Posts Tagged ‘Sushma Swaraj’

Can Narendra Modi win friends, influence voters?

19 June 2013

A week is a long time in politics; a fortnight is an eternity. What seemed like, what was projected to be the penultimate stop in his march to his advertised destination, his elevation as the chairman of the election campaign committee of the BJP at the party’s national executive in Goa, has come quickly unstuck for Narendra Damodardas Modi.

On one level, the very public resignation of Lalchand Kishinchand Advani from all BJP posts the day after Modi’s anointment served to show that the divisions in the party on Modi’s acceptance wasn’t a media-created fiction, as the paid pipers on TV and the internet contend, but a reality.

That such senior leaders like Sushma Swaraj conspicuously absented themselves from the unctuous celebrations of Modi’s elevation was too obvious to be missed.

On another level, the withdrawal of support by the BJP’s partner, the JD(U), after 17 years of cohabitation showed that Modi’s acceptance within the NDA wasn’t assured either. And Nitish Kumar‘s dismissal of Modi as a “shortlived wave” created by “corporate houses” only underlines the obstacles ahead of the Gujarat chief minister.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, the aide of both former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani, has today described Modi as an “autocrat” and a “self-centered leader who has shown that he cares two hoots for the party organization and long-time party colleagues in his own state“.

Even prime minister Manmohan Singh has suddenly found the strength to say that “Modi is no threat. People of India know what he stands for… People of India have to draw their own conclusion what they stand for.”

What the developments of the last few days have demonstrated is that the knives are now out in the open. There are some in Delhi who smell trouble for Modi’s Man Friday in Uttar Pradesh, the former home minister of Gujarat, Amit Shah, in the Ishrat Jahan encounter killing case, and indeed some read the urgency with which the RSS and BJP ensured Modi’s elevation in Goa (sparking Advani’s resignation and the JDU pullout), in conjunction with it.

In short, the odds are getting stacked and it is going to take a strong heart, a chhappan ki chhaati, to weather the current and future storms. Can Modi still pull it off and become the BJP’s face for the next election? If he does, will he able to provide the kind of thrust and throttle that the party requires to get close to 200 seats? And if he doesn’t, does his personality inspire enough confidence to woo parties and partners?

Or have all these cards been played by Modi’s detractors too early, giving him more than enough time to recoup?

POLL: Is Advani more ‘acceptable’ than Modi?

16 April 2013

In politics, like in cricket, nothing is in the realm of the impossible. And it is not over till the last ball is bowled (and sometimes not even that, if it is a front-foot no-ball). So, what was projected to be a head-to-head faceoff between Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi for the 2014 elections is showing signs of becoming anything but.

In other words, it’s time to dip into the Kuala Lumpur Police Department manual.

On the one hand, the “young yuvaraj” seems to have presumptively developed cold feet about wanting to take over the mantle, as if the people of democratic India were dying to hand it over to him. Result: prime minister Manmohan Singh feels emboldened to answer hypothetical questions on a third term, if Congress wins, if UPA comes to power, if….

But it is what is happening in the other corner that is even more captivating.

After prematurely building himself up as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Modi is coming to terms with reality outside TV studios. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar‘s comment, among others, that “only one who can carry with him all the diverse sections of people can become the leader of the nation” is proving to be the spark.

Suddenly, a bunch of people within the BJP are finding virtue in L.K. Advani.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has realised that he is without doubt “our tallest leader“. Former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh finds him the “seniormost“. And former finance minister Yashwant Sinha says, “if Advani is available to lead the party and the government, that should end all discourse.”

The BJP’s allies too are piping in. Naresh Gujral of the Shiromani Akali Dal says “nobody can have any objection to Advani’s candidature. He is a senior and respected leader.” K.C. Tyagi of the JD(U) says, “We contested under Advani’s leadership in 2009 and will have absolutely no hesitation in doing so again.”

So, could Modi vs Rahul in 2014 become a Manmohan vs Advani battle?

Does Advani have the backing of the RSS or of larger BJP for the top job? Is the “man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred“—the brain behind the bloody rath yatra that led to the demolition of the Babri masjid—really “more secular” than Modi? Or, are his BJP colleagues and NDA allies firing from his shoulders against Modi?

Could Advani, 84, gracefully make way for a younger aspirant, like say Sushma Swaraj (who has the OK of Shiv Sena), or will he throw his hat in the ring? Does he have the carry that Modi enjoys?

Or is the “man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred“—the brain behind the bloody rath yatra that led to the demolition of the Babri masjid—destined to become a two-time “former future prime minister of India“? And is the next general election a semi-final before another election in 2015 or 2016?

Also read: Who could be the NDA’s PM candidate?

Is news TV clamouring for a war with Pakistan?

15 January 2013

Twenty-four hours after the Pakistani cricket team had departed from Indian soil last week, after having soundly thrashed the hosts in the one-day series, news first leaked on television of the mutilated bodies of two Indian soldiers being found, and then breathless coverage of one of them being found “decapitated”.

From then on, it has been a relentless slide on television, with Indian anchors, army men, “analysts” and now even the leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj, locked in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Pakistan army men, “analysts” and others willing to go through the ignominy each night.

The media (and resultant public) gaze on what is otherwise a fairly routine violation of the ceasefire has led to a less-than-balanced reaction. The Congress is vying with the Shiv Sena for brownie points on patriotism ( a la Pakistani hockey players); the chief of the Army staff Bikram Singh is vying with his Air chief counterpart N.A.K. Browne.

The competitive jingoism—“If Pakistan does not return the head of martyred soldier Hemraj, India should get at least ten heads from the other side”—is being placed all the door of the media, especially the television media.

***

Editorial in Business Standard:

“It should go without saying that the media has a role in informing and educating a citizenry about the issues of the day, providing background, context and holding the powerful to account. A case study in how not to go about this is currently being provided by the electronic media in its coverage of recent raids and counter-raids on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, in which two Indian soldiers have been killed, and one allegedly subjected to post-mortem mutilation.

“Instead of questioning the narrative, news television and some print outlets have instead blatantly beaten the drums of confrontation, hyping even relatively calm statements by the army chief into belligerent displays of national machismo. Coming at a time when the government is attempting to move forward on dialogue with Pakistan that is very much in the national interest, the question should be asked: are some of India’s news channels, and their pursuit of eyeballs, turning into a national security hazard?

