Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sadananda Gowda - The Rabri Devi of Karnataka....

So Yeddy has had the last laugh. Grudgingly forced out of his office by a severe indictment from the Lok Ayukta, Yeddy has succeeded in installing a puppet of his choice in the state. To be fair to him, he never hid his intentions. He had declared immediately after stepping down that he would be back in 6 months. This was a “stop-gap” arrangement and who better than a stooge of his choice to occupy the seat in the interim. It’s a different matter that this embarassed the central leadership of his party to no end. But did he ever really care about that? Yeddy no doubt drew inspiration from his peer satrap Narendra Modi who pretty much does what he wants to do. Why should it be any different for Yeddy?

Makes me think whether we achieved anything at all in Karnataka. Isn’t the present situation in Karnataka identical to the state of affairs in Bihar (united at that time) when Laloo was indicted in the fodder scam and he promptly handed over the reins of the state to his wife Rabri Devi? But then we passed all of that off as “typically Bihari politics”. Obviously Laloo was running the state like his own fiefdom. Did anyone have any doubts about that? What was wrong if his wife – who was not even an MLA at the time – took over? Please note: this is different from the several dynasties in all political parties in India. In the case of the dynasties, the next generation usually goes through some sort of a grind before being annointed the successor. In the case of Rabri, there was no need for such details. Even if Sadananda Gowda is no Rabri in terms of political experience, his relationship vis-a-vis Yeddy is the same as Rabri’s with Laloo. To kow tow to the real boss’s command. To hold the seat warm till the boss is ready to step in. And to do the boss’s bidding under his own rubber stamp. What a shame.

The secret ballot that became necessary to choose a leader within the party itself is proof of the disunity in the party and the level of rebellion within the party. Don’t mistake that as proof of inner-party. With so much discord, it makes me wonder how many of the party’s MLAs will now work together with the new CM for the betterment of the state. If instead, the central leadership, after consulting every MLA, had been simply “appointed” a new and good CM, that CM would have been a much better choice. That’s how the Congress operates. After Ashok Chavan was made to go in Maharashtra, the party “appointed” a clean man, Prithviraj Chauhan. Wouldn’t the BJP have looked better if it had likewise appointed someone better than Sadanand Gowda? I would like to believe that Arun Jaitley has larger battles to fight in Delhi and he would have preferred a cleaner CM. But now, he will again have to defend the indefensible. Is voting amongst MLAs to elect the CM better or is a party chief’s appointment of the CM better? I prefer the former!

The weakness of the BJP central leadership is also showing up in the way it conducts its business in Delhi. It prefers to focus more on TV debates than on debates in Parliament. After much grandstanding about the price rise in TV studios – and stalling Parliament for one day on the demand for voting after the debate and making the government agree to it – the entire discussion in Parliament was a tame affair. I am told there was no voting either. What happened suddenly? Times Now alleged that there was some sort of a deal done between the government and the principal opposition party. Was this a result of the “my skeleton v/s your skeleton” skirmish that had happened a few days back? Or was it the party’s weak position in Karnataka that led to it putting up such a tame show in Parliament?

The BJP also appears to be switching from one issue to the other in its attack on the government. Two days back, it was demanding the vote in Parliament – and made us believe that the government’s numbers (its majority) were in question. Last night, it switched tracks to attack Sheila Dixit (and of course demand her resignation!) on the CAG’s indictment of the Delhi government in the CWG. But honestly, the CAG looks like it has overstepped its authority yet again. I find it’s not the CAG’s business to comment on whether the Rs 101 crores spent on Delhi’s beautification was good use or bad use of public monies. The custodian of public monies is the government and the one to question the spends is the opposition. What role does the CAG have in this at all? Of course, some of the other indictments are fair: that consultants were appointed too late, leading to a cost escalation; clarification from the Delhi Urban Arts Commission and the Delhi Police was not taken; and that consultants were picked up in a non-transparent manner. But these are relatively minor charges – not comparable to the Lok Ayukta’s indictment of Yeddy – and yet the BJP chose to make this their focus point yesterday. A few days back, the party was targeting the PM over the “arms length” remark. And even before that, they attacked Chidambaram. In the near future, the party will no doubt shift focus to the Lokpal “opportunity”. I call it opportunity because that’s how the BJP looks at the matter. They have no real love for Anna or his movement. For them, the Lokpal Bill is a great chance to shame the Congress. My sincere advice to the party is to focus on one-two core points and hammer the Congress hard. If the BJP keeps flip flopping between issues, the Congress is getting off lightly. That’s not good for the country. A strong opposition is a key requirement to keep a check on the ruling party.....

So will the Karnataka issue die down, now that a new CM has taken charge? I hope not. The sacking of the Reddy brothers is still pending. The clean-up of mining in the state is still pending. I dont think the Supreme Court’s order of stopping mining totally in the state is a good situation to have. The government must now reassure the SC and the people that they have cleaned up their act. And that’s not possible before the Reddy brothers are asked to go. Let’s see if that happens. Karnataka will continue to remain a bugbear for the BJP till the time they learn from their mistakes and make wholesale changes in the party there.

The real truth is that the bark of the BJP is much stronger than its bite. Every single time, they raise issues to a crescendo only for it all to end it in an anti-climax. Whether it is because of infighting amongst the senior leaders, or the skeletons in its backyard, or anything else, the party never carries out its threats. The Congress realizes this and has stopped worrying about the BJP. If the Congress worries about anyone, it is the media.....and Anna. Thank god, there is at least some check on the party.....

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