From a Karnataka perspective, the 2014 Lok Sabha election has been a roller-coaster ride.
After the Congress’s thumping return to power in the 2013 assembly elections, the party believed it would repeat its showing in the general elections, thus making up for what is certain to be a serious rout in the Seemandhra region, following the noisy creation of the Telengana state.
The populist decisions undertaken by the Siddaramaiah government was also supposed to help to add to the Congress tally in Karnataka (Congress bagged 8 of the 28 seats, against the BJP’s 18 and the JDS’s two).
But the return of B.S. Yediyurappa to the BJP, and the re-inclusion of B. Sreeramulu, has altered the conventional wisdom on top of the headwind that Narendra Modi brings to his high-voltage campaign. The opinion polls are divided in what is in store in the state, except to suggest that the Congress might not get as high as it thought it would and the BJP as low as many thought it would.
Former Karnataka chief minister and the president of the Karnataka Janata Party, B.S. Yediyurappa, with KJP leader Shobha Karandlaje during the fledgling party’s indefinite strike at Anand Rao circle in Bangalore, on Tuesday, demanding the rollout of the Shaadi bhagya scheme for all communities.
What goes around, comes around. Barely months after he left the party fuming and fretting, barely months after the party thought it had seen the back of him, B.S. Yediyurappa and the BJP—both chastened by the defeat in the Karnataka assembly elections—are apparently eyeing each other.
In one sense, it is a reality check for the BJP, which likes to think of itself as a cadre-based party, and for Yediyurappa, who thought that his standing was alone enough to carry him to power. With both the party and the individual realising their limitations, they are thinking of mending broken bridges.
In another sense, it is also a reflection of the changed if not changing reality in the BJP. With “two-time former future prime minister” L.K. Advani, who apparently played a key role in Yediyurappa’s ouster,no longer calling the shots, Yediyurappa sees an opening in the new scheme of things under Narendra Modi. And vice-versa.
Both sides are now playing coy. The BJP wants him to formally “apply” to rejoin the party. Yediyurappa, for his part, says the majority of his followers only want a tie-up with the parent body, not a formal merger. Either way, the path is being paved for the return of the prodigal.
Still, there is such a thing as political morality. When Yediyurappa walked out, the BJP painted all the excesses of his government—the corruption, the scams, the scandals—to him and his cronies. Will facilitating Yediyurappa’s return impact Modi’s national ambitions? Will the BJP emerge stronger in Karnataka with Yediyurappa’s return, or is this too convenient an arrangement which voters will see through?
PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Tomorrow, May 8, is results day for the Karnataka assembly elections. Since I am not going to be in front of a camera, here are five talking points I bet you won’t hear on your favourite news channel, but five points I sincerely wish TV anchors and analysts would use.
First, despite what everyone has said in the last month, there hasn’t been any discernible change in the fundamental poll dynamic since the elections were announced. What this means is that despite the month-long campaign and all that comes along with it (read money and other gifts to the voters), nothing much changed that actually altered the political climate.
What are the fundamentals that I refer to here?
The anti-incumbency of a largely ineffectual, scandal and dissension-ridden BJP government had created a small undercurrent of support for Congress. However, that advantage has been difficult to quantify and that’s because politics these days, especially at the state level, is local and very competitive. Further, political advantage doesn’t mean a wave in favor of a political party.
I am tempted to say the era of waves is over.
Congress stuck to its strategy, didn’t recruit too many outsiders (especially those who had ties with BJP), and focused mostly on consolidating its base.
True, its ticket distribution strategy seemed chaotic and the party took too much time to complete the process. There seemed to be much dissension, with ticket aspirants and activists demonstrating regularly in front of the party office. But much of this is media-driven to make the elections more interesting, and generate some stories.
BJP somehow managed to stop its bleeding just in time when its leaders managed to convince the four Lingayat ministers (Umesh Katti, Basavaraj Bommai, Murugesh Nirani and V. Somanna) not to leave the party.
This action enabled the state BJP leadership to save some credibility with its national leaders but more significantly increased its competitiveness in 12-15 constituencies and dealt a crushing blow to Yediyurappa’s dreams of consolidating his hold over Lingayats in north Karnataka.
Second, I want to submit that all the predictions, including the exit poll based ones, are bunkum.
I haven’t looked at the methodology and sample size closely. Yet, I suspect that extrapolating results from voting percentages is not accurate. The Janata Dal (Secular) and BJP are not strong in the same areas, which means that there are fewer triangular fights.
Hence, if Congress is competing strongly everywhere, even if its vote share goes up, it may not win a commensurate number of assembly segments.
This complementary nature of JD (S) and BJP’s support base introduces an element of uncertainty and I don’t know enough about our pollsters to believe they take into account all these variables.
My scepticism about predictions leads me to my third point: that the political culture in Karnataka (in fact, this is also a broader argument that could be made nationally too) has changed dramatically. Hence, history is not a good guide not only to make predictions but more importantly to assess political strategies.
What has changed in the last decade?
In a nutshell, Karnataka has seen a new breed of politician, who has had substantial business interests and is willing to plough back huge amounts of money back into electoral politics. This new politician is in politics to manipulate public policy, further his business interests and secure maximum profits.
He doesn’t have any ideological commitments or a substantial notion of public good.
His political strategy revolves around using his personal fortune (often ill-gotten from real estate, mining or some such natural resource owned by the state) to secure the loyalty of his constituents to himself and this has been the basis for a new form of populism in Karnataka.
There have been many consequences but let me list here only two.
First, the political space available for other kinds of politics, especially the ones inspired by ideology, socio-political movements and a substantial notion of public good, is entirely absent. Be surprised if any candidate who has spent less than five crores actually wins.
Second, even old-school politicians have reinvented themselves along the same lines. In order to understand the truth of this, you only have to look at Yediyurappa and the Deve Gowda family.
In this new political culture, we need a different theory of political strategies, especially in the electoral realm. But we haven’t even had a decent explanation until now about BJP’s own electoral success in 2008. So, I am not very hopeful that we will get a good theory in tomorrow’s shows when Ramachandra Guha and Yogendra Yadav hold forth on our TV screens.
There is much to say on this topic but in brief what we need to recognize is that BJP and JD(S) have recognized the changing tides very quickly and hence have been very nimble in making their strategies.
On the other hand, Congress is burdened by its past and seems like an elephant in its efforts to maneuver around the more nimble, more tiger like opponents. It still has to accommodate all the social classes and its base is largely made up of old time loyalists. The party continues to look to its high command for guidance.
Thus Congress continues to rely on its 20th century political culture/strategizing in what has been a dramatically different 21st century political reality. Most of the stories about Congress bungling (especially this OPED piece by James Manor in the Indian Express) its poll strategy do not recognize this simple fact: it couldn’t have avoided these pitfalls and the magical wand called leadership doesn’t exist.
So, if any analyst tells you that Congress lost because S.M. Krishna was ignored, consider that a load of bull crap. Active participation by Krishna wouldn’t have increased Congress’s total vote tally in the state by 100,000 votes. His counsel wouldn’t have made ticket distribution any more efficient.
