Decoding Modi in Koppal

I reached the outskirts of Koppal town around 12.20 pm on April 8. The mercury level there had touched 37 deg C. From my AC car, I looked at the vast expanse where BJP’s PM take Narendra Modi was to address a public meeting under the banner ‘Bharat Vijya Rally’.

 

I stayed in the car reading a book authored by M Y Ghorpade.Around 1.30 pm, I hesitantly stepped out of the cool comfort zone ofthe car. From the parking slot, I, along with Prajavani Koppal reporter Hegde, began walking towards the venue. It was an open ground acres big.

The dais with a shamiana was ready for Modi to address the Lok Sabha election rally. After walking for not less than 15 minutes on the dusty ground, Hegde and I passed a security test to enter the venue. We did not have the police passes as Hegde’s maid had inadvertently checked  them out  while cleaning the house. We passed  through a metal detector and that was the end of the security check! 

 I was doing nothing except profusely sweating. My cap saved my face from blisters. The reporters’ section had no shamiana. I found no point in going there. My eyes were hunting for a patch of shade so that I can somehow survive for the next one hour or so. But shade looked like a mirage. 

After walking for some more distance, I could spot a short neem tree. It was less than six feet. It was half grown and pruned, badly. Four police constables and two BJP workers were sitting beneath the tree, which did not have dense leaves. First I managed to get space to stand and later the BJP workers offered me a chair to sit with them. I was  really blessed, I thought. Till then I did not know that a neem tree can have such a cooling effect. That was the first time I ever had stood beneath a neem tree.

The crowd was scattered in and around the ground. Thousands had gathered. But the chairs were empty because of the blazing sun. It was not easy for the party to mobilise a crowd in hot summer month.  I wanted to see Modi in Karnataka’s rural backdrop. I wanted to see whether the corporate poster boy could strike a chord with people of Koppal, which falls under the bracket of most backward districts of the state. Going by the media hype, I was curious to see the arrangements made for a Modi rally. 

When his helicopter landed, the hoopla began at the venue. Thelife-size LED screens on the ground as well as on the dais brought Modi closer to the crowd. Whistling, clapping and cheering began when they saw him alighting from the copter. The audio system was playing a NaMo praising song in Kannada. It was not harsh on the ears, only loud. The crowd was jubilant. “What style! Look at him… “ was the common refrain from his admirers.

But my first impression of him was that he was bulky, that too for a man who has been travelling endlessly, eating frugally and often going on nirjal diet. He looked alert and active. Can he ever smile if not have a hearty laugh, I thought. I also wondered how he could wear a jacket, even if it is in Khadi, in peak summer. Probably, it was a bullet-proof jacket, I presumed.

Modi addressed the crowd in Hindi. Thankfully, there was notranslation into Kannada. His bashing of the UPA and Rahul Gandhi wenton, non-stop. The crowd gave the impression that it understood andenjoyed every word he uttered. It just reminded me of the B-Pacprogramme in Bangalore where Congress’ Bangalore South Lok Sabhacandidate Nandan Nilekani not speaking in Kannada became a majorissue. (Finally, that had ended in cancellation of the interactionprogramme with the audience.)

Modi’s fans went up in frenzy when he finally bid goodbye by saying hewanted 300 Lotus blossoms (meaning Lok Sabha seats) to reach his goal.Self-goal, I thought. His show lasted for 20 minutes. It was welldesigned, packed and marketed, no doubt. Later he swiftly walked tothe helicopter parked adjacent to the venue. He had no time tochit-chat with anyone.

The crowd continued to stay put at the venue to watch him flying back.The LED screens continued to show the takeoff of the copter. This wasunlike in other political rallies where the crowd becomes restlesseven before the key speakers leave the dais. It was the music anddirect relay of the Modi’s arrival and departure which made the peopleglued to the venue, or so I thought. Will all this hullabaloo help theparty retain the Koppal seat? The results will show.

