Trust deficit

Nataka-Karnataka

During the May 2008 Assembly election campaign, B S Yeddyurappa was at his dramatic best: He shed tears in public, narrating how he had been ‘betrayed’ by his political opponents and sought ‘one more opportunity’ to be the chief minister of the state. The kind-hearted people that Kannadigas are, they developed enormous sympathy for him and voted him and his party, the BJP, to power to rule for five years in their own right. With the help of five Independents, Yeddyurappa once again became the chief minister, and as the people had given a severe drubbing to the opposition at the same time, he couldn’t have asked for more.

But the pity is that once he was anointed in Vidhana Soudha, Yeddyurappa seemed to forget his ‘masters’ who installed him there. The corruption scandals and the intra-party bickerings of the last 28 months have not only tarnished the image of the government, but they constitute a great betrayal of the people. In public perception, the BJP government has shown itself to be an epitome of self-aggrandisement, evoking dismay and disgust even among those who were once its admirers.

So, when the special session of the state Assembly, starting on Monday, takes up the trust vote, not many people would be bothered whether the Yeddyurappa government survives or not as there is very little empathy left for it. Going by the Herculean efforts being put in to save the government, it shouldn’t be a surprise if Yeddyurappa sails through the trust vote, but it will not be easy for him and his government to regain the people’s trust which has been badly dented.

As the multi-crore land scam is at the heart of the current controversy, Yeddyurappa will perhaps try to use the session to ‘expose’ his political opponents and previous governments of being equally guilty. He would like to tell them, with examples, that his predecessors also indulged in the denotification of land and what he had done was nothing new.

It’s like saying ‘when the world is full of crooks, why point a finger at me when I am only following in their footsteps?’ The argument doesn’t hold water because, as chief minister, the people expect him to correct the mistakes of the past, bring the guilty to book, set the system in order and do away with discretionary powers which have led to so much corruption, rather than following the worst precedents of the past and offering dubious justifications.

Instead of doing all these, the Yeddyurappa government has gone one step ahead. From published records it is clear that the chief minister was a party to the illegal transfer of a plot of land notified by the BDA to his sons and son-in-law, besides allowing one of his close colleagues, Katta Subramanya Naidu, and his family members to milk the state government of crores of rupees from land deals.

Bad example

The genesis of the current rebellion in the BJP and the previous instances of rebellion is undoubtedly in the leader setting such a low benchmark for morality in public life. Can the legislators, many of whom first-timers and with no background of public service, be blamed for thinking that they have a birth right to be in the cabinet and make as much money as possible?

In such a competitive environment, the level of politics in all parties has reached a nadir. The legislators no longer think they need to regularly visit their constituencies, attend to the needs of the people and ingratiate themselves to the public so that they have a better chance of getting re-elected.

Frequent political uncertainties have turned the legislators into ‘commodities’ who are traded at the ‘political exchange’ for astronomical sums of money; they need not always be traded either because their loyalty to the parent party is also highly prized.

The common people may feel a sense of revulsion at the sight of the legislators being herded from one five-star resort to another and huge amounts of money being splurged on them, but the legislators and their leaders have gone beyond shame or remorse at such ugly display of power politics.

Now it is all about retaining or capturing power at any cost and what the common man thinks does not matter. After all, the politicians are not answerable to anyone till the next elections and making money by whatever means is neither a sin nor a crime which gets punished. The Income Tax department or other regulatory bodies have a long history of shutting their eyes to political corruption, while they only go after the small fries or those without political patronage.

The legislators also know that in the current scenario elections are all about using money and caste, and the more money you make when you have the opportunity, the better are your prospects of getting party tickets and taking on your opponents in enticing the voters.

The elections have been reduced to splurging as much money as you possibly can and all that you need to do is to sign some sham papers telling the election authorities that you did not cross the  expenditure limit. Very few legislators have ever been disqualified for electoral malpractices and it is nearly a zero-risk game.
So, what happens in the Karnataka Assembly on October 11 and 12 and whether Yeddyurappa’s government survives or not is of little consequence to us, the citizens of this state.

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