Posts Tagged ‘Ramakrishna Hegde’

An open letter to Rahul Gandhi from an Editor

11 October 2013

Photo Caption

K.B. Ganapathy, the editor-in-chief of India’s leading English daily evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, pens an open letter to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.


Dear Sri Rahul Gandhi

Let me come to the point, for you are a busy man. And it is the busy man who has time to spare. Please spare a few minutes to peruse what I have written here concerning Karnataka, my State and its Chief Minister of a little over 100 days old, Sri Siddaramaiah.

I know him from the day he was a lawyer, law teacher and then an angry young politician inspired by Jayaprakash Narayan and the socialist leaders of Nehru-Gandhi years. Hailing from a backward village of an industrially backward district Mysore, he had the dream of ameliorating the living conditions of the oppressed and the have nots.

Since you will have a dossier on Siddaramaiah, I will not dilate.

However, what prompted me, rather provoked me to write this letter of appeal to you is the news that broke out last evening on TV channels and that appeared in cold print this morning saying that about 20 Congress MLAs have sent a complaint against Siddaramaiah to the Congress high command.

As if to prove the blind belief of many earlier Chief Ministers of Karnataka that whoever visited Chamarajanagar — whose inhabitants are mostly Dalits and Scheduled Tribes — would lose power, these 20 MLAs must have submitted their complaint.

It may be their belief that the bold decision of Siddaramaiah to visit the “cursed” district could be an auspicious moment for them to conspire to bring down Siddaramaiah and then allow the TV and the Press to go to town saying, “didn’t we say he would lose power after visiting Chamarajanagar?”

Dear Sri Rahul, I want you to congratulate Siddaramaiah for his deliberate, daring visit to Chamarajanagar despite advice to the contrary. In doing so, he has led the motley crowd of people steeped in superstition from the front urging them to give up such blind belief. Siddaramaiah, thus, has set a personal example, unlike other Chief Ministers. Now, it should not be shown as if he made a mistake by going to Chamarajanagar.

I will only say this. If you listen to these disgruntled MLAs and sack Siddaramaiah, it will tantamount to yourself subscribing to the superstition and thereby perpetuating the same in this century of reason and scientific temperament.

And in any case, the people of Karnataka know what could be the nature of their complaint. The MLAs generally want their favourite (read corrupt) officers to be posted in most ‘revenue” generating departments like police, revenue, PWD and zilla panchayat. The deputy commissioners (DCs) are tough nuts, being IAS.

So these MLAs want the Chief Minister to give them their favourite police inspectors, tahasildars, executive engineers and CEOs of ZPs.

Totally self-centric, not Karnataka-centric in their conduct as MLAs.

In the past, the Chief Minister, in order to remain in his seat, used to oblige these MLAs. But, have we seen corresponding increased development in the constituencies of these MLAs? No. Reason: Self-aggrandisement.

However, there is another complaint tagged on to the first one, “that Siddaramaiah is ignoring the MLAs’ requests and he is surrounded by his old friends and old gang etc.” This one is to provide a moral facade to an untenable complaint. They alleged that Siddaramaiah goes by their advice.

So what?

Ramakrishna Hegde had his “Brains Trust.” Every Chief Minister will have to consult, apart from the Cabinet colleagues, somebody in whose wisdom, expertise and experience he has trust.

According to reports, Siddaramaiah has five such advisors. I understand they are not only committed and loyal to Siddaramaiah but also to his party, Congress. They are: 1. Kempaiah, IPS, retired. 2. Ravi Bosraj. 3. Chenna Reddy. 4. Konanakunte Laxman. 5. MLA Bhyrati Suresh of Krishnarajapuram, Bangalore.

If it is true, it will be perceived by the people, not by politicians and bureaucrats, that these five will be like ‘Pancha Ratnas’ similar to the ‘Navaratnas’ in the courts of Ashoka and Akbar. Like your mother listened to her inner voice about 10 years back, you had better listen to the voice of the people of Karnataka.

More importantly, development of the State is possible only if the Chief Minister is allowed to complete his term, unless he is incompetent or corrupt. For now, Siddharamaiah is competent, what with many years of experience in the earlier governments of JD(S) and he is our Mr. Clean.

For Kannadigas, development is more important than 2014 Parliamentary election.

Yours faithfully,

K.B. Ganapathy

File photograph: Karnataka governor H.R. Bharadwaj administrating the oath of office to Siddaramaiah during the swearing-in ceremony at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bangalore on Monday (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: The editor who foresaw Siddaramaiah as CM

When Fernandes tried to blow up Vidhana Soudha

4 January 2013

Like him or loathe him, there is no ignoring U.R. Anantha Murthy. As an academic, as a writer and as a public intellectual, URA has towered over the political, social and linguistic landscape for more than half a century.

In post-liberalised India and in post-IT Karnataka, Meshtru (as URA is known to friends, foes, friends turned foes and foes turned friends) has tilted bravely and unceasingly at the windmills, taking up unfashionable causes that Mammon had stubbed out.

Now, the indefatigable Anantha Murthy is penning his memoirs, throwing fresh light on a long and colourful life among letters. Excerpts:



We accept many beliefs without questioning them, and start propagating them. It is possible here to be a revolutionary and a part of the establishment at the same time.

When the Congress declared an Emergency, the CPI helped them along. One could simultaneously be a communist and a supporter of the ruling Congress.

Most Indian intellectuals are like that.

In those days (the 1970s), if you asked those talking revolution whether they would like to visit the US or the USSR, they would choose the first. That’s because there was no warm water in the Soviet Union. No room heaters either.

India’s biggest problem is hypocrisy. It has taken root deeper than we imagine.

When the Janata Party came to power in Karnataka in 1983, many of us found it possible to balance out our lofty principles with our proximity to authority. It is difficult to proclaim that our actions were free of selfish motives.

A good number who came looking for me, in the knowledge that I was close to Ramakrishna Hegde and J.H. Patel, no longer remain my friends. Thanks to my obliging nature, I became a vehicle for their vested interests.

I didn’t touch any money, but I am troubled that I watched corrupt acts without saying a word. A mind that hesitates to say what must be said becomes corrupt. The Janata alliance that took on Indira Gandhi was the creation of an affluent class.


Meeting George Fernandes

Before the Emergency was imposed, I had written a review of the novel Gati Sthiti (Progress and Reality) by Giri.

I received a huge envelope by post some days after the publication of my review. It contained another review of the book, and criticised some of my observations. I couldn’t figure out who had written it. The letter was in Kannada and English.

“Come and meet me in Bangalore at once,” it said.

I guessed it was from George Fernandes.

He had tried to organise a massive railway strike before the Emergency, and failed. The police were looking for him, but he had slipped away. All the other big leaders of the time were already in jail.

Shivarama Karanth told me: “Only those who have participated in the 1942 movement might know what to do in these difficult times. George is a follower of Jayaprakash Narayan, isn’t he? He must be active in the underground movement.”

It occurred to me that I should contact my friend Pattabhirama Reddy and Snehalata in Bangalore. They were inspired by the socialist leader Rammanohar Lohia, and had turned my novel Samksara into a film.

When I met him, Pattabhi took the envelope from me, winked, and said, “I will take you to George secretly”.

The two of us got into a car one evening. “Good not to know where you are going. Blindfold yourself. Even if the police torture you, you shouldn’t be able to tell them where you met George,” he said.

We drove for 45 minutes, and reached a decrepit church.

We walked into a dark room.

