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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 46, November 6, 2010

Evil as Spectator Sport

Wednesday 10 November 2010, by T J S George


One Chief Minister, four days, two confidence votes. That certainly puts Karnataka in the history books. But the twin victories are more Pyrrhic than the one Pyrrhus won against the Romans at unsustainably high cost. They have merely proved John Kenneth Galbraith’s theory that television has turned politics into a spectator sport. Honourable Members assaulting security marshals and one honourable Member doing an honourable striptease standing on an honourable desk must have fetched record TRP ratings.

One set of politicians called the vote the triumph of democracy. Another set, the murder of democracy. In the process they proved yet again that all parties follow the same code: “When I do wrong, it is right. When you do wrong, it is very wrong”.

With great self-righteousness BJP President Gadkari said there was horse-trading by the Opposition parties. The current season of horse-trading was in fact started by the BJP when MLAs were openly purchased to turn Yeddyurappa’s minority government into a majority one in 2008. The rates were high because money mined in Bellary was in plentiful supply. The other parties found matching money this time, hence the vulgar scenes last week. Therefore, what Gadkari meant was: When I do it, it’s democracy; when you do it, it’s horse-trading.

Again with great self-righteousness Arun Jaitley accused Governor Bharadwaj of using the Raj Bhavan for political purposes. True, but who is he to complain? In 2001 it was the BJP Government, with Jaitley as Law Minister, that decided to sack Tamil Nadu Governor Fateema Beevi. Her offence? When Karunanidhi was arrested, the Governor did not send the critical report that Delhi wanted. In 2003 UP Governor Vishnukant Shastri, an RSS leader and a BJP favourite, did not invite Mulayam Singh Yadav to form the government although his party had won the largest number of seats in the Assembly. That was because the BJP was in cahoots with Mayawati then. Jaitley, too, meant: My wrong is right. It’s your wrong that’s wrong.

It is a pity that Governor Bharadwaj played into the BJP’s hands by talking too much and doing what Governors should not do—hold press conferences, partake in channel chats and talk politics like “I am fed up of this kind of corruption”. His indiscretions diverted attention from the BJP’s iniquities.

THOSE iniquities are unprecedented as well as numerous. It was bad enough that the Yeddyurappa Government was born in the immorality of MLA-buying. It then turned politics into an openly unprincipled, power-at-any-cost exercise in greed. Greed was a feature of most governments in the State in the last decade or two. But not on the scale, and not with the brashness, of the Yeddyurappa-Reddy dispensation. The ground for the latest implosion was prepared by the Bellary Reddys who “rebelled” when their abuse of power came under attack. The final spark was provided by charges of land deregulation by the Chief Minister to financially benefit his sons and other land-grab charges involving Katta Subramanya Naidu, a Minister holding several lucrative portfolios, his wife and son; this son was even put in jail by the Lok Ayukta Police. Between unscrupulous mining barons and unscrupulous land sharks, Karnataka has become a lost paradise—and the BJP will go into the history books for that too.

Unfortunately for the people, the Opposition consists of the JD(S) which will never command popular support because of the negative credibility of party patriarch Deve Gowda, and the Congress which has never been as bereft of credible leaders as it is today. In other words, the voter has no one to vote for.

That situation is unlikely to change. The relatively popular elements in the JD(S), including former Chief Minister Kumaraswamy, will not have the courage to keep Deve Gowda out of the picture. The Congress has lost its will to power and therefore will not put its untainted leaders, including the younger ones, at the helm. This is the era of the unworthy who win by default. Taxpayers in Karnataka are forced to sustain a circus that’s felonious and venal. At least Gadkari and Jaitley must recall Tilak’s words: “Defending an evil does not make it good.”

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