“If the electronic media dragoons a weak Indian government into raising the ante with its Pakistani counterpart at a time when it needs instead to be an ally against the powerful Pakistan military’s ability to hijack the security agenda, then the national interest will suffer a serious blow. More, it will count as a signal ethical failure on the part of whichever media outlet is sacrificing context to sensationalism.

“A handful of bellicose television supremos cannot be allowed to dictate a foreign policy that hurts the interest of India’s citizens.”

***

Mani Shankar Aiyar in The Indian Express:

My friend, the cine artiste and poet, Farooque Sheikh, has summed it up better than I ever could. He describes the TRP war being whipped up by our hysterical TV anchors as “dangerously boring and boringly dangerous”.

It is precisely because one had anticipated outrages of the kind that occurred on Sunday, January 6 (and have a much longer ancestry than TV anchors and their guest cohorts are willing to acknowledge—such, for example, as revealed by Praveen Swami in The Hindu, that I have for so long been advocating “uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue” as the only way for India and Pakistan to resolve their issues and normalise their relations.

***

Editorial in The Hindu:

“Few spectacles have been as unedifying as the contemptible baying of warmongers these past days—most of it, it bears mention, emanating from TV studios located at a safe distance from the nearest bullet.”

Read the full BS editorial: Crossing a red line

Read the Express column: The hostility industry

Read the full Hindu editorial: Stop baying for blood

External reading: Was an Indian soldier decapitated?

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

‘BJP has fallen prey to politician-entrepreneurs’

31 July 2011

PRITHVI DATTA CHANDRA SHOBHI writes: The protracted and acrimonious power tussle in Bangalore, quite reminiscent of several episodes in recent years, demolishes Bharatiya Janata Party’s claim to be a party with a difference.

In fact, after taking office 38 months ago, the Yediyurappa government, has hurtled from one crisis to another – be it due to internal dissidence, scandals of abuse of power and corruption involving BJP politicians, repeated episodes of the infamous ‘Operation Kamala’ to bring opposition party MLAs into BJP and the efforts by the opposition parties to destabilize BJP and remove it from power – leaving no time for governing.

Any wonder Yediyurappa famously said any other person in his position would have gone mad?

Political analysts have thus far tended to see this as a failure of leadership and have often blamed B.S. Yediyurappa for his failings. There is some truth to this charge.

While Yediyurappa has been the key figure in BJP’s rise to power, his character flaws have also been obvious.

His street fighter instincts as well as perpetual campaign mode have been advantageous for BJP, the political party, but the same personality appears ill suited to handle the rigors of governance. He is short tempered, doesn’t listen to advice or contrarian perspectives, and is rarely challenged, especially on policy within his party.

Further, he seems to exist within a bubble, believes in his own rhetorical hubris of development and is very intolerant of opposition, which is surprising given that Yediyurappa spent many decades in opposition benches.

By all accounts, he wasn’t detail oriented and didn’t have the stamina or the patience to fulfill the innumerable tall promises he makes to all and sundry, everyday.

His well documented nepotism and authoritarian tendencies have not only alienated his own party men but far more significantly show a lack of understanding of how discretionary power should be used.

Yet, even if he had been a nicer person, more efficient administrator and accommodating leader, Yeddyurappa, and indeed the state of Karnataka, couldn’t have escaped from the current predicament – scandals and abuse of power, the loss to exchequer from mining, and widespread corruption.

Therefore, this personality oriented analysis misses the structural transformations that have taken place in Karnataka politics, leading to a fundamental change in the political culture of the state.

***

At the heart of this change is the emergence of a new politician – brash and covetous, with no inhibitions on the use of public policy as an instrument of personal profit.

He is rarely guided by any notion of public good – even one based on narrow considerations of religion or caste; rather business interests seem to motivate this politician-entrepreneur.

Despite Yediyurappa’s rhetoric about development, or for that matter the populism of his predecessor H. D. Kumaraswamy state policy has rarely had any notion of public good as its guiding principle in the Oughts.

On the contrary, there has been a substantial convergence of business and politics, a paradigmatic shift that not only explains the birth of this new politician-entrepreneur but also shows corruption to be a new form of activity that resides in his persona.

Note that caste and class backgrounds have been quite remarkably insignificant in his rise.

The principal focus of politician-entrepreneur’s business activity has been mining and real estate, the two land-based business ventures. Note that both require access to political power, in order to change or to seek exemption from or violate regulatory mechanisms.

Bangalore and Bellary have been the epicentres of this process.

As a significant beneficiary of globalization and ever expanding IT industry, Bangalore has grown leading to unreal profits for those engaged in real estate ventures. However, Bellary’s dramatic transformation, economically and ecologically, has made the Bangalore story seem less significant although similar processes are taking place in both places.

Bellary has been the harbinger of change not simply for the exploitation of mineral wealth and destruction of environment but for the new political culture that has taken root in Karnataka. It burst into national consciousness when Sonia Gandhi contested for Loksabha in 1999.

Ironically, it also marked the dramatic rise of Gali Janardhan Reddy, who managed the BJP campaign for Sushma Swaraj, Gandhi’s opponent in that election. Even though he ended up on the losing side, Reddy and his cohort filled the political vacuum in Bellary BJP and effectively challenged the hegemony of Congress.

Reddy took to mining, where the increasing global demand for iron ore, brought in unexpected riches, which were quickly ploughed back into electoral politics. Political analysts attribute BJP’s remarkable electoral success in this region in 2004 elections to outspending opponents by five to as many as ten times.

Four years later, Bellary repeated everywhere.

Janardhan Reddy is the prime example of this new politician-entrepreneur model. We estimate that there are at present at least 22 MLAs with substantial interest in mining related businesses and another 18 MLAs in real estate.

In addition to this, there are at least 40 MLAs with significant investments in real estate, hospitality, healthcare, education and agro-businesses. Thus more than one third of Karnataka Assembly today consists of what I have called here as politician-entrepreneur class.

Beyond the numbers what is significant is how they see themselves.

Consider Janardhan Reddy himself. Proposing a Rs. 30,000 crore project, as he did at the 2010 Global Investors Meet, isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. His proximity to power ensured he received the necessary permissions as well as land and water allotments very quickly.

It is reported that liquidity crunch has forced him to sell his company but the very audacity of such a proposal is striking. The new politician-entrepreneur thinks nothing of the financial requirement, managerial as well as technical skills necessary to run a massive business venture.