If anyone says wrong ticket selection contributed to Congress losing, take that with some skepticism.
For example, at a constituency level there might have been mistakes but Congress had a larger goal. For example, giving tickets to C.K. Jaffer Sharief’s grandson in Hebbal and Shamanuru Shivashankarappa in Davanagere might have been problematic but if the goal is also to send a message to specific communities, then Congress will have succeeded.
This is where BJP, KJP and JD (S) are more nimble in picking candidates and they can afford to make tactical decisions in each constituency.
For example, former minister A.Krishnappa was fielded by JD (S) in Hiriyur after Congress refused to give him ticket in K.R. Puram. Krishnappa, a Golla (cowherd), is likely to win this constituency where his community is in large numbers and who along with Vokkaligas form a potent combintion. His opponent, D. Sudhakar, former minister who joined Congress just before the elections, was seen as a sure shot winner in this contest when elections began.
Here is the takeaway. Politics is extremely competitive and resourceful newcomers are ready to enter the electoral arena. They are trolling different parties in search of opportunities. Nobody can take elections easily these days.
If Siddaramaiah has sleepless nights caused by a political nobody, whose sole claim to fame is that he was Yediyurappa’s former aide and his sole strategy to secure political loyalty is to distribute large sums of money to all comers, then no leader is safe.
Fourth, I really, really wish our analysts would display a better understanding of the caste-politics equation. We really don’t have a good 21st century theory of caste loyalties inspire electoral politics. It is grating to see Yediyurappa described as the “sole leader” of Lingayats and Deve Gowda characterized as the Vokkaliga “strong man”.
Please internalize this: caste support to political parties and leaders is tactical and local; it is not strategic and translocal. I know this claim demands a research paper and not simply an assertion.
However here is the simple takeaway: Subcaste and matha-influence is more important than the kind of translocal caste loyalties that I referred to.
In Hiriyur, Kunchatiga vokkaligas are in large number but they are not strong supporters of the Gangadakara-dominated JD(S). If they vote for JD (S), it is not because of some caste loyalty to Deve Gowda. In fact, if you do a survey of Vokkaligas, most actually very strongly dislike the Gowda family, even if they vote for JD (S) most of the time.
In the same way, Lingayat solidarity across the state is a myth.
Surely, it is possible to secure broad based support from the community in favor of a party like BJP if someone like Yediyurappa is at the helm. But such a strategy would be predicated on finding the right sub caste candidate in each constituency.
Picking a Jangama candidate in a Sada or Panchamasali dominant area will result in huge electoral backlash.
Similarly, backward castes are also not a uniform entity. Siddaramaiah is a backward caste leader but unlike the 1970s and 80s when one could claim that mantle fairly easily these days all the backward castes have become highly politicized and do no want to be represented by someone from outside.
So, Siddharamaiah found himself challenged frequently by backward caste opponents, especially Nayakas, who are a large backward caste community spread across the state, just like the kuruba community to which Siddaramaiah belongs.
So, dear analyst, please do not speak use caste as an analytical category if you don’t understand the local dynamic. You will only sound like a fool.
Fifth, Karnataka saw the emergence of some new political outfits. B. PAC or the Bangalore Political Action Committee represented an alliance of new age entrepreneurs who wanted to influence electoral politics and public policy. This seemed to be inspired by American PACs, which play an enormous role in electoral politics.
Then there was Loksatta, which fielded several naïve, well meaning but political neophytes in urban areas.
All these efforts to build an alternative politics appeared half-assed, pretentious and frankly, quite insulting to the voter. It is not enough to claim that the political class is corrupt and inefficient. It is not enough to claim their own personal cleanliness, educational qualifications or industry experience.
What they lacked is a substantial movement or a public project that they could claim ownership over. Or if any of the candidates had even been a bureaucrat, something that would have brought them in contact with the public, where their conduct would have been monitored by people, such a person would have some claim to seek public trust.
A politician once told me: “What matters is not incorruptibility when you don’t have an opportunity to take a bribe. If you are incorruptible when you actually hold a public office and then work for public good, then you have a claim over public trust.”
The new, middle-class political aspirants seem to miss that simple truth.
Security personnel on election duty search a car at a check post on Hospet road in Bellary on Thursday, even as a new pre-poll survey suggests that the Congress, despite all its troubles, continues to maintain a healthy lead over the BJP in the assembly elections due in the “gateway to the south” next week.
Former chief minsiter H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) is the most preferred CM candidate, with 18 per cent people voting in favour of him. Ex-BJP strongman B.S. Yediyurappa is the second choice for CM (10%), followed by Congress leader Siddaramaiah (9%), S.M. Krishna (8%), and Jagadish Shettar (6%).
THE POLLS SO FAR
CSDS-CNN-IBN, The Week (April): Congress 117-129, BJP 39-49, JD(S) 33-44
Suvarna News-Cfore (April): Congress 105-122 out of 224; BJP 55-70; JD(S) 30-45
The disgraceful nataka in BJP-ruled Karnataka has taken yet another farcical turn with the former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa formally launching his own regional party, the Karnataka Janata Party, from the central town of Haveri on Sunday. With just a few months to go before the term of the current assembly ends, the “gateway to the south” is clearly now in election mode.
Yediyurappa’s is not the first regional party in the State: from D. Devaraj Urs to Ramakrishna Hegde to S. Bangarappa, the pot of regionalism has been periodically simmering, usually in vain. But there are three key differences between then and now.
One, while those worthies at least had the semblance of the greater common good—social justice, land reforms, secularism, etc—Yediyurappa and his ilk have had no bigger aim or objective than cloaking their own self-interest in reginoal colours . Witness the constant refrain of “sthaana-maana” in the last couple of years.
Two, while M/s Urs, Hegde and Bangarappa represented small communities, Yediyurappa represents the large Lingayat community, which is neck and neck with the Vokkaligas in numerical strength. So, to that extent, Yediyurappa has given his community the political equivalent of H.D. Deve Gowda‘s Janata Dal (Secular).
And three, and perhaps most importantly, Yediyurappa’s party comes at a time when the two national parties, the Congress and BJP, are in decline across the nation, as evidenced by diminishing vote share and seat share, odd exceptions notwithstanding.
Questions: Will Yediyurappa’s attempt pay off? Is Karnataka ready for a regional party? Will he eat into BJP votes or Congress votes? Can he get the majority to form a government? If not, will he tie up with the BJP or the Congress? Or, will his political outfit be an insiginficant player, which will be his shield against the cases against him and his sons?
The RSS ideologue M.G. Vaidya has kicked off a big storm in the BJP teacup ahead of the Gujarat elections, by alleging that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was behind the recent campaign of vilification against the party president Nitin Gadkari, which culminated in a demand for Gadkari’s removal from the post by the renowned lawyer and BJP member of Parliament, Ram Jethmalani, and his lawyer-son Mahesh Jethmalani.