George was sitting on a cot. He was unrecognisable. He had grown his hair and beard long. I went up to him and touched him. He embraced me. George’s younger brother Lawrence came in. He looked older than George. He had a lunch box in his hand.

As we sat talking about his family and mine, worms kept dropping on us from the roof of the church. George was pulling out the palmer worms and scratching himself all through our conversation. He gave me a mission with these points:

Snehalata had to go to a rarely used lavatory in Vidhana Soudha. Making sure no one was around, she had to explode a bomb at night. I had to provide some young men to help her. The explosion had to bring down a portion of the Vidhana Soudha, but not kill anyone.

Our objective was to hassle the government, and not to inflict violence on anyone. The government was convinced it could get away with anything, and people wouldn’t protest. If such subversive incidents took place every now and then, the frightened citizens would feel reassured something was afoot to dislodge the government. It was our duty to protect the people’s will to resist. We had to find a bridge there, and a government building here, and bring them down with dynamite.

If none of this was possible, my friends and I had to undermine the government in the manner of those who had resisted Nazism in Hitler’s Germany. We had to drop burning cigarette stubs into post boxes. That would force the government, as it had in Germany, to post a constable at every post box.

We returned after this conversation. I blindfolded myself even on the way back.

A constable always stood guard at the toilet, making it impossible to place a bomb at the Vidhana Soudha. I returned to Mysore, and with friends like Devanoor Mahadeva, tried to drop cigarette stubs into the post boxes. The stubs burnt themselves out without causing any damage.

George showed the same courage as Subhas Chandra Bose, and is a big hero of our times. We believed he was fit to become prime minister. But what happened to him later is unpalatable.

He never became corrupt for money, but he went to Gujarat after the violence, and came away as if nothing had happened. I could never understand this. Perhaps the desire to remain in power had corrupted his revolutionary mind.

The central minister who refused police escort has now lost his memory, and lies in bed.


Esther and home tuitions

My wife was a little girl with two plaits when I saw her as a student in Hassan. She came over to my house for tuitions. When she sang a film song at some event, it brought tears to my eyes. She sings well even today.

I had given her class an assignment: ‘Describe someone you like or dislike.’ She had written about me, and made fun of my style of teaching and gestures. The girl with plaits who could write this way about her lecturer had ignited my curiosity and interest.

The first door of my romantic world opened when I realised she could speak about me with such abandon. I didn’t want a girl who’d adore me; I wanted a companion. I fell in love with the girl who came to me on the pretext of taking tuitions. She was then just 16 or 17. I developed no physical intimacy with her. She was at an age when she didn’t know enough about the world’s ways, or about rights and wrongs. She interacted with me in all innocence. When she invited me over to her house, I felt I was entering another world.

Esther was one among many students who came for tuitions. While the others paid me a fee, Esther gave me her guileless love.

In those days, I liked keeping fish. A student had brought me some fish, which I had placed in a glass bowl. I was often lost in watching their movements. This would make Esther livid. “What are you doing there? Can’t you come here and do some lessons?” she would snap. She was outspoken even in those days.

My sister wasn’t married yet. I knew it would be difficult to find her a bride if I married out of caste. I had to wait a long time even after I had decided to marry Esther.

I went to Mysore after teaching for some years in Hassan. My mother was with me then. When she came to know about my relationship with Esther, she was disturbed. She would suddenly lose consciousness and slump to the ground. She would also complain about some pain.

When we took her to a doctor, he diagnosed it as a mental illness. She was tormented during this period. As a little boy, when she went to the hills for her ablutions in the morning, I would scream, “Amma, are you dead or what?” and keep crying till she called back.

Her agony on my account was something I could not take. I was distressed.


Death of my mother

My mother died in September 1995. A month before her death, I had taken a break from my work, and shifted to my brother’s house in Shimoga, where she was bed-ridden. Initially, she was conscious, but towards the end, she lay unconscious most of the time.

I used to sit by her side, talking, while she was still conscious. Anil was her favourite son. Being a doctor, he had fitted her with pipes and tubes, and struggled round the clock to keep her alive.

One day, I told him, “Let’s not keep her alive this way. Take away those things.”

I had gathered the courage to tell him that, and Anil needed the confidence. He did as suggested. I sat by my mother, held her hand, uttered a prayer, and said, “Everything is all right. You may go.”

Since she knew about Esther, I guessed she was apprehensive I wouldn’t conduct her last rites, and said, “I will take the initiative and perform all your rites.”

She left us a couple of days later. I couldn’t sit on the floor, so I broke convention and sat on a stool. I performed her rites with my brothers, trying all the while to understand the mantras.

My mother treated everyone with affection, but had never given up her ritual sense of purity. She was not a modern shy about her Brahmin caste, or rather, her sub-caste.

When she heard the Pejawar swamiji had visited a Dalit colony, she was bewildered. I congratulated him as I felt he was capable of influencing my mother.

Oblivious of the depth of such beliefs, my fellow-writers ridiculed me. Such intellectuals have no desire to change the thinking of people like my mother. My mother wouldn’t give up her caste, but believed taking vows and praying to Muslim holy men would cure children of certain ailments.


The house that started a row

I didn’t have a house of my own. I applied for one in Mysore. Poet Krishna Alanahalli took me to someone he knew and said, “Give our teacher a site.”

He did. The site was like a lane. “I don’t want it,” I said.

Krishna took me back to the official and said, “Not this one, give him another.” I got another site. Krishna liked me a lot, and said I should keep the first one, too. Afraid I would give in to temptation, I wrote a letter returning the earlier site. Krishna laughed at my foolishness.

By then, I had decided to move from Mysore to Bangalore. Award-winners are entitled to sites, and I got one during chief minister Veerappa Moily‘s time. It was a good plot, opposite a park.

Since we were about to come away from Mysore, I thought it would be better if we could get a house instead. When I mentioned this to my friend J.H. Patel, then chief minister, he said he would allot me a house in a colony originally meant for NRIs who could pay in dollars. I live in this house now.

Once the house was sanctioned, I returned my site.

Several people, under P. Lankesh‘s leadership, pounced on me, ignoring the fact that I had returned the site. A story first appeared in Lankesh Patrike. My utterly emotional and dear friend G.K. Govinda Rao demonstrated against me.

I wrote to Patel, requesting him to take back the house and give me the site again.

He tore up my letter and said, “Everything is legal, whatever people might say. If you don’t want this house, there’s another in my name. Shall I get it registered in your name?” I declined. Many articles appeared in the papers.

After some time, my detractors began to see the truth. Lankesh called up my house one day and asked Esther, “May I visit you?” She said, “Ask him,” and handed me the phone. I called him over. He arrived with a friend.

Esther went out of the house the moment he stepped in. I got some tea made for him. “Saw the new house?” I said. He replied, without any embarrassment, “Never mind, Ananthamurthy. All that’s over now.” He didn’t say another word about it.

We try to show our integrity through our prejudices. I don’t like this practice, among Kannada writers, of flaunting their integrity. We must hide our integrity, like we hide our love.

My friend B.S. Achar was struck by cancer. Lankesh wrote about it in his paper and announced he was giving him some money. Achar was disgusted. He returned the money. It didn’t occur to Lankesh, whose aim was publicity, to reflect if it was all right to write in his paper about his own acts of charity.


The modernist debate

Our discussions at Coffee House with Gopalakrishna Adiga inspired many of my writings. We lived in a world of our own, amidst the shared coffee and cigarettes. We were busy ushering in modernism in literature when a juke box, which we thought of as a symbol of modernism, arrived at Coffee House.