***

More than any other party, BJP has been open to this new politician-entrepreneur.

While a definitive account of BJP’s ascendance to political prominence is yet to be written, it is quite clear that BJP’s rise to power hasn’t come from the use of religion in politics, as pundits had anticipated.

Rather, under Yediyurappa’s leadership, BJP recognized the political zeitgeist (spirit) of the age and succeeded in integrating this new politician-entrepreneur into the structure of the older Sangh parivar activist based party.

Yediyurappa’s singular achievement has been to manage this transition in the short term, despite tremendous upheavals within the party.

He also shrewdly recognized that these new additions substantially expand the social base of the party, as they come from different under represented backward communities, and has created very effective local social (read caste) alliances by combining the traditional supporters of Sangh Parivar with these new comers.

His own Lingayat credentials have been a huge help in this process and perhaps, this is what makes him indispensible for BJP even today.

While the BJP national leadership doesn’t agree with this assessment, Yediyurappa himself relentlessly makes this point and so do his supporters. Even his opponents concede, especially in private, that if elections are held today Yediyurappa will comfortably lead his party back to power.

If my first proposition to explain politics in Karnataka today focused on the convergence of politics and business – and the consequent emergence of the politician-entrepreneur – we also need to recognize that no politician will survive in public life if his sole purpose is private profit.

Therefore, my second proposition notes the rise of a new form of populism as the relationship of the politician with his constituents too changes.

I have closely followed Karnataka politics for nearly three decades now, studying the personalities of politicians, their motivations and aspirations.

What I found surprising about the recent changes is how quickly the politician has become a benevolent royal patron, feeding hundreds – even thousands in some cases – of people everyday, distributing cash to people who need money for hospital expenses, for school fees, or funerals; some legislators have even posted a chart in their houses.

This is the kind of benevolence usually associated with an ideal king and I have noticed politicians frequently using royal metaphors to describe their largesse. While politicians in the past may have helped their constituents in this manner, the scale of this operation and the centrality to politics is new.

Hence at the core of this new populism (and of politician-constituent relationship) is personal loyalty.

What the politician delivers isn’t simply services that the state offers but largesse from personal fortune to meet with the everyday contingencies of his constituent.

Even building a political base is a project in cultivating personal loyalty: it might mean distributing thousands of sewing machines to women or sending thousands on pilgrimages to temples allover South India or distributing money to celebrate the birthdays of Basavanna and Ambedkar.

The constituent too seems to be fine with accepting these gifts, which he sees as redistribution of illegally gotten wealth from real estate and mining. You only have to watch Kannada news television channels for a few hours on any given day to find enough evidence.

Politics has become an expensive proposition and many old timers stay away from their constituencies unable to distribute such largesse.

In noting the transformations, I am not suggesting that the older political projects – to achieve social justice or equitable economic development are completely dead. But the space available for such is collective projects is shrinking and the prospects for building new ones are quite bleak.

Will replacing Yediyurappa or even the fall of BJP government in the forthcoming elections might change this new reality? Will a robust Lok Ayukta (ombudsman) institution or an activist, vigilant Supreme Court make a difference?

Possibly not.

While some sources of income, such as illegal mining, can closed, the new political dynamic is fairly well entrenched. Karnataka isn’t unique in this regard and similar trends are seen in other parts of the country as well.

***

Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi is on the faculty of San Francisco State University, specialising in medieval South India, and the cultural politics of contemporary South Asia.

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

CHURUMURI POLL: Why did Sushma ditch Reddys?

29 May 2011

Sushma Swaraj‘s somersault with a mid-air blackflip, on her relationship with the Reddy brothers of Bellary and her role in their political rise and growth, is a mindbending piece of acrobatics in a political theatre that now resembles a ragtag circus where the jokers and jesters have taken over the main show.

By blaming chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa and Arun Jaitley, Swaraj tests the political memory of those who have seen her riding piggyback on the mining brothers and their “family” associates, like B. Sriramulu, from the time of her election campaign against Sonia Gandhi in 1999 and providing benign protection to their antics subsequently.

Equally amazingly, Yediyurappa supports what Sushma Swaraj says!

Sushma Swaraj now expects the world to believe that she has had nothing to do with the Reddys, that she was actually opposed to their inclusion in the cabinet, etc. She claims she meets them and talks to them on only one day of the year, on Varamahalakshmi habba, and that all has happened has happened courtesy the “others” in the party.

Now that the BJP president Nitin Gadkari has put the onus on the rise of the Reddys to the collective leadership of the BJP at both the State and central levels, two questions arise. One, who was behind the political emergence of the Reddy brothers that has brought such shame to the State on the national canvas?

And two, just why this sudden confession from Sushma Swaraj?

Does the leader of the opposition—whose husband Swaraj Kaushal was appointed the counsel for the State when the heat first got on to the Reddys—have some foreknowledge of what is to come? Or has she been tipped off on “mentions” in the Lok Ayukta report that could put the pressure on her in a season of corruption?

Is this just oneupmanship in the BJP in the run-up to the 2014 elections, as part of which Sushma Swaraj has repeatedly felt the need to take on Jaitley’s mentor, Narendra Damodardas Modi? Or has the BJP, which needed the Reddys to put up candidates and buy up MLAs when there was a shortfall, and ferry them around when there is a crisis, run out of use for them?

***

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

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

The stunning moral collapse of BJP in Karnataka

24 January 2011

The hi-decibel war-of-swear-words between the governor of Karnataka, H.R. Bharadwaj, and the chief minister, B.S. Yediyurappa, over the issue of the former’s go-ahead for the latter’s prosecution on corruption charges, has played out on expected lines. (So far.)

Lost in the thickets of ideology, party affiliation, and mutual name-calling and finger-wagging, is the life-source of a functioning democracy: political morality, both as a virtue to practise and as an ideal to pursue.

Dinesh Amin Mattu, associate editor of the Kannada daily Praja Vani, makes a much-required intervention in today’s paper on how the BJP has squandered the high moral ground. Translated from the original Kannada by Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi, and reproduced here in full with the permission of the publishers.

***

By DINESH AMIN MATTU

Hansraj Bharadwaj, the governor of Karnataka, may have committed a hundred-and-one sins in his prior political life. Every time the Indira Gandhi family was in trouble, the ever-loyal Bharadwaj may have dutifully trodded on a path, legitimate and illegitimate, to save his masters.