“Needle of suspicion in the campaign against BJP president Nitin Gadkari points to Gujarat BJP and Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Ram Jethmalani had in one breath said he is seeking the resignation of Gadkari and that he also wanted to see Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister in 2014.”
In many ways, what Vaidya says is not particularly new; Modi’s alleged involvement (and of his lackeys) in hurling allegations at Gadkari over his business dealings through the media has been gossip in the political corridors and television studios in Delhi for days now. After all, Jethmalani senior (who represents the former minister of state for home, Amit Shah, in the encounter cases) was given a Rajya Sabha seat at the behest of Modi.
But the backroom buzz has been given a certificate of authenticity with Vaidya putting it on record and then reiterating it, although the BJP has been at pains to reject the insinuation. However, since nothing in the RSS happens without a pattern, Vaidya going public with his allegation at this juncture poses several questions:
Is the RSS conveying its displeasure of Modi’s tactics and his overweening ambition to occupy the national stage? Was Gadkari retained as BJP chief last week (after another RSS ideologue S. Gurumurthy gave a clean chit) largely to show Modi his place? Did Modi mount a subversive attack on Gadkari in the full knowledge that if Gadkari finished his first term or got a second term (as the party’s consitution now allows), he could prove a hurdle in his path given the backing he enjoys from the RSS?
More importantly, does Modi’s ascension look less assured even if he wins a third term, as he is slated to? And, if he is rebuffed in his prime ministerial ambitions should NDA get a majority, could Modi (as B.S. Yediyurappa aide and the president of his soon-to-be-formed party, Dhananjay Kumar, has said on TV) break away and form his own party as Yediyurappa is threatening to do?
And, does the recent turn of events indicate the kind of polarising figure Narendra Modi will be if he graduates to Delhi?
In its 62nd year as a Republic, India presents a picture that can only mildy be termed unedifying.
Scams are raining down on a parched landscape with frightening ferocity. From outer space (2G, S-band) to the inner depths of mother earth (coal), the Congress-led UPA has had it all covered in its second stint. Meanwhile, Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of the first family of the Congress, has taken charge of scandals at or near sea level.
The BJP’s president Nitin Gadkari is neckdeep in a gapla of his own, one that threatens, in fact one that is designed to deprive him of a second stint in office. “Scam”, of course, was the middle-name of party’s Karnataka mascot, B.S. Yediyurappa. From Mulayam‘s SP to Mayawati‘s BSP to Sharad Pawar‘s NCP, from Karunanidhi‘s DMK to Jayalalitha‘s AIADMK, money-making is the be-all and end-all.
The less said of the corporates who have pillaged the country since time immemorial the better but Vijay Mallya presents its most compelling side as he shuts down his airline while his son hunts for calendar girls. The do-gooders of Team Anna and now Team Kejriwal are themselves subject to searching questions on their integrity levels. And the media is busy getting exposed as extortionists and blackmailers.
Questions: Have we as a country completely lost our moral and ethical compass? Are we going through an “unprecedented” phenomenon or is this what the US and other developed democracies like Japan have gone through in their path to progress? Or does it not matter in the greater scheme of things? Is all this leaving the citizenry cynical and frustrated or do we not care because all of us are in it, in our own little ways?
After threatening to leave the Bharatiya Janata Party virtually every fortnight since he resigned from office in disgrace under a haze of sleaze and corruption in July 2011—and after making a mockery of two wonderful Kannada words sthana (position) and maana (respect) since then—former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa has finally mustered the strength and the courage to say that he has had enough with the BJP and will call it quits from the party.
By all indications, Yediyurappa will announce his new party in November or December, in time for the assembly elections due in the first-half of 2013.
Yediyurappa has ruled out joining any other political party although he has been singing paeans of Sonia Gandhi‘s Congress party over the last few weeks, and although Nitish Kumar‘s JD(U) and Mulayam Singh Yadav‘s Samajawadi Party, both avowedly secular parties with little presence in the South, are both said to be toying with the idea of joining hands with Yediyurappa, who cut his teeth in the RSS.
But the questions remain: Has Yediyurappa delayed his exit too long? Has BJP neutralised his influence by allowing him to drag on with his antics? Will Yediyurappa on his own be even half the force he was with the BJP? Will the BJP split help the Congress in the assembly polls? Will Yediyurappa’s new party result in a four-way race in the State and thus make it easier for the BJP?
SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Parochial thoughts. Narrow-minded pettiness. Divisive ideas that spell acrimonious discord. Ttaking cheap potshots at men and twisting core issues out of proportion. Displaying a reckless and irresponsible sense of disdain towards the sensitivities of society.
Raising issues of language and even caste….
These, as no one would dispute, have been observed for long as the in-built characteristics, perhaps the very genetic make-up of men and women, who identify themselves as politicians in this country, of course with the odd exceptions, who anyway show up on our political horizon, as regularly as a certain comet named after an English astronomer called Edmond Halley.
But for writers, for men of letters?
The commentators of society at large, those who, with their power of the pen and their intellect can dissect and disseminate thoughts?
They, who tell stories of man and have the talent to chronicle the ways of humankind?
They, who are supposedly adept and capable of sifting the chaff from the grain of life itself; those who have been endowed the powers and gift of serious, sensitive, responsible, fair, meaningful, and worthy intercourse on matters profound and intelligent?
They, who are the arbiters of all that should be invoked in society in order to make it a better entity for lesser men to inhabit; those ordinary members of the public who obviously do not have the talent and the powers of serious writers?
For a group of such writers to make a case for a fellow-writer, R.K. Narayan, to not have the posthumous privilege of a memorial in his name; in a City (and at a home) in which he lived and wrote for close to 50 years is something that simply confounds, confuses and numbs the minds of all right-thinking citizens of the great city of Mysore.
Narayan was a man who traversed its lanes and by lanes with fond affection; someone who made a fantastic connect with the very ethos of the city, its people, their ways, their eccentricities and foibles, their loveliness and innocence, their very being in a sense; and weaved some of the most rollickingly interesting, sensitive, comical, gentle, poignant and tender stories of his age and time about a certain unique culture, and immortalised in print, the very soul of a largely unknown city called Mysore which was widely presumed to be his literary muse, among the rest of India as also in the eyes of the west, save for those few westerners who had had the pleasure and honour of having been invited to the city and acquainted to it by its Maharaja as his guests, perhaps for Dasara or the Khedda in the jungles of Kakanakote.
That Narayan did not speak Kannada; that he chose to move to Madras during his later years; that he did not donate his manuscripts to the University of Mysore and chose to give them away for a price to a foreign university; that he was not a Kannadiga in the first place but a Tamilian.
So what’s new about such haranguing?
What is new is this, perhaps not so new but something that needs to be reiterated at this juncture.
That R.K.Narayan was a man who had the gift of the pen like no other Indian writer in English had some 75 years ago, that he was a man who had the confidence and the literary flamboyance to make an English publishing house in England of that era sit up and take notice and finally agree to publish his stories, for their sheer flow and flair, for their simplicity of prose and the absolute enthralling grip of the narration; about a people and their culture, that was I’m dead sure, to the publisher himself as alien, strange and unknown as the river Avon and the denizens who populated its banks was, to the dramatis personae of Narayan’s stories!