Attracted by its loud music, young people thronged the cafe. Modernity had snatched away the comfortable cane chairs that encouraged discussions about modernism.

We went to the parks, looking for space under the trees. Without coffee, our discussions lost their charm. We didn’t have money for beer at the pubs. And in any case, Adiga wouldn’t drink even though he was a modernist!

Translated by S.R. Ramakrishna

Excerpted from Suragi, U.R. Ananthamurthy’s autobiography, due for release soon


Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The U.R. Anantha Murthy interview

The mahaan elastic buddhijeevi of the year?

CHURUMURI POLL: Smooth, smart, stupid?

URA: A people’s manifesto for the 2008 elections

Is Anantha Murthy‘s Samskara a little too sexy?

URA: ‘India is the loser if Hindus become communal’

POLL: Does Yediyurappa’s KJP stand a chance?

10 December 2012

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?

Also read: Is it all over for B.S. Yediyurappa?

How much longer will BSY stay in BJP?


How BJP plunged Karnataka into cesspool of caste

28 July 2012

“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.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Has anti-defection law strangled our democracy?

2 January 2012

From left, Ganesh Karnik, Sandeep Shastry, C.V. Madhukar, P.G.R. Sindhia

GAGAN KRISHNADAS writes from Bangalore: The centre for public policy at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIM-B), recently organised a conference titled “Strengthening Institutions, Enhancing Governance”.

It  provided an opportunity for politicians to share the stage and their thoughts with academics and researchers about the changing role of elected representatives and its implications for legislative institutions.

P.G.R. Sindhia from the Janata Dal (Secular) and Captain Ganesh Karnik of the BJP represented the political class, while Prof Sandeep Shastri and C.V. Madhukar represented the academics.

It was interesting to see how people within politics and out of it viewed the proposition:


P.G.R. Sindhia of the JDS divided the political history of modern India into three distinct phases.

“In the first phase between 1950s to the 1970s, we had politicians who were role models, like Sardar Patel et al. They had complete knowledge of the country and their constituencies. The expectation of the people from these leaders was constructive community matters, not individual gains. People also had faith in these leaders and not to forget, we also had a stable government.

“In the second phase between 1970s and 1990s, we could see that the people were disappointed that their expectations had been belied. They voted against the Congress and we saw coalition governments coming into power and small political parties taking birth. Though I am totally against Indira Gandhi and was a part of the movement against Emergency, I have huge respect for her. She enthused the people with the 20-point programme and her Garibi Hatao scheme. She was able to gain the confidence of the masses with land reforms which was followed in Karnataka too by Devaraj Urs.

“In the third and the present phase between 1990s and 2011, the people have totally lost their faith in their leaders. People are disillusioned with elected representatives. Due to globalisation, the availability of money to the political parties has increased. Now, people expect money and personal favours from their elected representatives. Our MLAs most of the time are busy attending marriages, funerals and birthday parties.

“During my first election in 1983, Ramakrishna Hegde and H.D. Deve Gowda asked me contest and I won as a result of the anti-incumbency factor. I hardly spent Rs 30,000 and my supporters spent about Rs 1.5 lakh. My caste is microscopic in Karnataka and I did not win on the basis of caste at any time. I have defeated stalwarts like Deve Gowda and M.V. Rajasekharan. My winning margin used to be as high as 50,000 votes. When I contrast it with the year 2004, I spent about Rs 1.25 crore, but my majority was just a few thousands. Money and muscle power rule the politics today. To curb this, we need strong laws and it needs to be implemented through the Election Commission. Democracy is the best form of governance for our country and we need to strengthen it.”

C.V. Madhukar, founder and director of PRS Legislative Research, had his own take on what has failed Indian democracy.

He said that the anti-defection law introduced in 1985 was responsible for destroying state legislatures. He said that, from 1950s upto 1989, we had a maximum of 14-15 political parties. After the introduction of anti-defection law, the number of political parties had reached a peak.

Madhukar said that Indian legislative institutions were suffering because of four reasons:

a. The anti-defection law has silenced independent voices within a political party.

b. The poor participation of our legislators in the house.

c. Lack of adequate and expert research support to the legislators on various matters.

d. While the role of legislators is primarily to make laws, oversee working of the government and represent the voters, what they do in reality are the petty works of their constituencies and their supporters.

He said that during the 14th Lok Sabha, 1,400 documents were tabled. It was impossible for a member of Parliament to go through all the documents. He lamented that when an MP goes to the Parliament library and seeks for material on a particular subject matter, what he gets are the newspaper clippings from the last 60 days.

Madhukar asked: “Should our policy should be based purely on the opinion of a few newspapers?”

Captain Ganesh Karnik of the BJP read out the preamble of our Constitution and asked how many of these aspirations had been fulfilled.

There are three categories of voters. The first category whose choices are fixed; the second category who are intellectuals and vote on the basis of issuesl; the third category are the ones whose votes can be bought by the politicians. Unfortunately, the voters in third category are the ones who play the decisive role in every election.

There is a need to educate this section of voters. Though it is not the role of a legislator to go for marriages, birthday parties and do personal favours such as transfers; he is bound to perform these functions since these are the very people who have elected him and they expect him to do so!

Sandeep Shastri, the pro chancellor of Jain University, negated the views put forward by the politicians, Sindhia and Karnik, that the people voted on the basis of money alone.

Empirical research suggests that contestants who spent the highest amount of money never always win the elections.

Politicians have been in power all these years and they had all power to make changes in laws, change the mindsets of the people, yet they had failed.

At the end of the session, it was clear that the two politicians blamed the people for taking money for voting; the researcher blamed the lack of expert research support to leaders which failed them in taking proper decisions; and the academician said money power alone doesn’t work and that politicians themselves were responsible for the bad state of affairs.

Who do you think is right or wrong? Or do we need to take a holistic view and say that each group is responsible for the failure of our democracy?

(Gagan Krishnadas is a post-graduate student at National Law School of India University, Bangalore)

M.Y. Ghorpade: maharaja, minister & a lensman

29 October 2011

It is one of life’s ironies that Bellary that is now the byword for mind-numbing, blood-curdling corruption of the Reddy brothers’ kind, also produced Murari Yeshwantrao Ghorpade, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 79.

Son of the erstwhile ruler of the kingdom of Sandur, which falls in what is now Bellary, M.Y. Ghorpade (seven-time MLA from Sandur) handled the finance and rural development ministries with aplomb, a stint which saw the State take a lead role in Panchayat Raj.

In a recent interview in the Economic Times, Ghorpade, chairman-emeritus of Sandur manganese and iron ores, reminisced on the horrific notoriety of his home-district:

“We have a strange reputation of following all the rules over the last 50 years. This corruption will finish us off. To see Sandur also not free from this makes me very, very sad. The mistake that was made was that small mines were distributed like toffees and chocolates. Now these people are not able to supervise operations or add value to the business.”

Unlike politicians of the Parappana Agrahara kind who spent their working days more as real estate brokers trying to gobble up every square inch possible, Ghorpade, did just the opposite some weeks ago: he offered to donate 150 acres that were part of his inheritance to nature conservation.

A Cambridge post-graduate in economics, Ghorpade was also an award-winning wildlife photographer, his black and white pictures winning several national and international prizes. In 1983, he becomes the first wildlife photographer in the world to be honoured with the prestigious International Award of Master Photographer.