After coming to the State, he may not have missed any opportunity to criticise the BJP government. His frequent loose talk may also not have been appropriate for the high office of governor. Despite all this, can we conclude that all the decisions taken by him are ‘tainted’?

This, indeed, is the claim of the chief Minister, B.S.Yediyurappa, and the BJP leaders. Their constant refrain is that the “governor is a ‘Congress Agent’ and therefore his decisions are not to be honoured.”

How the ruling party has arrived at the ‘Congress Agent’ charge, we do not know. But if Bharadwaj becomes a ‘Congress Agent’ simply because he was a member of the Congress party, then are all the governors who were appointed by the BJP-led NDA during its six-year regime ‘BJP Agents’?

Wasn’t Bharadwaj appointed to the governorship because he has all the qualifications that the Constitution stipulates? If there have been any errors committed on that front, surely the BJP leaders could have brought them to the attention of the President. But no one seems to have done that.

Political parties raise objections about governors only when they are in the opposition. When in power, they do not hesitate to use the same office for political benefit.

The Sarkaria commission has made detailed recommendations on the eligibility and appointment procedures for governors. Why didn’t Arun Jaitley, who lectures now on the office of the governor, implement these recommendations when he was the Union law minister?

In independent India, disputes concerning the office of governor, painting them as  them as villains, have emerged largely in three situations. First, while deciding on who has the majority after an election. Second, while a political party seeks to prove its majority during a ‘no-confidence’ motion. Third, when a government isn’t allegedly functioning as per the Constitution.

All these three contexts have given birth to several political crises, which have found their way to the courts. The main reason for this is the lack clarity in the Constitution itself with respect to the role of the governor during the above mentioned situations.

Article 164 of the Constitution states that the (chief) ‘minister shall hold office during the pleasure of the governor’. According to Article 356, the governor may dismiss a government whose functioning is unconstitutional. In shot, the governor will have to take these decisions using his discretion.

Generally whenever discretionary power is used, individual interests are the determining factors and since the political party at the Centre will take a decision ultimately, these decisions lead to political disputes. However, whenever it has appeared as if the governor’s decisions have violated the constitutional framework, then the Supreme Court has intervened and provided relief.

However, the present political crisis in Karnataka hasn’t come about because of any the three political situations outlined above.

Using the right to information (RTI) Act, two lawyers have collected evidence on the corruption charges against the chief minister. They have presented that evidence to the governor and sought permission to prosecute him as per the the provisions of the prevention of corruption Act, 1988.

In cases such as this, if the governor can verify the truthfulness of the evidence, within the limits of the powers of his office, and if he is convinced that there is some truth to the charges, then he may allow for the prosecution of the chief minister. This power is given to the governor by the Constitution and Bharadwaj has used it.

Therefore, the governor cannot be charged with either the misuse of his powers or of breaking the law.

Yes, the governor could have rejected the plea of the two lawyers. But the Constitution does not require the governor to reject such an appeal nor does it say that the governor does not have the power to approve the appeal to prosecute. Therefore, it is clear that the governor has functioned within the framework of the Constitution.

If he has violated the law, then there is the Supreme Court to question his conduct. Why do we need all these allegations, abuse, protests and the bandh?

There are other reasons for the governor to justify his decision. This isn’t the first time there are allegations against the chief minister. The Lok Ayukta and the Padmaraj commission, which has been appointed by the government itself, have already been inquiring into several of these allegations.

Even the State Cabinet resolution, which demanded that the governor not permit the filing of a criminal case against the chief minister, cites these inquiries. If there was no truth in any of these allegations, why would the Lok Ayukta initiate an inquiry? Why would even the State government appoint a commission to inquire into these allegations?

Yediyurappa makes two allegations in order to justify himself: that the governor is behaving like an agent of the opposition parties, and that the opposition parties too have committed similar transgressions when they were in power.

In one sense, Yediyurappa is right. He truly hasn’t done what his predecessors haven’t done beforer. But how will the corruption of opponents justify one’s own corruption? Yediyurappa, who occupies a responsible office such as the chief ministership, should clarify which court will accept that argument. He doesn’t seem to realize this allegation could be used against him as well.

If the previous governments had been corrupt and had escaped being prosecuted, then wouldn’t the Opposition parties be responsible for that? What will Yediyurappa’s response be if he is asked about his own dereliction of duty as the leader of the opposition party in the legislative assemby?

BJP leaders also ask why a third inquiry when two institutions (Lok Ayukta and the Padmaraj Commission) are already seized of the matter. But isn’t this something that the BJP government itself started? Didn’t the BJP government think it was improper when it appointed the Padmaraj commission to investigate those cases which were being looked into by the Lok Ayukta without even bringing it to his notice?

Chief Minister Yediyurappa is truly in a bind now. The noose of three different inquiries has enveloped him. There aren’t too many choices to retain power. He may survive for a while through protests, bandhs and allegations against the governor. But he will not complete his term by resorting to these strategies.

The situation is getting out of hand.

Political games may have no rules but within the parliamentary democratic system, the game will be played within the framework of the Constitution and there, one will have to abide by the rules. If not then, one will have to leave the field.

Unfortunately Yediyurappa has himself created such as situation.

Yediyurappa may try to retain his office by claiming that he is innocent until proven guilty. Legally, a chief minister need not resign simply because of allegations or inquiries. However, how will BJP turn its back to the moral question since it has always been talking about a different kind of political idealism?

When confronted with similar accusations, the Congress party sent home many of its leaders, from Natwar Singh to Ashok Chavan. Now, how will the BJP face the Congress with this black mark?

The present-day BJP leaders have forgotten that their own leader L.K. Advani resigned as the leader of the opposition leader because letters resembling his name appeared in a Jainhawala case diary.

What a stunning moral collapse/ decline of the Bharatiya Janata Party!

Photographs: (top) BJP leaders led by L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Ananth Kumar and Venkaiah Naidu emerging out of Rashtrapati Bhavan after petitioning the President of India, Pratibha Patil, on the conduct of governor, H.R. Bharadwaj, in New Delhi on Monday (Karnataka Information department photo); author photograph, courtesy Praja Vani.

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

Getaway of the louts in the gateway to the South

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

Why Karnataka politics has reached this sad state

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?

