Saturday, August 9, 2008

Another election where voters will lose

Yediyurappa in Yoga, Kumaraswamy with wife Anita and Dewegowda in an Iftar.
Photo Credit : Kannada Prabha

Only fools and TV channels predict election results. And IPS-IAS opportunists. In 1977, after two years of Emergency repression, the Intelligence Bureau famously advised Indira Gandhi that she would easily win a general election. She infamously lost.

In the Karnataka election just announced, there is one prediction the wise will make. That is: The voters will lose. In fact, the voters have already lost with the impending end of Governor's Rule. It's true that the Governor was a faithful Congressman. It's also true that some Congress High Commanders from Delhi were able to pull important administrative strings from behind the scenes.

But that was a small minus compared to the big plus of politicians staying out of sight. The good bureaucrats were able to function, the bad ones stayed mute. Files moved. The corruption graph came down. People began to see what menace "elected representatives" had become and how blissful it was to have no "popular government".

Alas, all good things must come to an end. In a month's time the people will have democracy thrust upon them.

The silver lining is that all parties are in varying degrees of confusion and mess. Besides, all constituencies have been reconfigured this time. No one can now reap the benefit of caste and clan investments of the past. New investments will take time to show results.
Perhaps the one player with some degree of credibility is, incredibly, H.D.

Kumaraswamy. Somehow this young Chief Minister had managed to build a positive image. But he has to bear the cross of a father whom no one trusts. So where does that leave Kumaraswamy's JDS?

Where indeed does S.M.Krishna's return to politics leave the Congress? With experience and urbanity on his side, he should have been an advantage to the Congress. But some Congressmen objected to his return _ mostly tired leaders who live on their yesterdays and have no tomorrows ahead. While such objections can be ignored, caste pulls are a different matter.

Deve Gowda, the country's leading expert on caste arithmetic, carries the same Vokkaliga label that Krishna does. Does this mean a split in one of the major voter segments? Has the other major segment, the Lingayats, abandoned the Congress for good and gone over to the BJP?

The leadership vacuum in the BJP is so bad that a victory for that party may well mean disaster to it as much as to the state. It did nothing to endear itself to the people during the period of half-power it enjoyed. On the contrary, it gave indications that divide-and-rule would be its preferred route to power. Is Karnataka ready for such a restructuring of the basic parameters of life?

It's a pity that fifty years of electoral politics have not yielded a decent choice of parties. They all have the same programme - power. All depend on caste and sub-caste to achieve that end. Some add an extra touch here and there - like dynastic glamour and communal emotion.

None serves the people. That's why many voters, on their way to the booths, will ask themselves: When can we have five years of Governor's Rule?