‘Buddha, Basavanna, Shakespeare and Marx’

PRITHVI DATTA CHANDRA SHOBHI writes: A few years ago, most likely in 2005, while watching the proceedings of the Karnataka legislative assembly, I heard M. P. Prakash speak. He was then the deputy chief minister in the Congress-JD (S) coalition government.

I don’t remember the context or the issues involved but I clearly remember his speech. And that’s because in a 20-minute response to a debate in the assembly, Prakash invoked Shakespeare, Basavanna, Karl Marx, Gautama Buddha, and for good measure, several other Kannada poets.

It didn’t matter whether he was quoting them accurately or whether his invocation was even necessary. By then, the new breed of Karnataka politician had entered the Karnataka Assembly and it felt so strange to hear Prakash refer to Marx and Shakespeare.

But then Prakash was known to be a different kind of politician – as someone who enjoyed the company of books and writers, of theatre, arts and cinema. He wasn’t simply an enthusiast but an active participant in arts and literature – as a writer, actor and theatre director.

Prakash’s sensibilities were such that when Janata Party was in power in the 1980s, the intellectuals of Karnataka wanted him to take charge of the education ministry. When he was the minister for Kannada and culture, our writers and artists felt he was someone approachable, and further that he would understand their needs and perspectives.

In this regard, he filled the void left behind by K. V. Shankare Gowda of Mandya.

In India: A Million Mutinies Now, Sir V. S. Naipaul writes extensively on Karnataka, which he sees through the eyes of Prakash. In his earlier works on India, Naipaul wasn’t optimistic about the changes taking place in the first three decades of independence, but if he revises his opinion and sees reasons for optimism, if he has a more nuanced understanding of the complexities and contradictions of Indian society and polity, the credit for that at least partially should go to Prakash.

More significantly, Prakash was a politician a writer or thinker could interact with and learn from.

In the last ten years, Prakash was struggling to retain his political base in a Bellary district that had been overtaken by the Reddy revolution. His only son too had apparently become part of the new and booming economy of mining and had benefited from that.

While that may hint at a sad change that had come about in this one time socialist, it also shows the tragic side of Karnataka’s politics: even someone like Prakash had come to believe he needs the mining wealth in order to survive in politics.

Prakash’s demise creates a void in Karnataka politics, which will remain unfulfilled for a while. We may find some faults with him, but he remained a man of culture in an arena that’s increasingly becoming bereft of just that and where fistfights and physical threats have become order of the day.

I would like to remember the man who spoke of Shakespeare in the Karnataka legislative assembly for it is going to be a while before we hear such chatter.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: What M.P. Prakash told Sir Vidiadhar Naipaul

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16 Responses to “‘Buddha, Basavanna, Shakespeare and Marx’”

  1. Harish Says:

    Perhaps he remained a gentleman and an intellectual amidst political geeks and bafoons.

    Mark Anthony’s great monologue after the brutal assassination of Caesar in Julius Caesar ends with these lines “When comes such another?”

    Same question applies to MP Prakash too……

  2. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Nice tribute by PDCS.

  3. shankar Says:

    why does PDCS consider speaking of shakespeare in karnataka assembly as a big deal ? How will quoting shakeapeares sonnets in assembly improve the governance? As per the article , prakash quoted buddha & basavanna also but PDCS wnats to remember the man who spoke of shakespeare.. the typical brown gora sahib ..who is apparently more english than the english..

    It is the still lingering slavish mentality of some indians which make them feel that one becomes great by quoting an english poet..

  4. Anurag Says:

    “the typical brown gora sahib ..who is apparently more english than the english..”

    nicely put. it’s called bardolatry.
    I want to see a complete Kannada medium school in England and US just like we have Bishop Cottons here – for a cultural exchange.

  5. RepudiatedBrilliance Says:

    Paying a tribute to M.P.Prakash is fine. But considering quoting Shakespeare in the assembly as a sign of being a “man of culture” smacks of stupid elitism.

  6. AC Says:

    PDCS must also know that M P Prakash also made money in politics. His son got mining licenses during the Cong – JDS regime.

    A senior IAS officer who later quit told me that.

    The only difference between Reddys and Prakash was education.

    Prakash had a better education and his father was not a police head constable. He was also in the socialist movement.

    Reddys never participated in any movement and their only entertainment is Chiranjeevi movies!

    Nobody will become big by quoting Shakespeare or Milton. He might have quoted. So what? What is so big about it?

    Even JDS’ YSV Datta quotes all kinds of people …… Sage Vishwamithra to Kuvempu in the Vidhana Parishath.

    Recently H D Deve Gowda also quoted a line from Julius Ceasar. Does it make him big or enlightened?

    It seems PDCS thinks his guru D R Nagaraj’s soul has entered his body and imitates him everywhere.

    D R Nagaraj was a highly overrated thinker and writer.

  7. Karavali Says:

    What’s with some folks here splitting hair to the peptides?