The decision to become a full time writer and endeavour to make a living off it, with a family to feed; at a time in history when Indians at large, barely comprehended the alien language, let alone write or speak it with any great expertise.
Narayan’s tensions, his worries, and the patience he exercised in waiting for replies from a place, England, so far from Mysore that it could well have been on another planet, every time he either sent excerpts of his writings or plainly corresponded with potential publishers.
At a time when the red-coloured post box was all that existed as a symbol of communication. And not the power of the telephone or the speed of the internet, for heaven’s sake.
At a time when most Indians were ridiculed for their lack of English proficiency, so much so, that most of them were thought to not even be able to write four meaningful lines by way of a leave letter to be presented to their bosses in office; for Narayan to be able to write not four but perhaps forty thousand or four hundred thousand lines in English that not only impressed but had the west in thrall is a decent enough reason to remember him.
To cut to the chase, let’s give Mr Narayan a memorial for sure.
And as soon as possible.
For in his memorial shall lie the story of one man’s inimitable brilliance and perseverance in making the impossible possible. To put it simply, that is.
It simply shouldn’t matter that he was not born 16 miles west of Holenarispura or some such place in Karnataka and that his father was called Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer.
“Welcome to the Vidhana Soudha. If you are a Lingayat, press 1. If your are a Gowda , press 2. If you are a Kuruba, press 3. If you are a Idiga, press 4. If you are a Dalit, press 5. If you are a Muslim, press 6. If you are a Christian, press 7. If you are none of these, disconnect and join the queue for Dharma Darshana of the Chief Minister and take your chance. Thanks for calling.”
MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: At the moment, this is just an SMS doing the rounds but don’t be surprised if you were to actually hear this message in the days to come, as the process of political churning set in motion by the present BJP dispensation, is taken to its logical conclusion.
At the moment, the polarisation of castes, which is what this political churning amounts to, remains confined to the internal struggle for power within the ruling party. Its success or failure could spur other parties to follow suit, leaving Karnataka vying with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
What is however special to the political churning in Karnataka is that the process has been initiated by a national party like the BJP, while in other States it has generally been the handiwork of regional parties at the cost of the Congress or BJP.
The author of the ongoing process in Karnataka is, of course, none other than the disgruntled former chief minister, B.S. Yediyurappa, who is desperate to regain political primacy in the State after he was forced to quit office in the wake of his indictment by the Lokayukta in the illegal mining and other scams.
But it has also got an indirect endorsement from the BJP’s bosses in New Delhi, who have been singularly helpless in curbing the political intransigence of the former CM, because of the imperative necessity of keeping the first saffron government south of Vindhyas in office, by hook or by crook.
It was Yediyurappa who started overtly playing the Lingayat card although the chief minister’s post in the State has been held by Lingayat politicians before him. It is a mystery what prompted Yediyurappa at the pinnacle of his popularity to play the caste card card, which has reduced him from a mass leader to the leader of a single caste.
For years, if not decades, Yediyurappa had painted himself as a leader of all classes and castes. He rose through dint of sheer hard work and sustained organisational strength.
Once he took over as the Chief Minister in 2008, he started portraying himself as the unquestioned political leader of the Lingayats, a prominent community which has a pan-Karnataka presence, with the northern half of the State being the sheet anchor of the support.
Yediyurappa started courting the religious heads among the community and was liberal in doling grants to the institutions managed by them.
If the move was aimed at providing himself with a shield to fight his political battle, it obviously failed.
For sure, the swamijis were at the forefront whenever his throne was in trouble, but it was hardly of avail since he could not prevent his ouster 11 months ago despite the campaigning by the lingayat swamijis. As a matter of fact, the swamijis got their reputation tarnished by the manner in which they winked at corruption.
Furthermore, their attempts to save a government steeped in corruption and a bunch of ministers neck deep in it merely because they happened to be Lingayats made them a laughing stock in public.
The caste politics unleashed by Yediyurappa was on full display during the formation of the third BJP ministry headed by Jagadish Shettar. The Vokkaligas suddenly discovered that D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who was facing the heat, was a fellow Vokkaliga and rallied around him.
Though they could not save DVS’s chair, they gave enough hints that they are also a force to be reckoned with in Karnataka politics.
It was not without insignificant that the Deve Gowda-Kumaraswamy duo which was vocal in the criticism of the Yediyurappa government had suddenly grown soft during Sadananda Gowda’s 11-month regime. The transformation was attributed widely to the Vokkalinga connection.
The post of Chief Minister having gone to Shettar, a Lingayat, the two other powerful castes insisted and succeeded in creating specially two posts of the deputy chief ministers for the first time in Karnataka politics, and these went to K.S. Eswarappa (Kuruba) and R. Ashok (Vokkaliga).
It is expected that the post of the party president, which may be vacated by Eswarappa on his induction into the cabinet, is likely to go to “others” category.
To make the power sharing arrangement more authentic, both Eswarappa and Ashok were specifically sworn as the deputy CMs, even though the Constitution does not recognize such a political office. Normally aspirants are sworn in as a minister and later get designated as the deputy CM. Whether this will be a precedent for ministry-making exercises in future remains to be seen.
The pattern of distribution of portfolios in the BJP-run government has been done according to the same formula, with the powerful caste denominations walking away with plum portfolios while the insignificant groups have been forced to accept minor and less-important ones.
Ironically, there was no Lingayat politician who could command the allegiance of Lingayats and emerge as their political voice. In fact, it was not any Lingayat politician but a Bramhin, the late Ramakrishna Hegde, who commanded the respect and trust of Lingayats as a whole in general and in northern half of the state in particular.
Hegde chose to deny himself what would have been a fresh lease of life for his political career when he resisted the pressure by his followers in the new political outfit the United Janata Dal to take over as the CM in place of J.H Patel, who was reigning then.
This he did because he did not want to hurt Lingayat sentiments.
The BJP’s continued drought of political support in the 1990s came as a byproduct of the electoral tie-up between the BJP and the JDU to fight the Congress. Hedge’s demise created a political vacuum and the BJP and Yediyurappa moved in to fit the bill.
This is what enabled Yediyurappa to claim as a lingayat leader.
But its continued Lingayat fixation coupled with Yediyurappa’s narcissistic tendencies have contributed substantially to the precipitous fall of Yediyurappa from political grace.
When the BJP high command forced Yediyurappa to quit , his ego was badly hurt. He could not countenance his exit from power. Since then he has been ranting and raving for the restoration of his own political hegemony and has been bemoaning the loss of political primacy for Lingayats.
He has only a single-point agenda: he should have political power either by de jure or de facto manner.
If he cannot get power on his own directly, he must enjoy it through proxy. This was the rationale behind his move to get his own nominee Sadananda Gowda installed as his successor.