Photograph: via Karnataka Photo News

Also read: A wise man sees not the same trees a fool does

How a Ghorpade came to be called a Ghorpade

CHURUMURI POLL: BDA sites for Dhoni & Co?

5 April 2011

Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa‘s alacrity in announcing the allotment of 50’x80’ house sites to each member of the World Cup winning cricket team is not surprising—nor is the tepid reaction to it. Politicians revel in making grand gestures, and a sentimental public applauds silently.

Still, with due respect to the achievement of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys, the question must be asked: should a bunch of players who will not have a shortfall of anything for the rest of their lives be gifted this largesse, especially when not a single member of the team hails either from Bangalore or Karnataka.

The other question to ask is: is 4,000 square feet of land the only way to honour an achievement?

The charitable view of such a gesture is that Yediyurappa is not the first CM to see “returns” in it. Ramakrishna Hegde gave away plots to a whole bunch of artists and artistes, including a TV newsreader, to encourage them to make Bangalore their home and add to its cultural lustre. Closer home, S.M. Krishna gave away dozens of plots to journalists, obviously not for winning the World Cup.

But that was in another era; this is 2011. Land is at a premium. Bangalore is a magnet for all comers, but is not the only one. So should the cricketers be gifted land without question, especially if they do not use it for their own purpose?

Also read: What’s the best way to say, well done, keep it up?

The end of liberal democracy in post-global India?

19 January 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question Dr Sharma raises is, what next?

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

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

Karanth, Kuvempu, Gokak & the one by three car

30 June 2010

Left to right: Masti Venkatesh Iyengar, D.V. Gundappa, K.V. Puttappa, M.V. Seetharamaiah, K.Shivarama Karanth, A.N. Krishna Rao and G.P. Rajaratnam. Photograph by T.S. Nagarajan, circa 1955

The conclusion of the world classical Tamil conference in Coimbatore has provided an opportunity for K. Vijay Kumar, former joint director of the Karnataka information and publicity department, to jog his memory on the world Kannada conference held in Mysore 25 years ago, in Star of Mysore.

“The inauguration of the conference received attention as the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was attending besides the great literary giants Kuvempu, Shivaram Karanth, V.K. Gokak and other well-known personalities.

“That was the time when highest tight security was being given to Rajiv Gandhi and this posed a real problem for us and the police in various matters. The venue was the vast open Palace grounds, and to control the entry of a large number of people from various gates around it was difficult.

“A late-night meeting was called by the then deputy inspector general of police (DIG), P.S. Ramanujam, himself a scholar, wherein he explained how he had been asked by the PM’s security people to minimise to the barest the entry of vehicles, even VIPs’, inside the Palace.

“We were worried about bringing Kuvempu, Karanth, Gokak together as they were the chief guests to be seated along with the PM on the dais and in fact, Kuvempu was to inaugurate the conference.

“The DIG said only one car for all the three with a pilot police jeep was permissible.

“Our [information and publicity] secretary Chiranjiv Singh and myself took the responsibility of bringing them to the palace. Karanth was staying at his son Ullas Karanth‘s place in Kuvempunagar; Kuvempu at his residence in V.V. Mohalla and Gokak was staying at Hotel Dasaprakash Paradise in Yadavagiri.

“We told the three previous night about picking them up in the morning. Accordingly, we picked up Karanth and reached Kuvempu’s house and Gokak also joined there. Kuvempu took some time as he was not too well and Dr. Prabhushankara was waiting with a soft pillow for Kuvempu in hand to accompany him.

“The time to reach Palace was already approaching. As Karanth began to look at his watch, Gokak suggested that he and Karanth would go in advance. Chiranjiv Singh asked the then director of information, B.N.S. Reddy, to accompany them. The car assigned for all the three had to take them with the pilot jeep.

“Then we began to plan as to how to enter the palace with Kuvempu though there was Chiranjiv’s car but without an escort police jeep which was a must. We had to rush as the time was short.

“Anyway, we reached the main gate of the palace and the crowd near the gate began to cheer ‘Kuvempu-Kuvempu’ seeing him in the car and the security personnel couldn’t stop the car entering the Palace. Chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde was also waiting to receive the poet. We heaved a sigh of relief.”

Text: courtesy Star of Mysore

Photograph: courtesy T.S. Nagarajan

Also read: A picture worth 7,000 words

In defence of India’s 14th PM, the State’s 14th CM

14 January 2010

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes from Bangalore: In one moment of fiery bluster, the venerable old man ripped the synthetic façade enveloping Indian politics asunder, and revealed its true essence.

Not for him the nuanced subtleties in speech, the clipped accent, the dramatic arching of the brow, the elaborate hand-wringing—or even the eloquence hidden in the unspoken word.

Those are best left to “cultured politicians”; the city-bred types harrumphing over Black and Blue Label.

Haradanahalli Doddegowda Deve Gowda, to give the venerable old man his full name, pulls up his panche, sups on ragi balls and soppina saaru, and speaks a mean, belligerent, even bellicose, language.

Gowda’s in-your-face, no-holds-barred style poses a nightmare for erudite analysts, who earn their daily bread deciphering the actions and utterances of smooth, inscrutable politicians.

Gowda’s WYSIWYG approach offers no scope for interpretation.

It is as direct, as coarse, as crass as it can get.

The unrestrained rants of the former prime minister on the current chief minister are in bad taste, no doubt, but spare me the bloody histrionics and indignation, will you?

# In a country where ministers callously stand by and watch a policeman hacked in front of their eyes breathing his last by the way side….

# In a country where 150 of 543 MPs face criminal charges including “human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder”….

# In a country where politicians take money to ask questions, take money to vote, take money to buy coffins for soldiers or fodder for animals….

In a country, in a State, that is completely desensitised to the average politician’s shenanigans, a sensitive streak suddenly emerges after a lazy Sunday siesta because of a fulltime politician’s abusive language?

Make no mistake, I do not condone Gowda’s diatribe.

But I would not condemn it, either.

India’s politicians deserve each other.

To all but those who have just returned from their year-end trip to Mars, here’s the news: Deve Gowda has always revelled in the politics of antagonism, and the operative word there is always, not antagonism.

Be it with his brother Basave Gowda in Holenarasipur, be it with his bosom buddy Ramakrishna Hegde, be it with his one time trusted aides Siddaramaiah or P.G.R. Sindhia, be it with his kinsman Venkatagiri Gowda, Deve Gowda’s default mode is one of antagonism.

People of Holenarsipur still talk of Gowda’s legendary enmity with the late G. Puttaswamy Gowda, a local Congress politician. I have met every one of these notables at some point or the other and they have all confessed of being stunned by Gowda’s ruthlessness.

He has been intemperate and surly in his interactions even with his confidants. Barring one or two individuals, his coterie is in a state or perpetual churn. Entries and exits happen in swift succession, in keeping with Gowda’s shifting ambitions and volatile moods.

In other words, his outrage with B.S. Yediyurappa is one of a piece.

Gowda has been as unpredictable with the media.

Journalists who imagine themselves to be close to Gowda, suddenly find themselves at sea. If, on one occasion, he is thrusting an indulgent arm around you and addressing you as “brother”, the next day he could simply turn the other way around and say, well, bhosidi maga.

Gowda has always been an interviewer’s nightmare. He can be completely incoherent and scattered, or bitingly caustic or abruptly turn into an inveterate mumbler.

For the hungry journalist, Deve Gowda rarely gives good copy.

