Voting for Karnataka Assembly’s 224 seats takes place tomorrow. [To be exact, it is 223 seats as polling for Jayanagar seat in Bengaluru has been countermanded following the death of BJP candidate B.N. Vijaya Kumar.]
A fair and peaceful voting under the watchful eyes of the Election Commission and the security forces is expected — after all, compared to many other States, Karnataka is a peace-loving and tolerant State except when politicians with vested interest ignite violence. Sadly, cases of group violence and individual murders escalated during the last five years. In many cases, Police were either inactive or partial.
Corruption has remained a “universal phenomenon” so much so charges of corruption were bandied about without fear and shame knowing that it will continue with impunity. Yet, the contesting parties found this an easy accusation to be made to fool the voters. My understanding is that voters will not be fooled being used to corruption allegations since the days of late former Chief Minister D. Devaraja Urs (1972-1977; 1978-1980). Voter knows every political party and every government is corrupt. So the voter does not care about corruption when charges are made to denigrate a political party or an individual and it is not an issue for him to consider while voting.
Recently, P.P. Choudhary, Union Minister of State for Law and Justice and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, apparently a Rajasthani, had come to our office to meet me for a while. He asked me if corruption could be an issue. I said no. But the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had accused Siddharamaiah government as “10% commissionwallah” government. I said, “Never mind. In Karnataka politicians have swallowed with ease iron-ore hills. It is a case of kettle calling the pot black.”
Karnataka may be a rich State, its capital famous as Silicon Valley of India, but it is a sick State afflicted with the canker of corruption. After all, what cannot be cured must be endured. Choudhary had come to Karnataka to mobilise Rajasthani and Marwari votes for BJP. He asked me who would win?
I told him BJP and why it will get the majority to form the government. There is an undercurrent of disenchantment and anger against Siddharamaiah government among a large section of the people who do not belong to either Ahinda or any political party. There is discrimination on the basis of religion and caste, intolerance towards those who oppose the present government’s policy etc. This suppressed anger is bound to find expression at the polling booth (tomorrow).
People are punished if they as much as complain against the violation of Election Model Code of Conduct. In Mysuru city itself, we have an example. The reason for this is that Siddharamaiah’s Congress Government continues to enjoy all the regular powers except for disabling it to take policy decisions under the Model Code of Conduct.
This in my opinion is not good for a free and fair election. I told the Minister this must change. The moment election date is announced, the government should be declared as a mere care-taker government without power over the Police and Intelligence Departments. These two Departments must be taken over by the State Governor till the new government is formed.
Minister Choudhary seemed to have appreciated the suggestion and even promised to take it up with the appropriate authorities at Delhi.
Then the Political Editor of Hindusthan Times, Delhi, Vinod Sharma met me on his way to Hunsur to study the election scene there. “The surveys indicate a fragmented mandate. What is your take?”, I was asked. Without batting an eyelid hidden behind my spectacles, I said, “BJP will cross the threshold into Vidhana Soudha. It will get the magic number 113 and more.”
He was surprised. “But surveys indicate Congress will get more seats than the BJP”, said Vinod Sharma. My instant response was cryptic: “Sir, there are four kinds of lies — lies, damned lies, statistics and surveys.” He laughed. But I explained. “No matter BJP gets less than Congress in the event of a fragmented mandate, but remember that the BJP has a way of getting past the winning post. You know what happened in Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur…”
Vinod Sharma, an old war horse with a horse sense when it comes to assessing the elections, said ‘Thank you’ and left in a hurry.
Earlier, our Managing Editor Vikram Muthanna had told me that we were invited for a dinner meeting by Ms. Manjeet Kripalani, Executive Director of Gateway House, a PR House, at the JP Palace Hotel. When we went there, as told to us earlier, there were giants of the Delhi TV and Print Media so also the elite. Prannoy Roy was there with his wife Radhika Roy with a large red bindi on her forehead but smaller than the one seen on Brinda Karat’s. I was told that Prannoy Roy’s wife is Brinda Karat’s sister. Honestly, at first sight I wondered if it was Brinda Karat, though the size of the bindi was smaller. Let it be.
I was meeting Prannoy Roy for the first time, though I have met him on TV a hundred thousand times. As on TV screen so also off the TV screen he is his own self in speech and body language. Very, very affable person, the winning smile never leaving his rather rotund visage, head with fine strands of puffy hair. I was wanting to ‘chat’ with him but as we sat down in different tables it was like a musical chair and I landed by the side of another wonderful person Psephologist Dorab Sopariwala. Conversation, naturally, veered around election. Here the question I was asked was sans frills or rigmarole. “Who do you think will win? Siddharamaiah?”
To this highly presumptuous question, I said: “No, BJP will touch the magic number 113.”
Dorab was surprised beyond belief. By the time this group had landed here after traversing coastal Karnataka, every member was convinced it was going to be Congress, nay Siddharamaiah.
“That was what everybody thought in 2014,” I said adding “miracles can always happen.” Dorab wanted the reason. I said celebration of Tipu Jayanti coupled with the decision to declare Lingayat as a separate religion by dividing the monolith ‘Veerashaiva-Lingayat’ religion would have its collateral negative effect in this election for Congress. And then Siddharamaiah’s policy of too much pampering of the Ahinda in government jobs, postings and welfare schemes by totally marginalising the other sections of the society will surely come into reckoning of the voter, I told him.
Dorab seemed a good listener, but as a reputed Psephologist might have his own reasons to expect Siddharamaiah to win. As we got up to leave, I told him that my perception as a journalist is that there is an under current of dissatisfaction among the two major communities of Karnataka — Lingayats and Vokkaligas — not so much against Congress but against Siddharamaiah as Chief Minister.
“Really?”, he exclaimed. It was raining heavily outside.
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