The politics involved in being

Dance of democracy
A Ravindra
Puliani Book House,
2009, pp 266, Rs 250

This one’s for the news junkies. The Dance of Democracy by A Ravindra, former Chief Secretary, Karnataka, is a collection of his published newspaper writings. They are a commentary on the socio-political events in the country between the years 2003 and 2008. There are several interesting observations in this book, divided under various heads such as ‘Dance of Democracy’, ‘Of Leadership and Leaders’, ‘The Bureaucracy’, ‘Matter of Faith’, ‘The Urban Challenge’ etc. One such is a parallel between football and politics. Of how both are ancient arts, and how both involve feigning, which is a fine art both in football and politics. Ravindra then goes on to offer a suggestion on dealing with errant members in the legislature. The Speaker or the referee must be armed with an array of red and yellow cards, Ravindra suggests. Surely, something that’s worth considering.

There is also a parallel to cricket. The author advocates “cricket democracy” where we “demand better performance and conduct from those who govern us, if only we can show a fraction of the fervour with which we approach cricket.”

The Urban Challenge as a section, perhaps, stands out as the most relevant and interesting segment. It is here, one somehow feels, that the author comes into his own. He writes with considerable sensitivity, on the issue of Bangalore and its development. On the issue of identity. With what do Bangaloreans identify themselves, asks the adviser to the Karnataka chief minister on urban affairs.
Perhaps, he is in the best position to take up the question, and delve deeper into the identity issue.

The former chief secretary doesn’t shy away from talking about the dilemmas that civil servants face. He also talks about demolitions in Bangalore in 1995, when he was the administrator of the Bangalore City Municipal Corporation, and was dubbed the ‘demolition man’. Citing from other personal experiences, he explains how he had the responsibility of implementing the SC directive to the Karnataka government about releasing six TMCs of water to Tamil Nadu, but the Cabinet was not for it. The author however, refrains from explaining how he managed such a scenario. One wishes, of course, that he did. But, then, a newspaper article, doesn’t allow such liberties.

Then, there is the question of farmer suicides. Particularly relevant at a time when the spectre of drought looms large over us. The author’s analysis about suicides occurring in places where food crops have made way for commercial crops, and substantiated by a study conducted by the National Institute of Rural Development, is impressive.

Then, there are essays centred around the city’s roads, and the airport at Devanahalli, but these are not part of The Urban Challenge section. It is here that my biggest quarrel with the book lies. It suffers from a lack of smart presentation, and editing. Perhaps, the chapters could have been arranged chronologically, with the datelines on top. A book allows the author greater liberty than journalistic pieces to take up a subject in its entirety. Would fewer topics, and more insights as notes attached to the newspaper pieces have helped, one wonders. This, of course, does not take away from the quality of the pieces themselves. The book is definitely a ready reckoner for anyone who is an observer of recent socio-political events in the country.
 

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