I was sitting with Devraj Urs, the then Chief Minister of Karnataka, at his residence when an Opposition MLA from Mandya district, G. Made Gowda barged in angrily due to the inaction of the government over a plea he had tabled. In chaste Kannada, he told the CM, "Buddhi Buddhi antare nimmana, adhare buddhi ne illa nimmage" (They call you an intellect, but you seem to be ignorant).
Urs did not take offence but had a hearty laugh, calmed Gowda down and immediately instructed his staff to do the needful. Urs stood out by his humility and earnestness to be a fair and accountable Chief Minister. He was unmatched in all respects. He strove hard to be a fair and accountable leader. In another instance, I personally witnessed him spotting an old woman almost invisible amidst the crowd that had gathered to see him. Urs walked up to her and patiently heard her plea. Not only did he instruct his staff to fulfil her needs but also ensured that they fed her and safely escorted her back to the railway station. Urs was first a human being, leader and then a politician. Urs always believed that leadership was not about a title but it's about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact meant getting results and influence was about spreading the passion he had which served as an inspiration for his colleagues.
Today, if anyone comes close to matching Urs' calibre it is H.D. Kumaraswamy, JDS' State President and Chief Ministerial candidate. Clean, competent, approachable and strong-willed he leaves the other CM hopefuls B.S Yeddyurappa of BJP and Siddaramaiah of Congress far behind. The Congress, which had a great control over its state-level politicians, has now lost the grip and the plot. They embraced Siddaramaiah in the hope that he would retain Congress' hold over the state. All he has done to date is to pursue his own selfish agenda, taking the Congress and the people of Karnataka for a ride.
Siddaramaiah has cleverly manipulated Rahul Gandhi, President of AICC, to oppose the JDS owing to his personal hostility towards former PM and JDS supremo Deve Gowda. It is certain that Karnataka is heading towards a hung Assembly and JDS is a potential coalition partner.
The Congress, which had consistently produced many top-class statesmen, should have exercised greater restraint and control over the narrative and not let Siddaramaiah hijack the election campaign to seek a personal vengeance. His controversial behaviour apart, Siddaramaiah has failed to keep many of his promises. Thee much-needed farmers' loan waiver was not forthcoming under his government. He did not ensure a fair probe into the Bellary mining scams as promised during his much-hyped padayatra in 2013. One must give credit to Yeddyurappa for not meddling with the Karnataka Lokayukta, the most revolutionary judiciary body to tackle corruption in India. Siddaramaiah dismantled the Lokayukta and formulated an Anti-Corruption Bureau, which in reality is an eyewash. The ACB became a tool in Siddaramaiah's revenge politics as he time and again used it to target members of the opposition. The very same officers and bureaucrats that Siddaramaiah charged against, as the Opposition Leader of the House, were rewarded with plum posts, one even being made the Chairman of the Karnataka Public Services Commission.
It is also worth mentioning that Yeddiyurappa for all his other flaws is a respectable leader who does not indulge in communal politics which his party is often guilty of. Left to him, Yeddyurappa would fare far better in attracting the fence sitters this election. The Modi-Shah tactic of divisive politics and pedalling blatant lies has alienated a lot of supporters from the BJP. The Prime Minister is always quick to point out that the Congress had allegedly disrespected General Thimmaiah (who was appointed as the Chief of Army Staff in 1957 and then made Commander of UN Peace Keeping Force by the Congress government) and other dignitaries, but has he forgotten how he treated stalwarts like L K Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi. The Modi-led BJP is under the impression that all their utterances are the Gospel truth.
BJP would be better off in focussing on development instead of the usual aggressive pedalling of Hindutva only to add more territories under its command.
Siddaramaiah is a misfit in a mass-based party like the Congress that advocates for the inclusion of all. Yeddyurappa's credibility is drowned in the megalomaniac tendencies of the present-day BJP. The Karnataka election has become a fertile ground for BJP and Congress' ego clashes and is serving as a rehearsal for the battle of 2019. Neither seems to care about the people of Karnataka nor understand their aspirations. Amidst this chaos of communal politics and mudslinging by the national parties, it is heartening to see H. D. Kumaraswamy talking of real issues such as education, health, employment and farming and proposing tangible solutions.
(B. S. Raghavan is a former Chairman of the Karnataka State Sports Council holding the rank of a Minister. He was very close to former Chief Ministers Devraj Urs and Ramakrishna Hegde)....