Nation Politics 28 Jan 2018 State of play: When ...
Neena Gopal is Resident Editor, Deccan Chronicle, Bengaluru

State of play: When you say Nothing at all

Published Jan 28, 2018, 4:34 am IST
Updated Jan 28, 2018, 4:34 am IST
Indians, are probably the canniest, smartest people on the planet, and I say this only because if there’s one thing we’ve mastered.
If I were the chief minister of a state that’s headed for the polls, I wouldn’t trust any of these pre-poll surveys.
 If I were the chief minister of a state that’s headed for the polls, I wouldn’t trust any of these pre-poll surveys.

If I were the chief minister of a state that’s headed for the polls, I wouldn’t trust any of these pre-poll surveys. The first to be flushed down the drain would be the in-house ones, for sure! Ditto, the ones that have or haven’t been independently commissioned. Drown ‘em all in a big bucket of salt!

First off, we, Indians, are probably the canniest, smartest people on the planet, and I say this only because if there’s one thing we’ve mastered, it's the art of saying everything without saying a thing. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but the moment, the mike or tape-recorder is shoved in your face, and the camera is pointed at you, out come the words from these savvy millennials but unlike us oldies, it is nothing but obfuscation with a capital ‘O’.


Just look at what happened to the television crews that were swarming all over Gujarat a day ahead of polling, and the answers that the voters threw back at the anchors who had stepped out of their studio bubble after five long years and got a taste of what the real Bharat is all about – nobody shows their hand any more, not when you don’t know who or what’s coming at you. In these uncertain times, most know how to keep their cards close to their chest.. Unless you’re a politician or a politician’s rent-a-voice in re-election mode! 


The only bit that niggles away at me is how every single survey puts Chief Minister Siddaramaiah so overwhelmingly way ahead of the pack. He’s a sharper man than all of us, Ganga Din, but the danger of complacency when you see the numbers is ever present. So far though, he does show he has rebutted every charge, taken every critic head-on, and shown he is willing to listen to any course correction if and when necessary, playing the opposition's game be it on charges of soft Hindutva or countering the hard Hindutva of the likes of Ananth Kumar Hegde.


The survey show the Congress cleaning up with 49%, the CM with 37%! And his biggest detractors trailing way behind at 19% and less? B.S. Yeddyurappa, the Lingayat icon at an unbelievably low percentage!  Is this why he fell at the feet of the BJP president at last Sunday’s rally in Mysuru? Even his staunchest supporters are squirming!

Either way, Congress insiders, including the CM’s detractors, are all very chuffed at the numbers but there are questions that I feel must be asked. Can the Congress honestly look back and say that their track record in Karnataka makes the Congress fortress unassailable, impervious to a no-holds barred attack on unproven allegations of corruption and inappropriate charges of misgovernance that so far, hasn’t really stuck.


What the CM must answer to however are whether he has propelled Karnataka to its place in the sun  – given its abundant resources, and its high human capital, we should be shouting from the rooftops about the Karnataka success story. Have we ensured that the IT industry - the biggest revenue earner for the capital and the state – is given top priority in terms of providing the millions who work in that industry a comfortable hassle-free commute to work and a safe, work and living environment that doesn’t involve sitting in traffic, breathing in the fumes for hours.


That in our predominantly agrarian state, the government has paid adequate attention to the needs of the farmer – does he have a fair minimum support price for the farmer's crop, is there 'a farm to market to fork' model in place where the farmer is not punished for a bountiful harvest, and instead, the bounty is translated into the produce being preserved and made accessible to the consumer, yielding long-term dividends to the farmer and his family.

Simply sporting a green shawl, doesn’t make you pro-farmer!
Has the government done what's best for the girl child, does she have access to healthcare and schooling, is the drop-out rate when a girl child attains puberty being whittled down to zero? Do the poor have access, not just to free food and a roof over their heads, but to jobs and a steady income so that they feel a sense of self worth, and pride, and are not made to feel like supplicants in a society trapped in the socialistic rhetoric of the past? 


Have we done a Devendra Fadnavis and knocked on the doors of companies that can invest in a PPP model of power, garbage disposal, and yes, water desalination that circumvent the contentious issues of river water sharing with our infinitely more aggressive neighbours, all of whom march to a different political drummer? Have we brought in smart town planners - not greedy ministers and their business cronies - who can map the city and ensure they grow and expand without losing what we have and treasure – our trees, our environment, our once pristine, sylvan neighbourhoods where everything was sacrosanct.


Unlike today! The BBMP laid waste to a beautiful healthy coconut palm right outside my home this week with the usual hectoring and bullying by BBMP officials in their aggressive 'naanu yaaru gothilva finger-wagging' mode. One BBMP official even told me it was he owned the land my parents had built their home on! Forgetting of course that the BDA had the dibs on it for 40 years! As for the 36 year old coconut tree, home to squirrels and birds and a perfect backdrop against the suburban moonlit sky, it was gone, butchered in 55 minutes! 
How do you argue with a man wielding a chainsaw! 


But pandering to electoral math, to caste and quotas is the mantra for all parties, irrespective of their nomenclature. And not being pinned down on any of it, their signature. Leading the pack is our prime minister Narendra Modi. In two back to back interviews, that were granted to television journalists – one of whom I’d never heard of and the amount of sweetness and light he emanated while beaming beatifically at our prime minister, well..I gave that interview a miss; and the second, held my attention for just a tad longer, as the normally hectoring caricatures, sorry, anchors, who shout rather than converse, dressed for the occasion, again looked overwhelmed by the occasion! Like deer caught in the headlights!


This was in the run up to Davos. Any other journalist would have engaged the Prime Minister and sent out the message that the world wanted to hear - that the big corporates should come and have a taste of India’s economic pie. Swami Vivekananda, the surya namaskar and Shah Rukh, all window dressing. Why didn’t we hear the story that the country’s strongest prime minister in over 30 years, lauded for his vision of what India can be,  was all set to host the ASEAN leaders. A   smart, forward -looking move, a day after he met the world's richest and most powerful businessmen at Davos where after years of being shunned at the UPA's egging, he was the toast of the city, the keynote speaker.


India needs Modi to take his place as a wise, all inclusive leader, Our value systems and transformative spirit of enterprise and innovation could make the Indian Ocean truly India’s in every sense of the word. Under PM Modi’s watch. And CM Siddaramaiah's. At the centre. In the state.  They – and others like them – need to write India’s new story.

Location: India, Karnataka, Bengaluru