The shadow boxing of old rivals in a new bottle

10 October 2010

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The two key players in the latest round of the political tamasha currently underway in Karnataka are the inveterate political rivals, former chief minister, H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JDS and G. Janardhana Reddy, the BJP minister and mining baron.

While the beleaguered chief minster has been on a temple-hopping spree seeking divine help for warding off the dangers to his ministry, on the ground, the battle is mainly being fought between these two worthies.

The political career graph of HDK and Reddy runs on almost uniform lines.

Both had a stratospheric rise in politics, thanks to the clout, political, financial and otherwise, that they wield. Both have a long innings ahead, though at the moment it has been blotted by their sins of omission and commission. Both are politically ambitious, care a penny for scruples and are ready to adopt any means to reach their goal.

And, as far as their relationship with B.S. Yediyurappa is concerned, it has been a mixture of love and hate for  both.

After befriending Yediyurappa to achieve the otherwise impossible task of landing himself in the gaddi of the chief minister in 2006, Kumaraswamy chose to drop him like a hot potato, once the latter’s utility was over. He wants people to forget the 20-month honeymoon and has now turned out to be Yediyurappa’s chief critic.

It appears that the plot for the current rebellion by a section of the BJP has been scripted by Kumaraswamy and his father, the former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

The Reddy story is a bit different.

After worming their way into the BJP while managing Sushma Swaraj‘s election campaign against Sonia Gandhi for the Lok Sabha elections from Bellary, Reddy and his brother Karunakar Reddy and their colleague B. Sriramulu moved closer to Yediyurappa.

They showed their “talent and skills” in mustering support through the infamous “Operation Lotus” for the latter to CM after the 2008 elections. They extracted their pound of flesh all right for their services and quickly donned the role of king makers in the BJP.

When Yediyurappa showed some signs of liberating himself from their clutches and started acting independently, the Reddys hit back hard, launching a campaign for his ouster last November. Yediyurappa had no alternative but to pocket his pride and kowtow to the wishes of the Reddys despite the intervention of the national leadership.

The manner in which Yediyurappa procrastinated on the report of the Lok Ayukta on illegal mining in Bellary district, spoke eloquently of the Reddys’ power to call the shots.

The antipathy between Kumaraswamy and the Reddys goes beyond politics and extends to the realm of mining too.

Being an MLA of one of the constituents of the BJP-JDS coalition, did not come in the way of Janardhana Reddy launching a diatribe against Kumaraswamy and hurl open the charges of corruption against him in the realm of mining.  Despite all the ballyhoo it created and embarrassment caused to the BJP, Reddy got away with it.

The present farcical political drama, which has put the future of the Yediyurappa government in jeopardy, has provided one more platform for the two rivals to flex their muscles.

Initially Reddys were quiet, when the dissidents made the first public move.

Rumours were afloat hinting at their hand in the happenings, because of some of their known supporters were in the dissidents’ camp.  But when it became clear that the whole thing was being masterminded by Kumarswamy, the Reddys opened jumped into the bandwagon  in  a bid to save the ministry, which they themselves wanted to remove a couple of months ago.

The Reddys are known to employ money power, where the legislators’ loyalty is openly on sale.

Kumaraswamy appears  to have been endowed with the resources  abundantly in starting the game and in sustaining it against Reddy this time round. This is evident from the manner in which legislators were herded from one posh resort to another in Madras and Bombay only to be holed up in south Goa before returning to Madras.

Despite the media glare, both made a sojourn to Goa to talk to the dissident legislators.

It is a battle of nerves between Reddy and Kumarawamy. Who wins ultimately will be known tomorrow, of course, since they appeared to be well matched in strategies and counter strategies.

Why is BJP backing Reddys? A: Sushma Swaraj

20 July 2010

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Cicero was a Roman orator and statesman of the 1st century BC whose writings deeply influenced modern thought. He was once retained by Sicilians to prosecute the Governor of Sicily, C. Verres, who had become unbearably corrupt and cruel.

Cicero prepared the first of what was to be a six-part chargesheet against the Governor, analysing the evils of greedy administrators. That first part was so powerful in its logic that Governor Verres gave up his post and retired into exile.

That was the good news.

The bad news was that the same Sicily gave birth to a secret nationalist society called the Mafia which in the 19th century turned into a collection of hired thugs specialising in blackmail, protection rackets and murder. Marlon Brando etched it into the world’s memory with The Godfather.

So why bring it up now?

To remind us that good history does not repeat itself. There was a time when people could prosecute the head of their government for corruption. That cannot happen now.

There were heads of government who would be shamed into voluntary exile when people filed charges against them. That is unthinkable today.

Bad history alone repeats itself. People who once had the power to prosecute their political boss later fell prey to the mafia. This is happening again and again around us.

Consider Karnataka, once one of the best governed states in India and led by some of best political minds in the country. Can that history repeat itself? Far from it.

Go into ancient history and we find rajahs losing their right to rule if they violated rajneeti; Sri Rama himself chose to heed public opinion even if it meant losing his wife. How different it is today? A. B. Vajpayee did accuse Narendra Modi of violating raj dharma, but it was Vajpayee who had to swallow his words while Modi went on with his violations.

Karnataka has hit national headlines for the wrong reasons. (Typical headline: Nataka in Karnataka). The Governor donned the battle dress, the Legislature became a war zone. All because of three ministers, the Reddy brothers.

A number of facts have turned public opinion against the Troika.

Fact: In 2008 a minority BJP Government was turned amorally into a majority with money provided by the Reddys.

Fact: In late 2009, under pressure of public opinion, the Chief Minister tried to curb the Reddys’ highhandedness; he transferred out of Bellary several officers who had been acting according to the orders of the Reddys and Reddys alone.

Fact: Within a month the Chief Minister cancelled the transfer of officers and withdrew criminal cases filed against the Reddys.

Fact: Under party pressure to placate the Reddy Troika the Chief Minister dropped one of his closest colleagues from the Cabinet, removed his capable and faithful Principal Secretary and withdrew a tax he had imposed on iron-ore trucks.

Fact: In the midst of the ongoing controversy, one of the Troika spends two hours in private conference with notorious criminals in a Bangalore Jail.

What gives the Reddys the power to run a state so haughtily? The obvious answer is their limitless “purchasing power” gained from the exploitation, without heed to laws and regulations, of the natural resources of Karnataka and Andhra. Less obvious is the unstinted support they receive from the BJP top brass in Delhi.

