Saturday, May 22, 2010

Karnataka: Will Congress survive?

In politics as in human affairs tragedies get noticed only after they reach an advanced stage. The tragedy of the Congress Party in Karnataka has advanced quite far, but apparently it is yet to catch the attention of the High Command which, in the Congress dispensation, must get involved for anything to happen in the party.

In the 2009 election it was clear to every citizen that the Congress would get nowhere. It got nowhere. In this year’s Bangalore municipal elections, too, it was clear to all that the Congress would come a cropper. It came a cropper. The public in Karnataka is hardly aware of the Congress being around. The only sign of life in the party is when Working President Shiv Kumar reaches his birthday and posters appear in Bangalore wishing him many happy returns. For every sycophant who puts up a flexboard, the neta and his party will be driving away a hundred disgusted voters. The first thing the Congress should do if it ever wants to revive itself is to ban birthday posters.

Even non-Congress people would welcome a revival because the absence of an opposition has given the ruling BJP delusions of grandeur. Pramod Mutalik runs a rent-a-riot business and Government does nothing. Sitting ministers carry on with their commercial business openly and brazenly. And theirs is a business selling the state’s natural resources. Never was a conflict of interest so defiantly sustained in any state. Yet the Chief Minister and the BJP are unable to restrain the Bellary ministers because it’s their money that keeps them in power. This is money politics at its crudest and there is no meaningful opposition to check it.

The Congress of course has no one to blame but itself for its fall. Its basic problem is that it promotes leaders with small minds who spend their lifetime manoeuvring for positions they are not equipped for. They may succeed here and there, but they are always empty victories. There were leading Congressmen who upstaged S.M.Krishna when he made himself available for the party in the last elections. It didn’t hurt Krishna. It hurt the Congress.

Today the Congress has a state leadership which has virtually zero credibility. Election after election, this has been proved, but neither they nor their High Command learn any lesson. The aforesaid Shiv Kumar called a press conference to say he failed. He failed more than once, and he will fail again because his image is against him. So why doesn’t he do a favour to his party by calling it a day? The other President, Deshpande, can also likewise oblige his party, having done nothing so far to earn people’s trust. The Congress cannot even begin to make a comeback unless it finds the courage to think out of the box and restructure itself.

The High Command, spearheaded by the energetic Rahul Gandhi, has been making a case for young leaders to come forward. Some young leaders came forward in Karnataka in the last elections and they commanded attention. Why doesn’t the High Command hand responsibility to credible young people like Krishna Byregowda? Why doesn’t it give leadership to the few senior leaders still left with some believability – Siddaramaiah, Dr. Parameswhar, B.L.Shankar? If something bold is not done, the Congress in Karnataka will become like the Congress in Tamil Nadu.

The famous Churchill speech is relevant here. Recalling his visit to the Barnum Circus as a child, he said: “ The exhibit I most desired to see was described as the Boneless Wonder. My parents judged that the spectacle would be too revolting for my youthful eye, and I have waited 50 years to see the Boneless Wonder – sitting on the Treasury Bench”.

Churchill was referring to Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald’s treasury bench, not the hallowed benches in the Congress headquarters in Bangalore. For that relief, much thanks.