Gowda, a low profile functionary, happened to be one his confidants and a safe bet to be trusted unlike his other confidant Shettar, a fellow Lingayat, who had strayed away from his path. This, he achieved after virtually brow beating the high command for the selection of successor through voting.
But he got wary of Gowda soon, as the latter showed signs of moving out of his orbit.
Result: Yediyurappa himself launched a virulent campaign to bring down the man he had put in office sometime ago. He blackmailed the high command to have his way again. And this time Yediyurappa chose to bring back Shettar back into the fold to act as his proxy.
In his overt zeal to get back power, Yediyurappa has introduced in Karnataka politics, the canker of caste politics, which is expected to change the political scenario altogether in the days to come.
Former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa watches the proceedings in the monsoon session of the Karnataka legislative assembly on Wednesday as the current incumbent of the CM’s gaddi, his friend-turned-foe-turned friend Jagadish Shettar, occupies the front row at the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore.
MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Jagadish Shettar, who has been catapulted to the position of chief minister-designate in Karnataka, has been nothing but a political pawn in the game of political chess being played by the scam-tainted B.S. Yediyurappa.
He got a break in 1994 when, as a low-level party functionary, he was asked to take on Basavaraj Bommai, son of the former chief minister, S.R. Bommai, in the Hubli rural assembly constituency, a bastion of Janata Dal.
It was an impossible task by any standard for novice in politics like Shettar but he pulled it off thanks to the afterglow of the controversy over hoisting the national flag at Idgah Maidan, which had been carefully orchestrated by the BJP and had hogged national attention.
Shettar’s role in the controversy was of a subsidiary nature but he emerged a giantkiller thanks to the BJP strategy, and the hand of Yediyurappa was clearly seen in the gamble.
After that, what aided Shettar’s rise was the manipulative politics that Yediyurappa played to keep his rivals at bay inside the party. A one-term legislator like Shettar overnight became a leader of opposition in the Karnataka assembly, superseding many of the seniors in 1999.
The vacancy had been caused because of the shock defeat of Yediyurappa in his home constituency, Shikaripur. Yediyurappa was averse to the post going to anybody else, with senior leaders like B.B. Shivappa, former state party present from Hassan, being one of the main aspirants.
Yediyurappa preferred a rank junior like Shettar, who would be able to keep the seat warm when he would enter the assembly again, which he did in the next elections in 2004. Shettar quietly paved way for Yeddyurappa assuming the role of the Leader of the Opposition once again.
But in 2004 a new situation arose.
The post of the party president fell vacant with the incumbent Basavaraj Patil Sedam demitting his office after the expiry of the term. And Yediyurappa once again plumped for his trusted understudy and as a consequence Shettar moved up one more notch to become the state party president.
In the coalition government which BJP formed in 2006 with the Janata Dal (Secular), Shettar became a minister for the first time.
Shettar, who had seen the benefits of being faithful and friendly with Yediyurappa, soon experienced the latter’s ire. Thus, Shettar was deliberately denied a berth in the first full-fledged BJP government in 2008.
Shetttar sulked publicly and chose to stay away from the swearing-in ceremony when the national leadership of the BJP had descended on Bangalore to witness the historic occasion of the BJP opening its account in the South of the Vindhyas.
Thanks to the intervention of the national leadership, Yediyurappa, who had firmly set his foot against giving a ministerial berth to Shettar, was prevailed upon to make him the Assembly Speaker. Shettar was initially reluctant to accept but had to do so since there was no alternative.
What he did as Speaker is history.
He played a key role in “Operation Kamala” engineered by Yediyurappa with the connivance of the Reddy group of ministers to entice the opposition legislators into BJP with a view to help party gain majority on its own in the 224 member assembly.
He exercised the powers vested in him as Speaker in favour of Yediyurappa by quickly accepting the resignations submitted by the aspirants from the opposition much to the discomfiture of Congress and the JDS, in a manner reminiscent of what Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed did in the seventies in signing Indira Gandhi‘s proclamation of Emergency, despite the procedural flaws in the move.
On two occasions, Shettar very nearly became the Chief Minister but for Yediyurappa.
During the open rebellion by the Reddy group, Shettar emerged as their chosen candidate to replace Yediyurappa.
Later when Yediyurappa had to step down from office in the wake of his indictment by Lok Ayukta, Yediyurappa was unwilling to accept Shettar’s candidature as his successor and got him defeated by forcing the election at the legislature party meet.
Twice bitten, Shettar, who had in the meantime become Minister, was unwilling to take a risk this time. He made up with Yediyurappa as a consequence of which he was considered an apt replacement for D.V. Sadananda Gowda whom Yediyurappa was hell bent on pulling down and helped Shettar to make his dream come true.
A daunting task awaits Shettar as he steps into his new role. The party is a shambles; its image has taken a battering because .of the internecine quarrels and has a fresh election to face in less than ten months.
It remains to be seen how a grateful Shettar would oblige his friend turned foe turned friend, Yediyurappa, in his new avatar. He has two options left. He can hang on to the umbilical chord of Yediyurappa and kowtow to his every whim and fancy, especially in shielding him from the maze of the legal cases surrounding him.
If he wants to cut away the chord Shettar risks the fate that awaited his predecessor Sadananda Gowda, who as a friend-turned foe of Yediyurappa made it to the chair of the Chief Minister but lost it in 11 months.
MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The BJP high command is neither high nor has any command left. This stark truth emerges succinctly from the manner in which the BJP high command has been ineptly handling dissidence in the Karnataka BJP which is threatening the existence of the first saffron ministry south of Vindhyas.
At a time party should have pulled up its socks to take on the scam-tainted Congress in the forthcoming general elections, the BJP has been presenting the inedible face of a party which is unable to manage its own internal crises and has allowed the canker of dissidence to develop into a Frankenstein‘s monster as it were.
The younger generation of party leadership which was put in place with great flourish as a process of transition from the Atal BehariVajpayee and Lalchand Kishinchand Advani era, has proved to the hilt that the party can longer claim to be a party with difference and that it consists of men with feet of clay, who have more faith in the political opportunism than in principled, value-based tactics.
Even the patriarch Advani finds himself unable to stem the developments and has allowed himself to be a passive spectator. How else can one explain the strange phenomenon of the party compromising on party discipline and as a matter of fact appearing to pamper its lack of it, off and on?
The party leadership hardly moved when the group of three ministers comprising of the Reddy trio openly raised a banner of revolt demanding the change of leadership of the Yediyurappa government and resorted to the politics of herding the supporting legislators to the resorts.
The party chose to turn a blind eye to the indiscretion and instead worked overtime to bring about a compromise.
All those who had challenged the leadership were allowed to get away, even without a warning. The complaints about the style of working of the then chief minster were pushed under the carpet, by a leadership which refused to take cognizance of the ground realities in Karnataka.
The repeated tantrums thrown up by Yediyurappa has been sum product of the laissez faire attitude of the national party in the matter of enforcing the party discipline.
Ever since he was asked to step down in the light of indictment by the Lokayukta report on the illegal mining and plethora of land denotification cases which resulted in his arrest, Yediyurappa has become a bugbear to the party’s leadership.