Modi, in his brief address, had touched on the farmers’ problems in theTungabhadra command area and looting of public coal by the UPA. He branded Rahul Gandhi as an RTI Shehazada and the UPA as deaf, dumb and corrupt. He asked the crowd whether RTI filled their pockets  to lead their daily life. The answer was a loud ‘No’.

No doubt Modi had raised the crucial issues. But has any party whichhas come to power consciously worked towards generating employment inthis country where poverty, illiteracy and semi-literacy and youthpopulation are so huge? I do not have first-hand knowledge of what Modi has done or not donein Gujarat as chief minister.

But I can discuss what had happened andis happening in Karnataka. During the BJP regime, a lot of discussionon industry growth through the Global Investors’ Meet took place. But eventually we saw the chief minister and some of his Cabinet colleagues going to jail and coming out on bail. A good number of  welfare schemes too took shape during the BJP period which included Bhagyalakshmi bond scheme, Bhoochetana, free cycles to students etc. 

In the last one year, the Siddaramaiah government has discussed  nothing but only social welfare schemes – Anna Bhagya and Ksheera  Bhagya. Both are projected as human resource development projects. But Anna Bhagya scheme should have been launched after weeding out bogus  ration cards and also putting in place a Global Positioning System (GPS)-based surveillance system to track the movement of trucks carrying ration bags from godowns.

The cases of siphoning off rice meant for PDS are on the rise in the State. Is the government not answerable to tax payers whose money is being spent on welfare schemes? This is just one example to indicate how populism takes over pragmatism.

Before reaching Koppal, near Gingera cross, I interacted with a groupof youth employed in Kalyani Steels Limited. They were on a tea break.I asked them to comment on the Anna Bhagya scheme. They said they havenothing against the scheme. But they in turn asked me in how it washelping those who are not bracketed under the BPL but at the same timenot affluent. Even before I could say anything, the youngsters saidthey want employment and not charity.

One Nagaraj, who was in his early 20s, narrated a joke. “Madam, a jokeis in circulation in our area. Gunda, a drunkard, everyday is emptyingone alcohol bottle. So, his friends asked him how he will take care ofhis family if all his money was spent on liquor. Gunda said if hesells 30 bottles a month, he would get Rs 30 and that would sufficefor buying 30 kg of rice from the fair price depot. See, Madam, howthe rice scheme has made people lazy.” I smiled but did not agree withhim. I asked the youth what they wanted from the Siddaramaiah government.

The reply was unanimous – employment. Nagaraj, Nanda Kumar and otherssaid that the Congress government was thinking only about certainsections of society. It was even discussing creating employmentopportunities. They said they wanted industries to come up so thatthey could get employment. ‘We are not seeking government jobs because we do not belong to any reserved categories. We want industries to thrive. If there were no steel and cement industries in this region, we would have had no jobs. We can’t depend on agriculture with rains playing truant all the time,” Nagaraj said.

One Naseem, sporting fake ‘Ray Ban’ glasses, joined the discussion. Hesaid he had been to Surat and Vadodra some years ago and surelyGujarat is a better developed than Karnataka. He was expressing hisopinion and so I did not counter him.

Referring to the Muzaffarnagar riots, he said security for minoritiesis a myth. The government led by the Yadavs of the Samajawadi Partyfailed to do anything except going to Himachal Pradesh for holidaying.I asked him to explain the Gujarat model of development, for which hehad no specific answer. But he said he wants business to thrive sothat petty traders like him could earn a living in a town like Hospet.

It is a fact that no government wants to focus on generatingemployment because it is a tough task. It is easy to dole out sops andframe welfare schemes rather than going in for empowering peoplethrough direct income generation activities. Except talking aboutproviding daily wages under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural EmploymentGurantee Act, have we heard of governments working towards creatingsustainable income-generating programmes in the State? With land, power and water becoming scarce and foreign-funded NGOs raising green banner all the time, which government can inviteinvestors to Karnataka? Are there leaders who can work against theodds to fulfil the basic needs of the youth? I am sure, there are notmany. We have too many dwarf greedy politicians who cannot thinkbeyond their chair and renovated government bungalows. Kleptocracyis leaving our youth hopeless.

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