On one occasion, sometime in the late 1990s, I traveled to his modest home in Haradanahalli, over 200 kms from Bangalore, had a fabulous lunch with his family, served by his son H.D. Revanna’s wife Bhavani, engaged him for an hour and returned without a story.

It is fortunate that I had a liberal editor in The Week’s T.R. Gopalakrishnan.

On another occasion, while he was the chief minister, his then-press secretary, S.V. Jayasheela Rao, promised me an early-morning “exclusive” at Gowda’s Padmanabhanagar residence. All I got that morning was a disjointed monologue and avarekal uppittu, which was the saving grace.

We might compare him with other former PMs and quibble with Deve Gowda’s choice of words.

We might compare him with other former PMs and let our tongues wag about mountains of moolah.

We might compare him with other former PMs and talk of his gracelessness.

Yet how many would boast of a rousing endorsement from their top bureaucrat?

In his 2004 book, former cabinet secretary T.S.R. Subramaniam says of Gowda:

‘‘On the day I took charge as cabinet secretary, he told me, ‘My sons and my relatives will want to exploit my present position to their pecuniary advantage. They will use their proximity to me, through open and subtle ways, to influence you, and to put pressure on you. I want you to be completely fair and impartial and not oblige them’.’’

Haradanahalli Doddegowda Deve Gowda, India’s 14th Prime Minister, Karnataka’s 14th Chief Minister, who began his career in public life as president of Anjaneya Cooperative Society, Holenarasipura, is will go down history as a bare knuckled, unrelenting fighter .

And at 77 he is all set to release his autobiography, perhaps ready to spout more invectives and tear his critics to shreds. Those who trifle with the volatile Vokkaliga trifle with peril.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News archives

Also read: ‘Bastard, bloody bastard, bastard, bhosidi maga

‘Degenerate bastard, I will not trouble thee’

I shouldn’t have been born in Karnataka: Deve Gowda

A snapshot of a poor, debt-ridden farming family

Why Jagadish Shettar’s film could be ‘Oye Lucky’

17 November 2009

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Luck, more than anything, has played a major role in the ascendancy of Jagadish Shettar, who has resigned from the post of speaker of the Karnataka legislative assembly to impose himself on an unwilling Yediyurappa as a member of his cabinet.

In a span of just 15 years, Shettar, an innocuous low-level party functionary, has transformed himself into a contender for the top post of the chief minister, challenging his one time mentor-cum-benefactor

Shettar cut his political teeth in 1994, when he won a surprising victory from Hubli rural, a constituency which had been out of bounds for the BJP/ BJS. The constituency, which had been pocketborough of the Congress since the beginning, leaned towards the Janata Dal for three consecutive terms from 1978, returning the late S.R. Bommai, who rose to become CM succeeding the late Ramakrishna Hegde in 1988.

But with the shock defeat of Bommai in 1989, the Congress regained the seat in 1989 and the 1994 election was poised to be a tussle between the two traditional rivals. But the Idgah Maidan controversy brought about a change in the political preferences of the constituency, thrusting Jagadish Shettar into the limelight.

The Idgah maidan was a piece of land located in the heart of Hubli where Muslims offered prayers twice a year. A legal dispute over the ownership of the land resulted in the Anjuman Islam losing the case, with the court rejecting its claim that it had a lease.

The court ruled that what Anjuman had a license and not a lease.

The BJP spearheaded an agitation for hoisting the national flag on national festivals in the Idgah maidan. This sparked off communal tension. The actions of the Congress government in Karnataka was also a contributory factor for the escalation of  tension. which  resulted in the police opening fire in which seven persons were killed, months prior to the election.

So, with the Idgah row hanging in the air, the BJP went on to capture Hubli. The Janata Dal candidate, Basavaraj Bommai, the son for the former chief minister, failed to avenge the defeat of his father in the previous election.

Jagadish Shettar, who was picked by the BJP as its candidate, was a political non-entity, being merely the head of the Hubli rural taluk unit of the party.

He got lucky.

Since then Shettar has not looked back.

If Idgah did the trick in 1994, it was the shock defeat of Yediyurappa in his home-constituency Shikaripur in 1999 which proved lucky for Shettar to move up the political ladder.

Yediyurappa had a pathological aversion for the party’s senior most legislator B.B. Shivappa from Hassan in succeeding him as the leader of the opposition in the assembly. The mantle as a consequence fell on the shoulders of one of the junior most legislators of the party, Shettar, who was on to his second stint as MLA.

The reason proffered then was that as a junior he would be more amenable to Yediyurappa than anybody else. Yediyurappa was proved right.

In the 2004 election, Shettar performed a hat trick of retaining the seat.  With the return  of Yediyurappa to the assembly, it was no longer possible for him to continue in the post. But in another quirk of political he found himself landing up as the new party president, in place of Basavaraj Patil Sedam, who was caught in the vortex of the struggle between Yediyurappa and Ananth Kumar.

Shettar’s name again came in handy.

The Yediyurappa group outsmarted others in wangling the post for Shettar. Result: Shettar, who had hardly any organisational experience,  found himself as the party president of the Karnataka unit of the BJP.

The win in 2008 election was a cakewalk victory for Shettar, with the Congress and JDS fielding weak candidates against him.  And the internal fight within the Congress also contributed to his fourth success. His place in the cabinet was assured by his position and seniority in the  JDS-BJP coalition, which fell apart after 20 months in office.

He was also a member of the short-lived BJP government, before President’s rule was imposed paving for election in 2008.

In all the posts he has held since his first election—as leader of the opposition in the second term, as party president in the third and as minister in the fourth term—the performanance of Shettar was not brilliant but ordinary, run of the mill variety. He hardly ever managed to emerge out of the shadow of his senior and the mentor Yediyurappa.

Though he had registered his fourth win from Hubli, Shettar was shocked to find that Yediyurappa had not preferred him to be a member of the BJP government formed for the first time. For the first time, the message went out loud and clear that the relations between the mentor and protégé had become strained and Yediyurappa felt that the latter was growing beyond his shoes and deserved to be cut to his size.

What however hurt Shettar was not his exclusion but the subtle attempts made by Yediyurappa to promote a junior Lingayat legislator and new entrant to the party like Basavaraj Bommai, whom Shettar had defeated in 1994.

Bommai who was in JDU and  represented the local authorities constituency in the legislative council joined the BJP and  successfully contested the assembly election  from Shiggaon. The only small mercy  shown by Yediyurappa was that Bommai was not made as the minister in charge of Dharwad district.

Miffed, Shettar stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony as a mark of protest. Thanks to the intervention of the party high command, he scaled one more notch of this political career to become the Speaker of the assembly. For a while he was reluctant to accept the speaker’s post. He demurred only when the High Command made it clear that it was a “take it or leave it” situation.

Though he occupied a post, which was equal in  stature if not more than that of the chief minister, Shettar made it clear that he was not interested in continuing in the office and that his heart was set on being a minister.

Despite his differences with the CM, speaker Shettar proved to be a convenient tool in the “Operation Kamala” mounted by the BJP in cahoots with the Reddy Brothers to muster a majority. Opposition legislators were enticed by the brothers to resign their seats, and submit their letters to Shettar.

But the banner of revolt raised by the Reddy group against Yediyurappa, pitchforked Shettar into prominence.  Shettar was a mere camouflage  to cover their real designs of occupying the gaddi one day or the other. But it could not stake its claim right away, since it was not only politically inopportune.