What motivates the BJP top brass when the Reddys are (a) not BJP-wallahs in any ideological sense and (b) an obvious liability to the party?

The short answer to that one is: Sushma Swaraj.

The Reddys publicly worship SS as their mother. Sushma Swaraj ignores their sins, ignores their unpopularity and gives them full support because perhaps she sees a day when brazen Reddy money can install a BJP government in Delhi as it did in Bangalore. No prices for guessing who will be the prime minister in such a government.

Thus does private ambition carry our country from misfortune to misfortune.

One question I’m dying to ask Yedi & Reddy

19 July 2010

After weeping and prevaricating for a fortnight, Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa has issued a “101 per cent” clean chit to the Reddy brothers in the mining issue from a lofty perch of New Delhi, saying there was no evidence against them. G. Janardhana Reddy, in turn, has issued himself a “pure as 24-carat gold” certificate to him, saying all the illegal stuff was being done by his Congress brethren.

This turn of events should surprise nobody, but everybody who has followed news reports over the last three years, Lok Ayukta N. Santosh Hegde‘s resignation, the Opposition’s dharna in the Vidhana Soudha  demanding a CBI probe, and the “former future prime minister” L.K. Advani‘s clarion call to the party to save the government if the Reddys have to go, should be scratching their heads as to what the heck the hungama was all about.

So, what is the one question you are dying to ask Yediyurappa and the Reddys? Like, is it true you have registered a domain name called dabbudabbudabbu.reddybrothers.com?

Also read6+1 questions after the return of Justice Santosh Hegde

‘In Ram Rajya, hamaam mein sab nange hain

Getaway of the Louts in the Gateway to the South

CHURUMURI POLL: Dismiss BJP govt in Karnataka?

GOOD NEWS: Karnataka beats AP, TN, Kerala

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

6 + 1 questions after the return of Santosh Hegde

4 July 2010

The Karnataka Lok Ayukta, Justice N. Santosh Hegde‘s decision to withdraw his resignation will surprise a few and not surprise those whose literature major was drama.

But his invocation of the “former future prime minister of India”, L.K. Advani—“he is like my father” just two days after he had stated that “he will not influence me“—as justification for his move is sure to spark a few questions:

1) Like, despite his public protestations, is chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa entirely happy with Justice Hegde’s decision to stay back? After all, it was he who had thanked Justice Hegde for his services without even going through the courtesy of requesting him to continue in office for fear of embarrassing him, and wasn’t even inclined to meet him?

2) Like, despite its contempt for the high command-driven politics of the Congress, is the BJP too firmly in its grip? After all, it took the persuasive powers of Sushma Swaraj to put an end to the last rebellion of the Reddy brothers last November after every other method had failed. And now, the “former future prime minister of India” has had to step in to resolve a State issue.

3) Like, despite his decision to quit as BJP president, is L.K. Advani still running the party, be it in putting up Ram Jethmalani as a party candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls, wooing back Jaswant Singh, cosying up to Uma Bharti, and now in intervening in l’affaire Hegde? And is the RSS entirely happy with his enhanced role, or is this an admission that its candidate Nitin Gadkari has  flopped?

4) Like, given Justice Hegde’s earlier resolve to quit come hell or high water, are we to assume from the trajectory of his return that the “former future prime minister of India” is more powerful than the chief minister and his colleagues, former chief minister S.M. Krishna, governor H.R. Bharadwaj and Union home minister P. Chidambaram, all of whom tried to woo him back but in vain?

5) Will Justice Hegde get another term as Lok Ayukta or will he remit office as scheduled later this year? Either way, will he share the dais with politicians after saying that he did not trust them, and that there were only three-and-a-half honest ministers in Yediyurappa’s team?

6) Who will emerge stronger from this episode? Justice Hegde or Yediyurappa or the Reddy brothers? Will Justice Hegde getting the backing and cooperation he is seeking, or will he find that he will be found dispensable after the storm subsides? Will the Reddy brothers raise a fresh banner of revolt if the heat gets to them?

Bonus question: Like, where do all those who insinuated that Justice Santosh Hegde was acting at the behest of the Congress in resigning on the eve of the BJP government’s’ sadhana samavesha and making charges of corruption, stand now that he is back at the behest of the “former future prime minister of India”?

Photograph: Karnataka Lok Ayukta Justice N. Santosh Hegde along with BJP national president Nitin Gadkari and chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa at his residence in Bangalore on Saturday. ( Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: ‘In Ram Rajya, hamaam mein sab nange hain

Getaway of the Louts in the Gateway to the South

CHURUMURI POLL: Dismiss BJP govt in Karnataka?

GOOD NEWS: Karnataka beats AP, TN, Kerala

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

Ramayana, Mahabharatha and the Women’s Bill

19 March 2010

Union law minister Veerappa Moily while receiving an award for his five-volume Shri Ramayan Mahanveshanam, yesterday:

“It is instances like Sita‘s fire ordeal which firmed our resolve for the women’s reservation bill.”

“In Sita’s ‘fire ordeal’, Ravan‘s wife, Mandodari, talks to Sita: “Are you not satisfied with the fiery ordeal of life we have tolerated and endured as women till now? Only a man of the epoch can put an end to women’s ordeal.”

Moily did not of course reveal who the “man of the epoch” was on 9 March 2009. Was it him, who moved the bill? Was it P. Chidambaram, who is rumoured to have said the dissenting MPs must be marshalled out?

Or, was it you-know-who?

Meanwhile, the veteran editor T.J.S. George too adds a touch of the mythological to decipher modern-day male chauvinism.

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Draupadi had five husbands, each with unsurpassed capabilities. None of them came to her rescue when she was dragged into the royal court for disrobing.

The political Yadavs of our time seem to have taken a self-serving lesson from this episode and resolved that women are unworthy of protection, let alone promotion. Either that or they have forgotten the double curse—pronounced by Gandhari, and then by Viswamitra, Kanva and Narada—that the Yadava race would destroy itself.

Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav have already reduced their parties to tottering relics. Their opposition to the women’s reservation bill and, worse, the hooliganism of their men in the Rajya Sabha betrayed a 19th century mindset.

The hooligans brought such shame to the country that they would be better off under the waters that swallowed up Dwaraka.

But what do we see beyond the fossils of Yadu Kula?