    Isn’t it said in Rigveda ‘Let noble thoughts come to us from everywhere’? Isn’t it an Indian credo to say Vasudhaiva kutumbakam? Isn’t it our culture to treat the dead gently and not to speak ill of them?

    So now tell me who is more Indian here? The guy who quoted Shakespeare or the ones trying to read slavery and other things in it?

    If it was a case of Hoysalas invading the British Isles, there would be a Gurukula in Canterbury. But as we know history took a different turn. Let’s deal with it instead of running down a good bard and his afficianados.

  8. Abhi Says:

    gems from shankar and anurag and so on….

    “I want to see a complete Kannada medium school in England and US just like we have Bishop Cottons here – for a cultural exchange.”

    for what joy mate? build a decent civilization first or atleast learn to copy. build some effin roads, have sanitation and then hope someone might like to learn our language and have cultural exchange.

  9. Mysore Peshva Says:


    D.R. Nagaraj may be overrated, but only if one believes that a dominant Marxist milieu exists in many Indian universities. Regardless, I have no doubt that Nagaraj has a first class mind — for an original “mannina maga,” I would place him on the same level as, if not higher than, the revered Kannadiga sociologist M.N. Srinivas. :)

    Ramachandra Guha (who, now, may be the truly overrated one!) reports one of Shri. Guha’s conversations with D.R. Nagaraj, in a singularly elegant essay titled “Rooted Cosmopolitanism: D.R. Nagaraj,” published 2001.

    In that essay, Shri. Guha offers a glimpse into the late Nagaraj’s worldview:

    “I held that the writings of scholars must be transparent and accessible. ‘Accessibility’ is not a value-neutral term, [D.R. Nagaraj] responded. To ask for transparency was to privilege the native speaker of English over the others. ‘Why do the translations of Habermas and Derrida keep intact certain key German or French terms? We must do violence to the English language, we must expand its structure and idiom such as postmodern novelists have.’ As the debate intensified I pulled out my trump card. ‘Obscurity is a cover up for lazy and imprecise thinking. To defend it is to defend the likes of Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.’” (p. 36)

    Good stuff.

  10. boring journalist Says:

    The main weakness of Mr Prakash was that he dithered too much and had no definite stand on anything important.
    Journalists, who have seen say that he was never prone to give direct answer to anything. His response was always convoluted. Loyalty for him was a matter of personal convenience and personal aggrandisement. He was initally a loyalist of Mr Hegde. He had no qualms about ditching Hegde and join his betenoire, Mr Devegowda, despite the fact that Devegowda had wrecked the career of Mr Hegde and hooted him out of the party he had founded.
    Having gained political power on the anti Congress plank, he had no scrupules in ditching the anti Congressism to sing paens of Congress just because it suited him politically.
    Democratic decentralisation was the dream child of Mr Hegde. and Mr Hegde entrusted him with the portfolio on the passing away of Abdul Nazir Sab. As minister concenred under Devegowda, he had no compunctions in emasuclating the system, doing away with the all the good things that Hegde had brought into system. Hegdes disappointment with Mr Prakash was such that he gave open expression at a Hubli pressmeet that his own men were acting against the pet project.
    Gift of the gab as for public address is a virtue nodoubt. But in the hands of the politiians, it was an avenue for escapism. Praksh has been shining example of that. His long winded jargon oriented speech always sidetracked the main issue bothering with people. Using flowery language is good to hear but does not satisfy hunger. Other shining example of the this genre has been Mrs. Sajoning Mahihsi. Her speeches were atreat to listen. But when you think on what has ultimately said, you would realise that nothing worthwhile has been said.
    The epitaph for Mr Prakash could be : Good man who got spoiled by politics or who lost his personality when sucked in by politics.

  11. Anirudh Says:

    I am reposting my message, sorry. I want to see how this Prithvi guy writes in Kannada! Is this guy a Guha in the making or a Guhe in Kannada, which literally means a person who has NOT seen the light of the day? A typical case of textual diarrhea. Gastractiv works excellently. :-)

  12. Anurag Says:

    Interesting valentines day connection with rama sene -spreading in delhi now.

  13. Niaz Ahmed Says:

    “I would like to remember the man who spoke of Shakespeare in the Karnataka legislative assembly for it is going to be a while before we hear such chatter”- It will happen if you enter the assembly Prithvi.

  14. Doddi Buddi Says:

    A great perspective, Boring Journalist! I started doubting Prakash when he joined JDS as it is quite obvious to everyone JDS is neither a People’s Party nor it is secular with of all the people Dirty as the founder. PDCS tends to be academic in his praise as he is an academic.

  15. vikram Says:

    @ anurag this is amazing the sene is spreading its wings. all demons of delhi must hide somewhere else they will be beheaded by rama’s arrow lolz

  16. twistleton Says:

    C’mon guys

    We are all not shining beacons of good and right. It is not only politicians who have double standards, it is the people too.

    The extant politics of any age is a reflection of society. You might break the mirror but the ugliness remains.

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