When he was asked to quit in the light of the scam report, Yeddyurappa demurred deliberately.
When he had to ultimately yield, he did so after making it amply clear that it was his, rather than the party’s, writ which ran as for as Karnataka affairs was concerned. He forced an election on the choice of his successor and defeated the nominee of the high command.
Sadananda Gowda was his nominee for the post and Gowda defeated Jagadish Shettar, who had the backing of the high command.
The high command had no problem with the new chief minister and as a matter of fact it was appreciative of the work being done by him in providing a clean government and taking care to keep the family members at a distance unlike what had happened during his predecessor’s days.
However, Gowda’s effort to run a government independent of his mentor angered Yediyurappa like anything and he started an open campaign seeking his removal. But now the tables have turned and Yediyurappa has successfully sought the removal of the very man he had installed in office and wanted him to be replaced by Jagadish Shettar who in the meantime had been weaned into his camp.
Initially, the high command was not willing to concede and backed the beleaguered Sadananda Gowda to the hilt. But it dropped him like a hot potato when Yediyurappa held out the threat of precipitating the crisis by making group of nine ministers belonging to his camp to resign en masse.
The high command became panicky and had to give in to the pressures tactics of Yediyurappa.
The crop of the second-generation leadership which is at the helms of affairs was the first to cave in to the dictates of Yediyurappa and lobbed the ball in the court of the patriarch Advani before making the final announcement.
Advani had always stood for a firm stand against those who have been making open mockery of the party discipline.
At one stage he was reportedly of the view that the party should go for a fresh mandate in Karnataka instead succumbing to the pressures of the Yediyurappa group. But he had no option but to fall in line in the light of the combined pressure of the younger group that it is important to save the party juncture at this stage instead of taking a risk of fresh poll.
And Advani had to yield and going by the newspaper reports “with tears in his eyes”.
Even the “iron” in the “iron man” (Loh Purush) has started melting. And that is the tragedy of the BJP under the dispensation of younger generation, which is more interested in the power game than anything else.
Yet another episode of the BJP’s non-stop nataka in Karnataka has come to an end—a quiet, wimpish end after all the fire-breathing over the weekend—but the big question still remains: is this really the end or just a temporary, mutually agreed cessation of hostilities before resumption of normal service?
On the face of it, it seems as if both sides—the B.S. Yediyurappa camp and the BJP high command—are buying time. Both are hoping the numbers of either side will whittle down. But deep down, both are afraid: Yediyurappa isn’t sure if he can be the force he is without the BJP; the party isn’t sure if it can ever win without him. Hence the repeated brinkmanship.
However, the larger issue is the use of political blackmail as a form of statecraft while the affairs of the State take a backseat with painful periodicity. The Yediyurappa gang blackmails the incumbent D.V. Sadananda Gowda with its ultimatums; the high command returns the favour.
The latest episode has come to an end only because the presidential elections are around the corner and the BJP would not like to be seen as a house divided in the eyes of the nation. As it is, it is having to counter the negative publicity being generated by Keshubhai Patel‘s antics against Narendra Modi in Gujarat.
Question: Could Yediyurappa’s nataka start all over again?
If only B.S. Yediyurappa wasn’t striking this pose in flesh and blood while visiting his new office in Malleshwaram (that will be inaugurated in Bangalore on Friday), his fans and followers could have accused us of morphing his pictures.
The BJP’s disgraceful nataka in Karnataka continues without a pause. Nary a fortnight passes without TV viewers and newspaper readers being woken up to the now familiar anthem of name-calling, muscle-flexing and shadow-boxing. And so it is this May in the year of the lord 2011.
After breathing fire and brimstone over the CBI probe okayed by the Supreme Court into B.S. Yediyurappa‘s wheeling and dealing, and after merrily slapping their thighs all weekend, the nation’s most ethically, morally, financially and sexually challenged bunch of legislators have now tucked their tail between their legs for another day.
Which will be some day soon.
After praising Sonia Gandhi one afternoon and threatening to resign from the party and bring down the government, the former chief minister has said he will not quit party for now and assumed his familiar position as the nuisance maker whom the BJP cannot swallow or spit out if it doesn’t want to lose the keys to the gateway to the South.
So, it’s back to status quo ante. A severely hobbled State government which doesn’t know if it is staying or going. A chief minister who doesn’t know if he is talking to friend or foe. An administration that is driving the State down to the dust, in a season of drought and despair. And a State whose reputation is being wrecked on a daily basis.
Question: what can the BJP do to get out of this hole?
Photograph: Former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa leaves the Siddaganga mutt in Tumkur after calling on Sri Shivakumara swamiji on Monday (Karnataka Photo News)
MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The defeat in the Udupi-Chikamagalur by-election to the Lok Sabha is the price the BJP has paid—at last—for making a mockery of the mandate it had received from voters in Karnataka voters and reiterated in the string of by-elections held of the assembly in the interregnum.
The subtle changes witnessed in the voting pattern in the by-poll can be ignored only at their peril by the BJP’s strategists. In a way the voting pattern is indicative of the mood of the people that their patience over the power tantrums of BJP may be running out.
The BJP’s fast rise in Karnataka, especially in the past decade, is mainly attributed to newly enrolled voters voting en masse in its favour to the total exclusion of the two other contenders, Congress and JD S . As a consequence, in the 2008 assembly election, it could displace the Congress as the party with the biggest share of votes.
This vital trend has been reversed this time.
In Udupi-Chikamagalur, an additional 24,000 voters had been freshly enrolled. Not a single vote has gone to the BJP this time in a constituency which all along was considered as one of its bastions in Karnataka.
To make the matters worse, the BJP could not even retain the vote base.
It has suffered erosion to the tune of over 48,000 votes between the 2009 when the parliament elections were held and in the by-election held now. In 2009 itself, the erosion in the vote base was marginal to the extent of little more than 9,000 over the 2008 assembly polls in the concerned segments.
Between 2008 and 2012, the party has lost more than 57,000 voters.
The only redeeming factor, however, is that of the more than 400,000 voters who had reposed confidence in the party in 2009, only ten percent chose to change their political loyalty, while the bulk of the voters chose to remain steady with the party, despite the plethora of scams and scandals that have plagued the party and the deep rooted schism among its top leaders that is now out in the open.
This may be a comforting thought for BJP leaders but one of them, B.S. Yediyurappa who is going all out to rehabilitate himself, is certainly not going to be happy. This is one election, where Yediyurappa openly said that he would not campaign for the party. While the party was battling here, Yediyurappa was on a temple sojourn seeking divine intervention to realise his ambition.
If Yediyurappa’s absence can be one of the contributing factors for the loss of 40,000 votes, then his image as the main vote catcher for the party and his status as the mass leader of the BJP in Karnataka gets a serious dent.
This was one election, which nobody seriously expected Congress to win. But it did not on its own volition but by default as it appears. For the BJP’s loss of votes in the by-election, has not been a gain for the Congress.
