Stop this politics of tit-for-tat bandhs

Stop this politics of tit-for-tat bandhs

The disease of hartals, strikes and bandhs that afflicted the states of West Bengal and Kerala during 1980s and 1990s and set them back socially and industrially for decades seems to have entered the body politic of once-progressive Karnataka. Though the two states with a strong Communist presence have tried to change of late, their image has not, and large investors are still wary of them. During the same period, Karnataka achieved a lot of economic progress not only because of its emphasis on building a wide network of educational institutions, but also a strong work culture and atmosphere. But, of late, short-sighted politicians and irresponsible fringe outfits who have no concern for the state's welfare are frequently enforcing bandhs, picking on some emotive issue or the other. Everyone knows that apart from causing great inconvenience to common people, damage to public property and hurting the economy, the strikes are futile, puerile exercise.

It's a no-brainer to say that the state-wide bandh called on Thursday, and the two more proposed to be held in the next fortnight, are politically motivated. With Assembly elections less than three months away, the ruling Congress and the BJP are vying with each other to rouse public passions on sensitive issues like caste, religion, water and language. Though Thursday's bandh was called by some Kannada outfits, purportedly to highlight the demands of the state in the Mahadayi river water dispute with neighbouring Goa, the Siddaramaiah government is alleged to have persuaded them to tweak the date to coincide with BJP president Amit Shah's rally in Mysuru. The government also extended all help to make the bandh a 'success', at least in Bengaluru, by shutting down public transport, ensuring closure of schools, offices, theatres and commercial establishments. Many corporate offices also declared a holiday fearing violence. One more Bengaluru bandh is proposed on February 4 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address a rally in the city. As a tit-for-tat, the BJP has decided to call for a bandh in those districts that Congress president Rahul Gandhi is set to visit a week later. Do these national parties care about the damage they are doing to the image of Bengaluru, often called the back-office of the world? Do they care about the inconvenience they cause to millions of people?

Both parties must back down, return to more civilised, more democratic behaviour and desist from these political bandhs. The Congress especially, as the ruling party in the state, must neither support nor be seen to be supporting a shut-down. If the parties don't back off voluntarily, perhaps the courts must intervene and put an end to these bandhs.

 

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