Even if the Reddys had succeeded in dislodging Yediyurappa and put Shettar in his place, the latter would have been  nothing but a puppet manipulated by the wily Reddys, since Shettar neither has the support nor the clout to withstand the pressure of the Reddy group.

When a strong personality like Yediyurappa could be brought down, where  do the lesser mortals stand against the manipulations and machinations of the Reddys?

So, dame luck  has once again dealt a card favourable to Shettar, projecting him as the chief minister in waiting, notwithstanding the fact that whether he has or does not have the capacity, grit and gumption to handle the onerous responsibility in a trying time like this.

It is another matter, whether Shettar  should have involved himself actively in politicking, when the office of speaker held by him demanded that he remained apolitical. But Shettar today stands only one step away from the coveted post of the chief minister.

Will the streak of luck run further to make him realise his dream  of occupying the gaddi of the chief minister remains to be seen.

Photograph: Jagadish Shettar, who joined the state cabinet, takes the blessings of his parents, Shivappa Shettar and Basavannemma, during the swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan in Bangalore on Tuesday. (Karnataka Photo News)

Everyone is naked in the chief minister’s hamaam

15 June 2009

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes from Bangalore: It seems that former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy is a much harried man these days.

A local newspaper reports that a “mystery woman” has been calling his mobile phone and showering a barrage of abuse.

“About 10 months ago, a girl called me up. Initially she narrated her woes. Later she started hounding me and also hurled abuses, the nature of which I can’t share. She used to make calls at 3 am and even at 4 am.”

The report also says, an embarrassed Kumaraswamy has discreetly sought the help of the city cops to identify the “stalker”.

Aside from the female angle, there is something delectable about this story:  a powerful man being helpless as the rest of humankind in the face of anonymous phone calls; the sight of an honourable member of Parliament fighting to save his honour in the eyes of the world.

KumaraswamyFor, there have been other mornings, when newspapers have spiced up my idli-sambar by candidly highlighting the former Chief Minister’s affections for the actress Radhika, but HDK could barely be bothered.

When the two appeared together at a religious ceremony—the Ashta Pavithra Nagamandalotsava (in picture)—organised by the actress’s family near Mangalore recently, still no response.

Unlike his father H.D. Deve Gowda, whose obsessive preoccupation with politics never gave him time for anything else, HDK, a film producer before he took the plunge in politics, seems to bring in a range of flavours where the real and reel overlap.

So, you wonder: is HDK a changed man?

If so, who’s behind the change?


For historical reasons, our English broadsheets have been reluctant to cater to the base instincts of their readers. But with the rise of other unconventional, bolder, faster channels of information, repackaging of news has become the norm.

Nothing is flippant or frivolous any more.

Anything goes in the name of giving the reader what he wants.

And with the private lives of our public figures becoming increasingly, nonchalantly, arrogantly colourful, everything goes to grab a few extra eyeballs.

nurseFor instance in 2007,  there was the curious case of M.P. Renukacharya, a married BJP legislator, whose romantic liaison with “nurse” Jayalakshmi (in picture) was the defining image of the day. Charges, counter-charges and intimate photographs of the MLA smooching the woman provided grist for a sensation-starved media.

At one point, it appeared as if this lusty controversy would sink the JD(S)- BJP boat. It was believed that JD (S) would ride on the skirts of this affair and accuse the BJP of impropriety and refuse to transfer power to its alliance partner as previously agreed.

Renukacharya is now among the BJP MLAs gunning for the head of chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa.


The amorous dalliances of Karnataka’s politicians have enlivened many living room gossip sessions but rarely so publicly.

A knowledgeable reporter-friend, considered an “authority” on the ‘apolitical inclinations’ of  the State’s leading lights, used to be a mandatory inclusion in most party guest lists. A couple of gin-tonic shots and the skeletons start tumbling out of the cupboards.

There is no such use, it seems, for such inside knowledge. It’s all out in the open.

shobhaIn recent times, chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s  “proclivities” have been blissfully up for public scrutiny. There are not-so-subtle hints in news reports on the “great personal rapport” he shares with a lady colleague in his cabinet.

Since there is only one woman in the BJP team, there is little left to the imagination.

There are accusations of favoritism, nepotism and what not.

This “friendship” has resulted in party loyalists feeling slighted and sidelined. They seem to be getting more brazen. The political storm taking shape in the firmament could well swirl into the Chief Minister’s bedroom if he doesn’t watch out.

But to his credit Yediyurappa has remained unflappable not bothering to react on the subject. He has made every effort to project his cabinet colleague as an invaluable ally in his government’s development agenda. Moreover, the BJP’s Lok Sabha showing has only infused him with more ‘vigour and vitality’, if nothing else.

*** (more…)

‘The world was his oyster for a Nehruvian Indian’

30 August 2008

CHANDRASHEKAR HARIHARAN writes from Bangalore: It is difficult to explain some cruel ironies of life.

Late last evening , a senior journalist called me out of the blue to ask if I had heard of the demise of Prof H.S. Krishnaswamy Iyengar.

Ironic, because here was a man I had known, off and on, for all of 26 years, but who had never once written about me or the work our company had been doing. Yet, in his very last column in life, published in Star of Mysore three days before the end came, he had chosen to focus his attention on the work we were doing.


I had known HSK for a brief while in the early 1980s when I was a journalist filing stories on business, economy trends and so on for newspapers/ magazines I worked for. Our first meeting was one where he abruptly stopped and asked, “You said you were an accountant, is that right?”

I nodded.

“You must be doing economics, young man! Why are you wasting time as a scribe?”

A year later, some chance events had me doing further studies in the area of economics. HSK had sown the seed. I have always played down those early years I spent learning because it’s been a ‘waste of time’ as far as I was concerned. They never came in handy for the directions I chose to take in the next 25 years.

HSK didn’t think so.

I met him a couple of years ago at a wedding of a mutual friend’s daughter. We could only exchange some pleasantries amid the noise and bustle. I was meeting him after nearly 15 years, and I could see he still did not approve of my moving away from academics!

Another senior journalist of the ’80s was with us, and HSK remarked to him that he thought I had wasted my years ‘doing business’.


HSK used to teach economics at D. Banumiah‘s College in Mysore. He counted as friends legends like Dr C.D. Narasimhaiah, who was a giant among English teachers of the world, without any doubt. Many of our current writers like A.K. Ramanujan were CDN’s students.

HSK himself had as many admirers, several of them professionals whom he mentored quietly, in his own self-effacing way. He was part of another generation. A person who couldn’t suffer stupidity; a ‘Nehruvian Indian’ who knew less of his own interest, as of the larger interest of the world and his country.

In June 1983, when I covered the series of meetings at the National Economic Forum that the then chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde had called in Bangalore, with V.K.R.V. Rao and other eminent economists participating in the colloquium, HSK came up to me on the third day and said, “You seem to be an indignant young man!”

I did not realize what he was saying until I went back to see what Business Standard had published that morning of my report with a byline.

I had said something mildly disparaging about Ashok Mitra and his ambivalence on market capitalism. It is another matter that the directions that people like Dr Mitra gave to West Bengal eventually made Bengal the strident pro-capital state that it became later under Jyoti Basu.

Oh, there was another time when P.R. Brahmananda, the eminent economist who propounded the seminal food-for-wages theory in 1969, was explaining a nuance of some recent economic development at a meeting I had at his sister’s house in Basavanagudi.

