Karnataka's tryst with political instability continues

Karnataka's tryst with political instability continues


The first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in southern India lies paralysed by dissidence, whatever be the compromise hammered out at New Delhi.

The state has had no stable government since 1978, except for the 1999-2004 period when the Congress ruled with S.M. Krishna, now external affairs minister, as chief minister.
In the 31 years from 1978 Karnataka has had 15 chief ministers. Of them Ramakrishna Hegde had three spells between January 1983 and August 1988. Current Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa once held the position for eight days between Nov 12 and 19, 2007.

The state was also under direct central rule for four times in these 31 years.
Since 2004 when the Congress was thrown out in the assembly elections, there have been three chief ministers -- Dharam Singh of the Congress at the head of a Congress-Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) coalition, H.D. Kumaraswamy heading a JD-S-BJP alliance and Yeddyurappa for eight days at the head of a BJP-JD-S combine.

The BJP formed the first government on its own in southern India with Yeddyurappa as chief minister on May 30 last year with the support of six independent legislators as it had won only 110 of the 224 elected seats in the 225-member assembly.
Throughout its first year, there were murmurs about ministers and legislators being unhappy with Yeddyurappa's style of functioning and the importance given to his favourites, particularly the lone woman member of the cabinet, Shobha Karandlaje.

His plan to reduce dependence on independents by luring Congress and JD-S legislators had come in for sharp criticism from within his own party. Many BJP old timers felt it sullied the party's image.
And now, the image has been sullied anyway by dissidence within the party in the form of the Reddy brothers, whatever the outcome of the current tussle may be.

The uncertain political landscape has had its effect on governance in Karnataka, especially this decade, despite Bangalore being pitchforked to become the country's tech hub.
Krishna had a torrid time throughout his five-year rule. On July 31, 2000, forest brigand Veerappan kidnapped Kannada matinee idol Rajkumar. There were anti-Tamil riots in Bangalore and some other places in the state. Veerappan released Rajkumar unharmed on Nov 15 after over 100 days of captivity.

The state suffered drought consecutively for four years, leading to suicides by several farmers and a drinking water problem, fodder shortage and eruption of a row with Tamil Nadu over sharing of Cauvery waters.
The Rajkumar kidnap episode, drought and public perception of Krishna as urban, specifically Bangalore-centric and more interested in IT/BT sectors, was the cause for the Congress defeat in the 2004 assembly polls.

But since then the list of shortages has only got longer. There is not enough power, drinking water, decent roads, clean air or affordable, quality education.

As the rapid growth in the IT/IT-enabled services in Bangalore attracted hundreds of youngsters from across the country, it gave a fillip to the real estate sector, which in turn brought in thousands more low-skilled workers.

The result is routine traffic snarls and heavily polluted air with around 1,000 additional vehicles on the roads every day. In a scramble to restore some order to the daily chaos, roads are being widened and underpasses, overbridges and flyovers are being built across the city. A Metro is also coming up. Casualties have been the footpaths and hundreds of trees in what was once called India's garden city.

Since there is not much hope of a stable government in Karnataka in the near future, orderly and planned development of even Bangalore, leave alone other towns and villages, seems a remote possibility.
The devastating Sep 30-Oct 2 floods in north Karnataka has only made the scene gloomier.
The area is any way less developed than the southern parts of the state. Now around a million people there are struggling to rebuild their lives after having lost homes, businesses and crops in the floods. The fact that the infighting in the ruling party came to a head over relief efforts for the flood-affected must seem double ironic to the people of north Karnataka.