Two realities are clearly visible. The first is the politics of the bill. The Yadavas talking about Muslim women’s quota is a desperate move to regain some of the Muslim support they have lost. Mamata Banerjee”s visceral hatred of Bengal communists made her an odd woman against women.

The Congress also put its internal politics on display. Singularly lukewarm about the bill on Day 1, it suddenly became determined on Day 2. In the Congress nothing happens until partymen know what Soniaji wants and once the signal comes, nothing can stop them from carrying out her wishes.

A parliamentary system is unhealthy when it adheres to the letter of the Westminster model, without heeding the spirit of it.

The other reality that looms large is that the women’s bill, even if it crosses the obstacles in its path and finally becomes law, will have only symbolic value. It will not by itself give women the human rights they have been denied for ages. That will require social reform and no social reformers are anywhere in sight.

If and when 33 per cent seats in legislatures are reserved for women, around 30 per cent of that will likely go to wives, daughters, nieces and girlfriends of male politicians.

Lalu Prasad himself put his unlettered wife in the chief minister’s chair while Mulayam Singh could only find his daughter-in-law to contest a Lok Sabha seat. The Kanimozhis and Supriya Sules will multiply when reservations become law.

And what will happen when they sit as law-makers?

Will it mean an end to the killing of newborn girls in the villages of Tamil Nadu and Haryana?

Will it stop crimes against women which increased by 30-40 per cent in recent years as against 16 per cent increase in general crime?

Will it bring down dowry killings which doubled in the last decade?

Will it make a difference to one-third of married women in India being children below 18?

In one sense India has already led the way in women’s empowerment. Women occupy top positions in corporate houses, financial institutions and in the arts. They have reached these positions through merit, not the favour of reservations. This will continue, making India an exemplar of women’s advancement.

But it will be foolish to close our eyes to the social debris that has collected over the centuries.

The tendency to treat women as beasts of burden is all too prevalent. Inside a family, discrimination is carried to the extent of feeding sons properly while daughters are kept on starvation diet. This has led to half the married women in India being anaemic.

The largest number of illiterate women is also in India—200 million. It’s all very well for Sushma Swaraj and Brinda Karat to forget ideologies and perform a celebratory embrace. But what about India’s social reality? Yaduvamsha still has a grip on that reality.

Also read: Goodbye democracy, say hello to Quotocracy

CHURUMURI POLL: Sonia Gandhi, smarter than Indira?

‘Women’s bill will only increase State’s power’

CHURUMURI POLL: Impact of women’s bill?

CHURUMURI POLL: Can Sushma save the BJP?

18 December 2009

Six months after leading his party to its most spectacular crash yet, “the man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred“, Lalchand Kishinchand Advani, has bid adieu to the post of leader of opposition.

On the face of it, the “former future prime minister of India” has been elevated to the newly created position of chairman of the BJP’s parliamentary party. In reality, well, in reality the Nagpur-based “cultural” organisation RSS is calling the shots. So Sushma Swaraj in place of Advani; Nitin Gadkari in place of Rajnath Singh.

Questions: Will Gadkari and Swaraj be able to haul the BJP out of the coals? Are these relatively younger personnel the “generation next” that BJP supporters are waiting for? Will they be able to inspire their colleagues? Or, will the BJP which has seen enough trouble in recent months see more of it?

Also read‘The only person to blame for BJP defeat is L.K. Advani

BJP defeat is a defeat of BJP brand of journalism

‘Fitting finale of five years of foolish opposition’

The Great Debator won’t take quetions, thanks

A lifetime achievement award for L.K. Advani?

‘Advani offers nothing creative, only resentment’

How BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

12 November 2009

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deja vu.

REVEALED: The Yeddy-Reddy secret formula*

11 November 2009

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

After all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Tongue in cheek, conditions apply

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

5 November 2009

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

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

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

However, the paradox is stark and striking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those who live by the Reddys shall die by them

4 November 2009

KPN photo

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

Because….

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

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

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

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

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Sushma Swaraj’s better bet than Narendra Modi’

2 November 2009

Professor Dipankar Gupta, a former profesor of sociology, currently fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum, in conversation with Sheela Bhatt of rediff.com:

Sheela Bhatt: One columnist wrote that the 2009 general elections was the ‘semi-final round’ and Narendra Modi has been knocked out. Do you agree?

Dipankar Gupta: Some people are good at the regional level and some at the national level. He has done well at the regional level not because of the BJP, nor because of its ideology. What he has done is maintain Gujarat’s position as the top economic state. It was not he who put it at the top. The state has always been ahead. Modi didn’t let it slip from its position. He inherited a functioning, economically prosperous state. Gujarat was at number three and is still there.

Narendra Modi has cleverly given Gujaratis the impression that the Centre is against Gujarat and he is fighting for Gujarat. He says we pay so much tax but what do we get back? You might remember in the 1970s Jyoti Basu played the same card effectively. He said Bengal is undermined by the Centre. For 10 years he did very well on that point.

In Gujarat, Modi’s winning card was that the ‘Centre is not looking after us.’ Outside Gujarat Modi was not a crowd puller. North Indians were not impressed as much as the Gujaratis. Modi’s identity as a Gujarati is very strong. He will remain in Gujarat. He will have a strong role to play within his party and will become the BJP’s longest surviving chief minister.

I think the BJP and he himself has realised his limits. On a national scale you need to have a national presence. Vajpayee and Advani had it, but Modi is too much of a Gujarati.

Sushma Swaraj is a strong candidate, she is difficult to handle and is much tougher to fight than Modi because she is a woman. She is articulate and has an all-India image. Arun Jaitley does not have that image yet. He is still very much an organisation man.

If you are talking in terms of going out and fighting an election I think Sushma Swaraj is a better bet than Narendra Modi.”

Read the full interview: ‘Sushma Swaraj is a better bet than Modi’

Also read: ‘Gujarat was vibrant long before Narendra Modi

A nice picture for Sharad Yadav’s personal album

5 June 2009

Defeat does different things to different people, but the use of death as a metaphor is revealing of a retrograde mindset unwilling to concede, comprehend or come to terms.

# In 2006, after the NDA had been surprised by the UPA, the BJP leader Sushma Swaraj vowed not to wear coloured clothes, threatened to shave her head, sleep on the ground and eat groundnuts (while also presumably wiping off her extra-large bindi, breaking her bangles and removing her mangal sutra) if the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi became prime minister.