Congress, as the poll figures reveal, could only rake up an additional 24,000 votes to its 2009 tally, which it had lost by a margin of 27,000 votes. The biggest gainer however for the record sake happens to be JDS, which could get more than 72,000 votes this time, while it had left the seat uncontested last time
Another interesting feature is that the poll turnout in the 2009 general election and the present byelection, was almost been identical – a little more than 68%. And the only change in the scenario has been that over 28,000 new voters were added to the electoral list. And the increase in the poll turn out has been around 18,000.
While all the new voters are expected not to miss the maiden opportunity to cast vote, obviously around 10,000 established voters who had voted last time obviously stayed way. And this scenario offered an ideal setting for discerning the response of the voters to the ugly happenings in BJP in general and to the internecine quarrels in particular.
Ultimately it so happened that while the Congress could increase its vote share by little more than 18,000 votes, the BJP had lost to the tune of 48,000 votes, and the JDS which had stayed away from contest three years ago, raked up support of whopping 72,000 votes.
There has been a considerable decline in the number of apolitical voters, who would prefer voting “others” to any of the established parties. The number of such voters which was around 55,000 last time had got reduced to little more than 28,000. The bulk of them appeared to have supported JDS.
The moot question is why did the JDS, which had skipped contesting in 2009 choose to be in the arena this time, where it had not got a ghost of chance of winning. And who was the ultimate beneficiary?
The Congress spokesmen had gone on record to say that move was to keep the secular votes in the constituency (a euphemism for the votes polled by the CPI last time) from going to Congress. Did the presence of the JDS help Congress to win or prevented BJP from winning?
Since his unceremonious ouster eight months ago, the former chief minister had, by turns, been sulking, simmering and scheming to return to the seat he once occupied but from which he was unceremoniously toppled under a haze of corruption charges involving the denotification and illegal mining scams.
Even the ignominy of a jail stint didn’t quell his ambitions, nor did it stop the Lingayat mutt heads—and the “leaders” seen with him—from making his return a caste issue.
So, what next for Yediyurappa? Will he stomach the insult and continue in the BJP? Will he bide his time till the elections? Will he split the BJP and join hands with Congress rebels to kickstart that outstanding party of clean politics, Sharad Pawar‘s NCP in the State? Does he still have some draw?
External affairs minister S.M. Krishna may consider himself a tennis connoisseur, but the Kannada film industry already has a "Tennis" Krishna
VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: Many Indian kids, after they grow up, have trouble with long, tongue twisting names. Luckily we have nicknames to rescue us. But sometimes nicknames too become just as bad, especially when they have double meanings like say ‘Dicka uncle.’
Even shortening Indian names can some-times be dicey with Pooja lovingly becoming Poo.
Unfortunately, when it comes to nicknames, generally English names are used. And they are used to the point one is left wondering if it is really true. It is said that there is a couple named Happy and Gay! I guess they’ll be naming their kid ‘Glee.’ But by far, if you are a native of Mysore you will love the names adopted by some of our local “heroes” — people who put either their profession before their name or the name of an animal.
There is ‘Tiger’ Ramesh. I am waiting for a day to meet him so I can have the pleasure of being amused by introducing myself to him as, “Hi, I am ‘Panther’ Muthanna.” Wonder if he too will be amused and may be feel an immediate sense of feline bonding.
Then there is ‘Cat’ Balu, no not because he is ‘cool cat’ or light-footed, but apparently because he has green eyes.
Then there is the famous ‘Choori Loki’ (Dagger Lokesh). How he got this threatening name is an interesting story. When in college, all of us had heard of this guy. He supposedly was a rowdy and everyone was wary of him. After all, if he has ‘Choori’ as his first name, he must be a dangerous man. But years later we heard the origin of his name.
It seems Lokesh used to hang around with rowdy-type characters all the time but was never himself one. One day there was a clash between the boys he hung out with and another group. Lokesh was caught in the crossfire and one of the rowdies knifed him in his buttocks. He was rushed with a bleeding bum to the hospital.
Soon, he became the ‘butt’ of ‘buttock jokes’ and his friends named him ‘Choori Loki.’ And no one bothered to ask why he was named ‘Choori’, instead they simply assumed he was the perpetrator of pain and not the victim. Choori Loki too noticed the newfound respect that he commanded and kept mum about his story.
There are numerous such names from ‘Chirathe’ (leopard) Manju to ‘Kardi’ (bear) Balu. All nicknames created in their younger days have now become their unofficially-official names. In fact they believe their name helps increase their recall value.
Some of them are in politics and when their real names are published, they call the office the next day and request that their “business” name be used.
Even our Kannada film stars have interesting prefix to their names. There is the ‘Rebel Star’ Ambarish, ‘Golden Star’ Ganesh, ‘Challenging Star’ Darshan and ‘Power Star’ Puneeth Rajkumar. We love prefixes. Yes, indeed, you may have worked hard for Dr. prefix, but the above prefixes are a lot more “cooler” and unique.
In Mysore, it’s common for people to use a person’s profession as prefix to their name.
The popular example would be our “Snake” Shyam, the man who has been catching snakes in houses for free and doing Mysoreans a great service. His real name is Mirle Subbarao Balasubramanium! Call him this and he himself will not respond. But “Snake” Shyam, everyone knows and he willingly responds.
Another example is our former ex-Mayor Sandesh Swamy. His real name is Sithapura Satish. Satish became Sandesh Swamy as the Hotel Sandesh The Prince is owned by his family and Swamy is his nickname. In fact, his older brother, who is an MLC, is addressed popularly as Sandesh Nagaraj, his real name is Sithapur Nagaraj.
So may be some people may call me ‘Writer Muthanna.’ But that’s not too bad compared to a piles doctor — ‘Dr Bum Ramesh.’
To add to this, some people are given their physical attribute as prefix before their name such as ‘Dhadiya’ Lokesh (Giant Lokesh) or ‘Kari’ Nagesh (Dark Nagesh). It may sound quite derogatory but it’s just a name created for recognisability.
Once they are recognised, they want luck to be an add-on. So, many politicians now have begun changing the spelling of their names to change their luck.
In Mysore, the first popular name change story was that of the Chamaraja Constituency MLA late Harsha Kumar Gowda. It is said that when he was initially just Harsha Kumar, he contested for MLA election twice and lost. Then he was advised to add ‘Gowda’ for luck. It worked and he won the third time.
More than numerology, may be the ‘Gowda’ add-on helped affirm his allegiance to a community and get him the votes because after the first term, this name change strategy never worked because another man with the ‘Gowda’ suffix came into the fray—H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda—who has won from Chamaraja constituency ever since.
Luckily nobody advised Harsha Kumar Gowda to add another ‘Gowda’ to his name making him double-Gowda.
The other famous name change was that of our District In-charge Minister who became S.A. Ramdas, he found it unlucky being just an A. Ramdas. Then our former Chief Minister became B.S. Yeddyurappa from B.S. Yediyurappa, our MP Vishwanath became Adagur H. Vishwanath from being just H. Vishwanath.
