Monday, August 1, 2011

A story of threats, tricks and family love: How a chief minister became a marvel

Do not underestimate B. S. Yeddyurappa. There is no match to him in Indian politics. He is amazing. He is unbelievable. He is a pulsating anthropomorphic mechatronic phenomenon of terminatorial indestructibility. An absolute marvel.

During his term as chief minister, there was not one day of governance in Karnataka. The days were filled instead with earthquakes of scandal followed by tsunamis of shame. But the man remained unshaken, convinced that he was the best leader Karnataka ever had, worthy, as he said himself, of a Nobel. He proclaimed his greatness in posters stuck on the back of every state transport corporation bus.

How then can we tar Yeddyurappa with the ordinary brush of corruption that we apply to others? Sure, he became rich like every Sukh Ram and Shibu Soren, Lalu Prasad and Mayawati. Getting rich is the badge of success in Indian politics. But he did more. He displayed attributes that put him in a class of his own.

He was the only chief minister in history who could command his party's high command. Driven to the wall, the high command might have turned against him this time, but don't forget how he had successfully blackmailed it in previous crises. The threat that he would split the party in the state used to send the Delhi bellies scampering for cover.

Being a master of the game, Yeddyurappa combined threats with bounteous generosity. Party President Gadkari became such a fan that he once ruled out any action against the chief minister who, as the President put it, had committed only immoralities, not illegalities.

Another attribute that made Yeddyurappa different was his ability to make illusion look like reality. He used to assert repeatedly that the people of Karnataka had elected his government. Actually this was a terminological inexactitude. The Yeddyurappa Government was never an elected government; it was a purchased government. Not that he was the first politician to purchase a majority. But never was it done more blatantly than in Operation Lotus in Karnataka.

The lotus was watered with illegal money to boot, the kind of muck-covered money you dig out of the red earth of Bellary. No other government in Karnataka or elsewhere had shown the same amoral abandon in turning known looters of the land into ministers. The BJP is beholden to these ministers and that is why a mere reshuffle in its governmental lineup will hardly make any difference to the culture of plunder that has overtaken the state.

The ultimate triumph of Yeddyurappa was that he tricked both his party and his community into accepting him as leader extraordinary. The BJP had always led us to believe that it was dead against the concept of hereditary power. Yet Yeddyurappa established India's first BJP dynasty. He loved his sons, his in-laws, his widowed relatives, his departed siblings.

To some of these relatives, this ideal family man allotted valuable urban sites. When a heartless public criticised him for bending the laws, he explained that he was acting out of compassion. But this concept of compassion was in violation of the concept propagated by the revered preceptor of Lingayata who said: “Compassion needs must be towards all living things”. ( Human Values in Vachana Literature, page -15).

A man who put his personal family interests above Basaveshwara's Vachana succeeded in equating his political status with that of the Lingayats. A further disservice was done to the community when he argued that no other Lingayat should succeed him as chief minister. The community has good and competent leaders with a clean image in contrast to Yeddyurappa's sullied reputation. It is a pity that such elements are unable – or unwilling? – to speak up for the community. With leaders like Nijalingappa and Veerendra Patil, Lingayats had become part of the glory of Karnataka. Resurrecting that glory is important not only to the community but also to Karnataka and India. The Nobel Prize can wait.