HSK happened to be there. And he sat quietly, observant, not offering any comment. But that was HSK. It was not easy to get him to ‘talk economics’. But when he wrote his column, in Kannada, he had a way of deriving simple homilies out of what would otherwise have been complex theory.


Twenty-five years later, I am still indignant about many things. I guess it is not easy for some of us to accept all that is not right in the world around us.

With HSK’s passing away, a part of me died yesterday. He was one of the last bastions of integrity and a larger sense of purpose. There will be some of us who will miss him in a time when a whole new generation of people who have not seen suffering, simply don’t understand what it takes to uphold such principles as this wonderful man did.

It was a strange feeling, personally, to read HSK’s last column. You can see that he has quoted me a fair length, although he didn’t meet me or call! He must have gleaned what he has written from what he had read in the news and on the web about our work.

HSK probably had a premonition of The End.

He was probably making amends to me by finally conceding that there is some good, finally, coming out of all my ‘wasted years’!

Here is that last column of his. Read it if you have the time, knowing that the man is no more. Wonder what he would have said to me, if I had had the chance to meet him.


‘Consolidation of anti-Congress vote will aid BJP’

9 May 2008

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Notwithstanding the opinion polls, the Congress looks poised to pay a heavy price for its political smugness and failure to read the pulse of the electorate this time too, as the rising tide of anti-Congress sentiment swells up the sails of the BJP.

Opening its political account south of the Vindhyas has been the BJP’s mission for long. If that happens, it will not be because there has been any intrinsic rise in the support base of the BJP but because of the consolidation of anti-Congress forces behind it, with the JDS, the other claimant, all set to get decimated.

That the Congress is finding it difficult to make much headway in gaining the support of the electorate in the elections, has been a fact of life for more than three-and-a-half decades.

Barring the first election after the Congress split in 1972, the Congress in no other election has been able to get more than 50 per cent of the total votes polled in the elections. But the party has managed to survive mainly because of the fragmentation of the anti-Congress votes among the several parties.

The movement towards the consolidation of the anti-Congress votes, which began in 1983, marked the beginning of a politically uncomfortable and uncertain period for the Congress from which it has never fully recovered, despite all the tall talk of serving the peoples’ interest.

Of the six elections held in the last 25 years, the Congress, has been able to win only twice, namely in 1989 and 1989, while the remaining have all gone in favour of non-Congress parties.

# 1983 was a shock year for the Congress. It lost its bastion and lost the race both in terms of the seats won and votes secured. In the 224-member assembly, the Congress could win 82 seats, as against 95 of the Janata and 18 of the BJP, with the rest going to independents.

Of the 129.19 lakh valid votes polled, the Congress polled 52.21 lakh votes (40.82%) while the Janata and BJP between themselves polling 52.97 lakh votes (41%) with 22 lakh votes going to others, including independents. This heralded the formation of the first non-Congress government headed by Ramakrishna Hegde.

# In 1985, the Congress lost further ground. It won 65 seats as against 139 won by Janata. Of the 147.20 lakh valid votes polled, the Congress secured 60.09 lakh votes (40.82%), and the Janata with 64.18 lakh votes (43.60%) and BJP with 5.71 lakh votes (3.88%) outdistanced the Congress.

# 1989 saw the revival of the political fortunes of the Congress, with Veerendra Patil leading the party to an impressive victory winning a whopping 176 seats. But in terms of the vote -share the picture was not that bright. The Congress still failed to cross the 50 per cent mark, having got only 79.90 lakh votes (43.76%) out of the total of 182.57 lakh valid voters.

The two factions of the Janata Parivar, the Janata Dal (49.34 lakhs) and Janata Party (20.70 lakhs), between themselves had managed to rake in 38.42% of the voters with BJP nibbling 7.55 lakhs (4.41%). Jointly they had overtaken the ruling party. 26 lakh votes remained beyond the purview of all the leading parties in the fray. Incidentally, the comeback of Congress was attributed to the schism within the Janata parivar.

# In 1994 Congress hit nadir of its political career, winning a measly 34 seats, six seats fewer than the BJP which became the principal opposition party for the first time in the history, while the Janata Dal had won 115 seats. In terms of vote share, the Congress with 56.33 lakhs (27.21%) was overtaken by JD, which polled 69.44 lakhs (33.54%), the BJP with 35.17 lakh votes (16.59%) following suit.

# In 1999 the Congress no doubt was returned to power under the leadership of S.M. Krishna, winning 132 seats as against 44 of BJP, 18 of the JDU and 10 of the JDS. But in terms of the votes cast, the three non-Congress parties had notched up 99.21 lakhs votes (BJP 45.98 lakhs, JDS 23.16 lakhs, and JDU 30.06 lakhs), which was more than Congress which had got 90.77 lakh votes (40.84%). The Congress, it was clear had got the benefit of the division of the anti-Congress votes among the three parties.

# In 2004, it was fractured mandate, with BJP in the lead with 79 seats, followed by 65 of Congress, 58 of the JDS, 5 of the JDU and 16 others. Between them, the three non-Congress parties chalked up a tally of 128.56 lakhs as against 88.61 lakhs secured by Congress.

The BJP and JDS had improved their position mainly because of the decimation of the JDU, which was one of the major players in the previous polls. The Congress did not get even the benefit of the 43 lakh new voters who had been added to the electoral roll, since its tally was down by two lakhs over the previous figure.

Under the circumstances, the following scenario for the 2008 election emerges:

# Even after the weeding out 50 lakh bogus voters from the rolls, the electorate has gone up from 3.85 crore in 2004 to 4.00 crore now, showing a rise by 15 lakh voters.

# Secondly, it is quite clear that the JDS has suffered erosion in its base seriously. Because it had hobnobbed with Congress in forming the coalition it cannot portray itself as a party opposed to the Congress which diminishes chances of the party laying claims for a share of the anti-Congress votes.

# BJP is the only anti-Congress outfit in the field and unlike the previous two occasions, there are no other claimants for any share in the anti-Congress votes. It is therefore sure to rake up a major slice of anti-Congress votes as there is no other credible anti-Congress party before the voters.

Infighting, the presence of rebels in the fray, dissatisfaction over distribution of tickets, and party hopping are common to all the parties. The rhetoric of the manifestos is also common.

What stands out in the maze of contradictions is the groundswell of anti-Congress sentiment. It is this which puts the BJP in an advantageous position.

Both the Congress and the JDS are not in a position to make any headway in Northern Karnataka, the support of which is crucial for any party wanting to form the government, going by the track record of election history. BJP therefore finds itself better placed of accomplishing its mission.

POLLCAST: Is S.M. Krishna already chief minister?

8 May 2008


S.M. Krishna may himself be very unsure of his position in the event of a Congress victory in the elections.

But the English news channels all seem to have unanimously crowned him the next chief minister of Karnataka. And they are acting as if it’s just a small matter of formality for the people to go and cast their vote as per their indication.

When CNN-IBN unveiled its pre-poll survey predicting a Congress win, Rajdeep Sardesai had S.M. Krishna interpreting the good news for the party.

When NDTV 24 x 7 did a special program on Bangalore last night, Sreenivasan Jain had S.M. Krishna as the link between the city’s past and future.

When Sagarika Ghose decided to look at Bangalore versus Karnataka last week, again S.M. Krishna offered his calm and considered views on the subject.

In NDTV’s promos for Saturday’s first phase of polling, Prannoy Roy pronounces that it’s a battle between S.M. Krishna and H.D. Deve Gowda.

And all the opinion polls have S.M. Krishna’s name up front in the list of aspirants.