Well, how much does this work?
It’s going well for Ramdas, it’s going great for Vishwanath but what about Yeddy? Some numerologists may defend it saying that if not for the spelling change, Yeddyurappa would still be in jail. So we wonder if he should go for another spelling change to reclaim his CM chair or else he may just disappear into political oblivion as “Yeddyyarappa (Who’s Yeddy)?”
The same trend exists among ordinary citizens of India. May be numerology is a science. May be it is not. But while everyone is changing their names, while all our politicians are busy changing the spelling of their names to get ahead in life, has anyone thought of our motherland?
Ever since independence, we have had too much trouble; we have been “forever a developing” nation but never getting to be “developed” one. May be this streak of dosha (bad luck) can be ended with the name change or a spelling change. It’s surprising that while all governments are busy changing their States’ names, and our leaders changing their names for better forunes, no on has bothered about a name change or at least a spelling change for our nation.
May be if we change the spelling of India to Endia or Indiya, this nation’s fortunes could change.
What an idea, Sirji?
No… it’s just numerology.
(Vikram Muthanna is the managing editor of the evening daily Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)
As if to show that India’s two biggest political parties are cut from the same tainted cloth, the Congress-led government at the Centre and the BJP government in Karnataka have been slipping from scam to scam, crisis to crisis—and making a mockery of the people’s mandate—in a regular and nearly identical manner.
While the Manmohan Singh government’s scandal-marred second tenure, pockmarked with a brazen assault on free speech, is now part of political lore, the B.S. Yediyurappa-led (and now D.V. Sadananda Gowda led) regime in the State has fared far worse with more than a dozen ministers under scrutiny for financial (and sexual) corruption.
The communal undertones of one regime is matched by the casteist undertones of the other. Both regimes survive from court order to court order. And both seem convinced that the wise voter is actually a silly fool, who doesn’t read, hear or watch the news; and that she will forgive and forget the excesses if she is thrown a few crumbs and a saree.
But there is one key difference. The BJP government’s conduct and governance in Karnataka makes nonsense of the party’s sanctimonious posturing and fingerwagging about the Congress. Its always-vacuous claim of being a party with a difference, guided by high morals, is now a pathetic joke that cannot even be uttered in the presence of children.
The Congress’s big test will come in the UP and other state elections. But here’s the other question: will the BJP come to power in Karnataka if there is a snap election tomorrow? Or, like with the faction-ridden, leaderless BJP at the Centre, is the faction-ridden, leaderless Karnataka Congress in no position to exploit the pitiable state the BJP finds itself in?
“Yes, Ajji. That is Suresh Kalmadi. He was the chairman of the organising committee of the Commonwealth Games (CWG), who organised the import of jumbo-size umbrellas!”
“Wasn’t he sent to jail for wrong doing while organising the games?”
‘Yes. He was in jail for nine months; now he is out on bail. Along with him all his colleagues have also been released.”
“Hagandre? They are all innocent or guilty.”
“Nobody knows that yet, Ajji.”
“Shiva, Shiva. They also released all company people, fillum people on two gee skyam.”
“They released that girl, Thiru Karunanidhi’s daughter, Kanimozhi also?”
“She was released last month, Ajji.”
“If they released Kalmadi, Kanimozhi et al, who is the kalla/kalli in CWG or 2G?”
“The real thief? Nobody knows, Ajji. They have all got bail now. By the time they decide that, your granddaughter born last month would have become an Ajji!”
“How come these people who are coming out of jail want their positions back. Yediyurappa wants to become CM, his supporters are disrupting meeting of present CM asking him to resign and keep up the ‘promise’ given to Yedi. Kalmadi’s supporters already want him as chief of IOA for the extraordinary general meeting, and are talking about the great service rendered by him.”
“Isn’t there any sense of shame left any more? People who were arrested on serious charges, just because they get bail, they are treated like heroes as if they have done something fantastic. Crackers are burst, sweets are distributed. What is this nonsense, kano?”
“They think bail = not guilty, ashte Ajji.”
“Now I hear that the ‘Trichy 29’, the group of robbers who robbed cashiers in a bank have also applied for bail! They will also get bail I am sure.”
“Quite possible, Ajji.”
“Rama, Rama. Then who is left in jail, only petty thieves, pickpockets, chain snatchers who can’t afford money to get bail, I guess.”
“Devare kaapadbeku ee deshana!”
“Even God has given up, Ajji. He seems to have abdicated his responsibility. Now it is taken over by swamigalu, matadhipathis. Some swamijis have petitioned that Yediyurappa should be brought back as CM.”
“Ayyo devare! At this rate I am sure the ‘Trichy 29’ will come to power in Tamil Nadu and form a ministry. This has happened before there.”
His chamchas and chelas, his followers and factotums, have dozens of reasons for B.S. Yediyurappa‘s return. But if there is one genuine reason why the newspaper reading world should forgive his sins and welcome him with open arms, it is because the scam-tainted former Karnataka chief minister’s is a news photographer’s dream come true.
Here, he arrives in his usual style for the inauguration of a fete at Karegodi Rangapura in Tumkur district on Saturday.
There is nothing like the aphrodisiac called power; it corrects all electile dysfunctions in a democracy. Barely five months ago, B.S. Yediyurappa was the black sheep of the BJP, kicking and screaming as he was led away to slaughter in full public view by his party which wanted to appear to the world that it was doing the right and correct thing in removing him from office following his indictment by the Lok Ayukta in the illegal mining scam.
“I will be back in six months,” were Yediyurappa’s ominous last words even as his protege D.V. Sadananada Gowda was taking charge as his successor. A stint in the central jail in Bangalore, after being named in a denotification scam, would have chastened normal human beings, but his “triumphant release” and the stinging defeat of the BJP in the Bellary by-elections have only embolded supporters to think that the ‘Return of the Yedi’ is round the corner.
First, all but three BJP members of Parliament reportedly told the party high command last week that they wanted him back as CM. And now, Yediyurappa himself has been quoted as saying “there is a feeling” in the BJP that he should occupy the hot seat again. He is even conducting special yagnas for his return, with Shobha Karandlaje in tow. With Gowda facing a crucial election saying that he will vacate if asked to, the scene is set, especially with rumours that Yediyurappa might split the party and hitch forces with Sharad Pawar‘s NCP if denied the chair.
Should Yediyurappa return? Will he? Has he paid for his transgressions with a mere jail stint? Will allowing him to return help or the harm the BJP’s image? And what happens to Sadananda Gowda?
“A free photograph for your New Year greeting card” is, of course, just a cheap search engine optimisation (SEO) technique to draw attention to a lovely view of the big ball of fire about to dip below the line of vision at the Kukkarahalli lake, in Mysore, 15 days before the end of the current year.
All very appropriate, you might say, on just another usual news day, when nothing much is happening except that 17 BJP members of Parliament have sent a greeting card to their party bosses saying that the sangh parivar’s Santa Claus should shower B.S. Yediyurappa a really nice gift before Christmas, or else.