understand the importance of Kannada in Karnataka, or the way in which Kannadigas can progress, or what projects need to be undertaken for Karnataka to progress.

For the record, New Delhi does not speak Kannada (there are many in New Delhi who can’t tell if Kannada is a language or a country in North America), and therefore can never run Karnataka to any degree of satisfaction. Nor should it, for that would be not much different from the British ruling Karnataka – a state of slavery where Kannadigas are ruled by non-Kannadigas.

Given this, while the importance of Karnataka’s politics is implicit, the half-hearted federalism in India does not explicitly grant that importance to it.

Over and above this, the nauseating State-politics of Karnataka makes one come to the utterly wrong conclusion that New Delhi is better than Bangalore when it comes to governing Karnataka. That is a disastrous feeling which is doing its rounds in the intelligentsia, and must as such be removed.

While the State-politics of Karnataka is admittedly nauseating, states like Gujarat have retained the sanctity of State-level politics by giving better governance, better utilisation of State funds, encouragement given to investments and business, etc.

Gujarat is not just the media babe of India, but a true example of what good leadership and high-calibre politicians can do to the very image of state-politics and federalism itself.

Today, while Gujarat is an example of a responsible state which further affirms that true federalism is the way to go, Karnataka brings down the case for true federalism because of its irresponsible, corrupt and non-delivering politicians.

It is high time our own politicians grow up, stop being those empty vessels, develop some grey-cells and start delivering like the politicians in Gujarat.

Unimportance waters low-calibre: Why is it that we see less corruption, in-fighting, inefficiency, ignorance and mindless stone-throwing at the central government? Is it that we just don’t get to see similar behavior (when it’s present in reality)? No, it would be wrong to say so.

Admittedly, politicians at the Centre are of a higher-calibre than at the State-level. Why is that?

The main reason is that central politics is of relative higher importance. It’s simply a better job with better challenges with better people around. The most important portfolios are held by the Centre, many of which are nonsensically so held.

For example, the States are left with virtually no revenue to run their states, while the Centre gets a disproportionately large revenue for the little work that it does. One often sees highly productive states beg the Centre for their own rightful share of central budgetary allocations.

Karnataka, perhaps, stands foremost among States which are so cheated.

The presence of lower-calibre politicians at the state level and the relative unimportance of state-politics due to half-hearted federalism have together resulted in a major degradation in the quality ofSstate-politics in Karnataka. Unimportance waters low-calibre, and low-calibre waters unimportance.

The way out of this mess is to have more power to the States and simultaneously for our politicians to grow up.

(An earlier version of this piece was first published in June 2009)

Photograph: The east gate of the seat of power in Karnataka, the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore, closed on Thursday due to a government holiday (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: History repeats itself: first as tragedy then as farce

‘BJP has taken Karnataka politics to the bottom’

Gauri Lankesh: Is Karnataka the Gujarat of the South?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

Getaway of the louts in the Gateway to the South

BJP’s lotus grows in muck, so do BJP’s people

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Yediyurappa survive?

7 October 2010

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Going by the chaotic developments within the BJP, ever since it assumed power more than two years ago, one must admire the common sense displayed by the Karnataka voters in the last assembly election.

The voters’ response to the plea for power made by the three contending parties was quite categorical.

They  rejected in no uncertain terms the claims made by the Congress and JDS  and put them in the dog house as it were, even making it impossible for them to share power through an unholy alliance between them.

On the other hand, they were taken in by the plea made by the BJP to give it a chance to govern but were quite cautious in their response. The voters put BJP ahead of all the parties by giving them 110 seats and ensured that the party missed the majority mark by a whisker.

The other two parties were left far behind, making it a mockery of the mandate even if they were to join hands. The message from the voters was clear. They had actually put the BJP on probation and wanted it to prove its credentials before fully backing them at the hustings next time round.

This has a parallel in what had happened in 1983.

Then, too, the voters preferred a non-Congress combination led by the Janata Party to the Congress.

When the government led by late Ramakrishna Hegde won the approbation of the people by its performanance, they voted the Janata Party back to power with its own majority. (That it lost the advantage due to internecine squabbles engineered by H.D. Deve Gowda is of course another matter.)

In the present case, only the first part of the saga has been played out.

Before  the ruling BJP  could have the second opportunity to seek a fresh mandate, the BJP government has got into all sorts of imbroglios, which has  made the party fall in the esteem of the people, who had trusted them to deliver the goods promised.

Right from the day, the party contrived through the execrable “Operation Kamala” to firm up its majority, it has been steeped in scams, scandals and dissidence which hardly brings credit to anybody.

What has been causing concern and consternation is the unabashed manner in which BJP MLAs are pursuing with single minded determination their quest for power and pelf , throwing to the winds all the known niceties of the “party with a difference”.

The casualty in the process has been governanance.

What has made the matters worse has been the behaviour of the ministers, who appear to be landing the party and the government in one or the other controversy (Hartaalu Halappa, Bachche Gowda, D. Sudhakar, et al)

Even before the controversy of illegal mining surrounding the Reddy Brothers could be forgotten, has come the instances of others ministers getting bitten by the bug of lucre, be it allotment of land (Katta Subramanya Naidu) or jobs in hospitals (Ramachandre Gowda).

The problem with the BJP government is that the leadership has failed.

B.S. Yediyurappa has been unable to provide the needed leadership to carry and instill the sense of responsibility among the legislators, most of whom are newcomers to public life. He should have led by example and shared the burden of steering the ship of the State with others.

His autocratic behaviour has been the cause of the party’s colective misery, going by the grievances of fellow party workers. As a result political atmosphere is turning murkier and murkier with every passing day.

Two main rumours are afloat at the moment.

One is the behind-the-scenes efforts made by JDS with the tacit backing of Congress to put a ragtag government in place of the present one. The second one is the talk of change of leadership within the BJP for which some of the dissidents are burning midnight oil.

In the present permissive atmosphere, both efforts, which basically distort the mandate of the people, have hardly any chance of propping up a credible alternative.

The best solution under the circumstances is to remit the problem back to the people.

Let the people decide what should happen, instead of allowing the powerbrokers in every party to misutilise the occasion for their personal and political aggrandisement while making a mockery of the State in the eyes of the nation.

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

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

Getaway of the louts in the Gateway to the South

BJP’s lotus grows in muck, so do BJP’s people

One question I’m dying to ask Yediyurappa & Reddy

What she means is her portfolio, but she could…

23 September 2010

The Twitter bug bites the newly sworn-in minister of Karnataka, Shobha Karandlaje, in a Freudian sort of way.

What the controversial MLA from Yeshwanthpur probably means is that she has been allotted the “power” portfolio in the recast team. But having unwittingly been made a sacrificial lamb in the battle between chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and the Reddy brothers last November, the tweet could well contain a note of exultation at having got back what had been cruelly snatched from her.

Pavan Murali writes:

“It would be great if our ministers realize that with power comes responsibility. Not once have I seen a minister rejoice when they have had to shoulder additional responsibility, but we always see them unable to contain their excitement when offered more power. Unfortunate.”

Then again, as the historian John Dalberg-Acton said famously:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Linka via Pavan Murali

The Gateway to the South opens up once again

22 September 2010

On the day of her return to the BJP ministry in Karnataka, 10 months after the Reddy brothers had earned her scalp, Yeshwanthpur MLA Shobha Karandlaje takes the blessings of mentor and chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa after being sworn in as minister, at the Raj Bhavan in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Survival of the fittest is a great photo opportunity

Yella vokay, sototu-bootu, salwar-kameez yaake?

The handshake everybody loves to watch closely

The gateway to the South as seen from up above


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