Thankfully, an “inner voice” spared us the gruesome sight, but somehow the election of Ms Gandhi as the chairperson  of the ruling UPA, didn’t prompt Ms Swaraj, the newly elected deputy leader of the BJP in the Lok Sabha, from wanting to carry out her threat even partially.

But the more things change, the less politicians learn.

India has elected its first woman President, Pratibha Patil. India has elected its first woman speaker of the Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar. And the highest number of women (59) have been elected to this, the 15th Lok Sabha, in post-independent India.

# Yet, Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav has threatened to commit suicide by consuming poison if the women’s reservation is passed in its current form. “We may not have the numbers but I will consume poison and die here but not allow the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill.”

Mr Yadav is the convenor of the BJP-led National Demcoratic Alliance (NDA), or what remains of it as of now, and he is of course entitled to his opinion.

Obviously, the caveat “in its current form” has a built-in escape clause, but if the BJP or the NDA or both plan to do some chintak on why only 18.8 people out of 100 in an 80 per cent Hindu nation do not trust them to hand them the reins of the nation, maybe they should start by wondering why they are so unappealing to one-half of the population?

Photograph: courtesy iss.net

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask Sushma Swaraj

‘Fitting finale to five years of foolish opposition’

21 May 2009

R. Jagannathan in DNA argues that the BJP lost the plot not in March 2009, when the bugle was sounded for the latest election, but in 2004, when it stumbled to a shock defeat:

“The party’s public behaviour since then has been that of a bad loser, and nobody loves such a person. Soon after the defeat, we saw Sushma Swaraj threatening to shave off her head if Sonia Gandhi was made prime minister. The party looked foolish when Sonia abdicated in favour of Manmohan Singh.

“Then there was the unseemly behaviour over the UPA’s decision to induct “tainted” ministers. Sure, there was a political point to be made, but the BJP shot itself in the foot by becoming obstructionist in Parliament. Nobody was amused.

“In every subsequent encounter with the UPA—the Ram Sethu affair, the Afzal Guru episode—the party acted churlishly, opposing for the sake of opposing, and creating a ruckus in Parliament. The party’s thumbs-down to the Indo-US nuclear deal took the cake: it tried to scuttle something it had itself been working towards when in power. Everybody could now see the BJP’s desperation to score points.

“The last act in this tragedy was scripted by L.K. Advani himself, with his ill-thought-out taunts about Manmohan Singh being a “weak prime minister”. It took the Sonia-Rahul-Manmohan combine just two weeks to demolish him, providing a fitting finale to five years of foolish opposition. In short, the BJP was in self-destruct mode from May 2004.”

Read the full article: How BJP lost the plot

Cadre-based parties stick together, save together

2 August 2008

On the one hand, you have Sushma Swaraj who says the Bangalore blasts and the Ahmedabad blasts were “a conspiracy to divert attention from the cash-for-votes scandal”. Not-so-hidden message: somebody somewhere was out to sully the besmirch the good name of the BJP to save their own.

On the other hand, you also have the heart-warming spectacle of the Surat blasts that weren’t. Last Saturday, the police force of “India’s best governed State” couldn’t spot or defuse one single bomb. On Monday, they were tripping over each other spotting and defusing a couple of dozen of them.

The Surat bombs, all neatly packed in green wrappers, were picked up from trees, from behind signboards, from tree guards, from inside meter boxes, to the applause of spectators gathered around. No one knew where the bombs came from, who planted them, or why they didnt’ go off.

But the important thing is that thanks to the untiring efforts of a few bravehearts, “innocent lives” weren’t lost in the diamond city.

Mail Today, the tabloid newspaper owned by the India Today group, has done a sterling job of identifiying and saluting the brave men who spotted the bombs. Surprise, surprise, the police were tipped off by a small group of BJP activists with no previous expertise in spotting bombs.

# All hail Bhimji Budhna, BJP corporator and president of the Surat diamond market: He called up the police to alert them about 11—yes, eleven–of the 22 bombs that didn’t explode. He got a call at 10.30 am from “one of my workers” at Shakti Vijay Housing Society. He doesn’t remember his name now. “But if you visit that place anybody will tell you about it.”

# All hail Pravin Bhalala, real estate broker, VHP activist, and president of the Gau Rakshak Suraksha Samiti: “On July 26, I watched the entire coverage of the Ahmedabad blasts. I saw that a Maruti Wagon R car with the ‘CD’ series [registration] was used for one of the blasts. Next day, when I went to Varchcha, I found that three shopkeepers were discussing what to do with a car parked in front of their shops. The number plate was of the ‘CD’ series. I got suspicious and informed the police.”

# All hail Sanjay Kapooria: He doesn’t belong to any political party, but Budhna says “he is one of us.” Kapooria fished out a bomb from a dustbin near his jewellery shop. He then carried the bomb all the way to the nearest police post. Asked if he wasn’t scared of the bomb exploding, Kapooria says: “When none of the earlier 18 bombs had gone off in Surat, I was sure that this too would not. I didn’t fear even once about the bomb that I was carrying.”

What would the fate of the “innocent men and women” of Surat have been without these brave men who risked their own lives for the lives of their brethren? How is it that some men, in this day and age of I-Me-Myself are capable of thinking beyond themselves for the good of society? 

As Bhalala is quoted by the paper as saying, this was truly a triumph of community effort.

“We started a campaign asking our members and acquaintances to move around and look for such bombs. We started getting calls from our members and other people, and we kept moving from one place to another informing the police about the bombs.”

Has the shortlist for the 2009 Republic Day honours list for Gujarat become shorter by three names even before the 2008 Independence Day?

One question I’m dying to ask Sushma Swaraj

30 July 2008

If the grisly sight of bombs tearing off lives and limbs in Ahmedabad and Bangalore doesn’t get your stomach churning, the conspiracy theorising by our political parties should. Sushma Swaraj, a member of the second rung of leadership of the BJP who once threatened to shave her head if Sonia Gandhi became prime minister, has alleged the blasts in the capitals of two BJP-ruled States were “a conspiracy to divert attention from the cash-for-votes scandal”. In other words, the Congress-led UPA engineered the attacks.

What is the one question you are dying to ask the Bellary ki bahu?

Also read: The Indian Express editorial: Is this opposition?

The Times of India editorial: Below the belt


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