So, it is S.M. Krishna, S.M. Krishna, S.M. Krishna.

Hand it to him, the Man from Maddur is nothing if not media savvy and he knows how to plonk himself in the media limelight.

When the Hogenakal row was blazing, he rushed to Delhi to meet the prime minister and was giving the first interviews as if he was already chief minister.

When Ramakrishna Hedge‘s daughter went to file her nomination papers, he was helpfully in the camera frame.

Krishna sends bouquets to editors on their birthdays, he is always on call for interviews and quotes.

Why, he even earned the undying gratitude of scores of journalists when he gifted them expensive house sites under the “G” category.

So all that image-building and public relations is coming of use to him in this hour of need.

And to his good luck, none of his other senior colleagues Dharam Singh or Mallikarjuna Kharge or Siddaramaiah are endowed with such public relations skills.

Nor do they have the draw.

And truth to tell, of all the Congress characters on display, S.M. Krishna, where you like it or not, is probably the most telegenic of them all.

At least he can speak slow halting English, which is a prerequirement on our news channels.

And for another, he wears nice FabIndia™ kurtas which look better than the crumpled khadi jubbas and polyester shirts the rest of his tribe.

And, he has his hair in place, with a nice IT halo around it, all the time.

Above all, given the tragicomedy that Karnataka politics has been in recent years, at least the man represents something, even if some bits of it are massively tainted with corruption, nepotism and plain goondagiri.

S.M. Krishna probably will not grudge the media attention, probably he craves to be promoted as the face of the future although he is a full 76 years of age.

But if it is all so clear to the media that Krishna is the next CM, why isn’t it so clear to the Congress?

After he quit as Maharashtra’s governor and returned, the Congress kept him on the tenterhooks and didn’t give him a ticket.

And one well placed Congress source says the party has decided at the “highest level” that he will not get a chance to sit in the Vidhana Soudha again.

So what is the key takeaway from the media’s S.M. Krishna overkill?

That the Congress wants to use his suave, urbane, “image” and he is happy to allow them do so?

That there are two elections taking place, one for Bangalore and one for the rest of the state?

That one election is taking place in English, and the other in Kannada?

Be that as it may, can S.M. Krishna, after the 2004 verdict, still afford to be looked at as a chief minister of Bangalore if not the chief minister of electronic city?

Can he afford to be looked at as the media darling who fights from the cool comfort of air-conditioned studios, while his colleagues slug it out in the heat and dust?

Can he afford, really, to just woo the English masses, the so-called IT crowd?

And can the Congress afford to put all its urban eggs in one basket?

Also read: Can S.M. Krishna swing it for Congress?

Watch the video: S.M. Krishna on the release of Dr Raj Kumar

The genesis of the great Hegde-Gowda rivalry

26 April 2008

The Congress’ move to put up Mamata Nichani against H.D. Kumaraswamy in Ramanagara/m has attracted attention for all the wrong reasons. But as Johnson T.A. writes in the Indian Express, the coming contest recaptures a bitter rivalry between two of Karnataka’s foremost non-Congress leaders: Mamata’s father Ramakrishna Hegde and Kumaraswamy’s father H.D. Deve Gowda.

Hegde’s ascension to the chief minister’s gaddi in 1983 sowed the seeds of the rivalry between Hegde and Gowda but three specific incidents during the Janata rule are believed to have blown away the semblance of civility between the two.

# The first was when Hegde chose to nominate his then family lawyer Ram Jethmalani to the Rajya Sabha in 1986. Gowda and his supporters within the Janata Party resented the choice of ‘an outsider’ and threatened to boycott voting on the day of the elections.

# The second incident — the proverbial one that broke the camel’s back — came soon after when Hegde ordered a Corps of Detectives inquiry into allegations that Gowda as a minister allotted over 50 government sites to members of his family on the basis of allegations made by a BJP leader from Gowda’s home district of Hassan.

# The third incident is believed to be Hegde’s decision to nominate S.R. Bommai as his successor over Gowda in 1988 when Hegde decided to step down as chief minister accepting moral responsibility for tapping the phones of senior leaders in the state.

Read the full article: Play it again, Karnataka

Also read: Puppets in the hands of ultra-greasy slimeballs

’50 acres for Wipro, 2,000 acres for Infosys?’

9 March 2008

In Bangalore, there are reporters (not all cubs, mind you) who quiver at the prospect of a “H.D. Deve Gowda assignment”; so sick and scared they are of the arched eyebrows, the permanent scowl, and the fulmination of the humble farmer. The newspapers are too polite to report it, but when he gets real irritated, the former prime minister is not loathe to using the kind of language that, well, a former prime minister should not be using.

But Deve Gowda can also be extremely charming when the need arises. With the poll bells about to toll, that need has arisen. In a lovely conversation dripping with desi sarcasm with the editorial staff of the Indian Express, Delhi, Deve Gowda admits that he has not had a very good relationship with the media. Which is why it has consistently projected him in poor light as “anti-development” and a hindrance to Karnataka for the last six years.

“I am a blunt fellow, and maybe that’s the reason. When I resigned from Ramakrishna Hegde’s government, he asked me why. I told him there was no need to discuss past events. Then he said, “You must know your weakness: you not only tell the truth, but the naked truth. That is going to harm your career. You must change your attitude…. I say what I think is right or wrong. I can’t help it if it hurts people.

“I must accept that I have failed to cultivate the media at the national level. I tried but I lacked the experience, with only a state-level political career of 40 years behind me before I came to the Centre. To cultivate the national media was a new assignment for me. The media was not against me; it was just my misfortune.”

Deve Gowda gives a rare insight into his all-too-frequent visits to temples across the country, and his deep and abiding faith in astrology, and reveals why the cameras always caught him with his eyes closed, even when he was prime minister.

# “My father got my astrological chart written up 74 years ago. This was because my father’s first wife and his three children died in one week. I was his first son from his second wife and he was worried about my life.”

# “[When] Jyoti Basu suggested my name for PM, I folded my hands, I cried, I told him you have 18 years’ experience and I have only 18 months, I have not even travelled through the entire country. That evening, I went home and told my wife. As for me, I went to sleep.”

# “I never used to sleep. But you must appreciate that I work 18-20 hours a day. When there is a bright light, my eyes itch because I am a diabetic. So I just close my eyes. And the cameras are very sharp to catch me at that time.”

In the exchange of ideas, Deve Gowda also reveals why he was at daggers drawn with Infosys’ chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy:

“Narayana Murthy has brought name and fame to the IT sector in my home state. But we have a comprehensive Land Reforms Bill, which states that not an inch of land can be given for a non-agricultural purposes unless you amend the Bill to make provisions for industrial purposes. That’s why my officers were unable to clear his requests. Then I introduced an amendment. I earmarked a certain portion of land for the IT industry, including for Narayana Murthy. But I did say that in any project submitted to the government, either by domestic or foreign investors, the project, the nature of the project, its employment potential, all these aspects have to be assessed by a team of officers headed by the chief secretary before the cabinet will clear it. That is the system I had adopted.

“Narayana Murthy had applied for approximately 2,000 acres in different parts of the state. There are 1,600 IT companies in Bangalore and even a company like Wipro, a stalwart of the IT sector, had not taken more than 50 acres. I wanted to know why Murthy wanted over 2,000 acres. There is no personal enmity, but this was poor people’s land and they received meagre compensation for their land.”

Read the full exchange: ‘If I were a fox in public life…’

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News