The Real CAB Daddy

Ok what’s the real deal about the Citizenship Amendment Bill really?

There was a lot of opposition to this bill, and the Home Minister handled himself quite well. Of course, most of his claims revolved around righting the wrongs of the congress and plain denials of any matters on constitutionality or morality in the bill. These have been discussed in detail across the media spectrum and in many a social media drawing rooms, so let’s leave out the technicalities, legalities or moralities of the Bill and try to unearth what’s the big idea behind all this. Where does this fit in the BJP agenda?

Theory A – The Half Medallion

The biggest and most meaningful claim is that the CAB is the other half medallion of the NRC. With NRC, the BJP aims to single out all illegal migrants in India. The Hindus and other non-Muslim communities will be covered under CAB and can escape from being tagged illegal migrants and can get a clean chit. The Muslims will not – they’ll be… well, thrown in jail! since none of the 3 nations – Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan will accept these migrants and India is not a signatory to the 1951 refugee convention.

Ok this theory sounds great, but if you think slowly, it really sounds too farfetched a theory.  It took the supreme court of India a little over 4 years to come up with an NRC for the state of Assam. The population of Assam is 3.1 crores as of 2012 so maybe 3.5 crores now? That’s about 2.6% of India. Ouch! So it might roughly take 35 times the effort (and money?) to extend this to the whole country.

Theory B: The North East Votes

The North East of India has been on fire since December 11th or rather 12th when the people disobeyed curfew orders and came to the streets to protest and demonstrate dissent. The problem with the north east is migrants from Bangladesh have been infiltrating since independence and this has obviously put the natural demographic out of balance. Language, culture and heritage is threatened and the natives of Assam and other parts of North East feel this is a matter of livelihood and religion has no place. Hence the people demand that with religion being no bar, all infiltrators need to be thrown out. The CAB doesn’t do this.

Practically thinking, there is no way these infiltrators can be thrown out, so why not give them citizenship and make them grateful to the BJP? They would also become loyal voters of the BJP.

But really? Would the BJP sink so low? Don’t answer that! The reason I ponder on this is, the BJP is already winning in the North East, what’s the need to actually go through the whole charade to get new voters? So even this theory doesn’t really fit.

The Real Fit

The all nation NRC+CAB doesn’t really sound like something that will see the day of light – or it might become something like a single use plastic ban which was in news for 2 weeks and then died out because BJP realized they had not really understood what this meant and we as a nation are not ready for it.The theory of changing demographics in NE is also a shot in the foot. BJP can win the states and votes without having to do this, it has already done this to some extent. So even this is not the real reason

The real reason according to us is getting a foot hold. Foot hold of what? The Constitution of India! The BJP is headed by some shrewd politicians, they may not be academically or intellectually gifted, but they are really sharp and know how to play politics. The triple talaq bill is an example. With triple talaq, they tested the waters of how accepting the nation is to its tyranny. Next came 370, NRC and Ayodhya – all accepted with a bare back by the people of India.

So this move of CAB, which to be honest makes hardly any difference to our nation (except the North East), make no difference to the citizens of rest the country nor will it deliver on its grand promise to be the savior of persecuted minorities in our selective neighborhood (remember 31,313? Which btw in itself sounds fishy, like someone put their fingers on the keyboard and hit alternating numbers). This is just a two-finger test.

Once the BJP has successfully inserted some religious tags into the constitution, and we have stood mute to this saying it has no effect on Indian Muslims or get distracted by something else, the BJP on its part has more or less made an inroad or got a foot hold at adding religious tags in our constitution. So its just a matter of time now that religious tags will be selection criteria for more constitutional remedies.

And on the day we wake up in the future to smell the gowmutra, our ministers will say, oh iske baare me poora sanshodhan hua hai and sabhi party ke logo ne iski sammati di hai. “Oh we have had discussion on this in the past and all parties concerned have given their consent”  

Why RBI held onto the status quo

The Reserve Bank of India decided to hold its rates in the Monetary Policy Committee meeting on the December 5 2019.

The reaction to this decision was well received by the analysts of the economy. But still, there was a group that expected the RBI to cut the rates.

Why did people expect the RBI to cut the rates?

We expected the RBI to cut rates because the state of the economy is far from showing any signs of recovery. The GDP growth is down, and there is no improvement in private investment either. By reducing the interest rates further the RBI and the government might’ve hoped to stimulate investment.

Why was no one shocked on the status quo of the interest rates?

We weren’t really shocked because even though it seemed like common sense to reduce the interest rates to stimulate investment, it somehow didn’t seem to work.

The RBI has reduced the repo rate 5 times already and there has been no significant effect on the economy or private investment.

Why hasn’t the rate cut made a difference?

It’s simply because of 2 main reasons,

1. Banks aren’t ready to pass on the benefit

With reduced interest rates, once would assume the commercial banks would reduced their lending rates and pass on some benefit to the consumers, but this didn’t happen. There are many reasons for this, the banks are already over streched with advances, the banks have mounting bad debts and fit because there aren’t enough quality borrowers inthe market.

2. Inflation is high

Due to an increase in fuel prices and food inflation, the WPI has increased to 4.9% which is well above the RBI’s target of 4%. Making further reductions would mean more money in the economy and hence trigger more price rise.

There is also a 3rd reason, since the economy isn’t that great, there is no need to invest right now in India. A rich investor who has easy and cheap access to funds in India would be tempted to borrow in India at a lower price and invest abroad. Already our foreign remittances are increasing, we don’t want to encourage further remittances do we?

Hence it makes perfect sense for the RBI to hold its rates.

But this leaves us with a site thumb. Who then will stimulate the economy? In 2011-12 when Pranab Da ended up over stimulating the economy, his only fault was just relying on the monetary policy and loosening it without care or concern.

Today we can’t rely on the monetary policy alone to get the economy back on track, we need the finance ministry to manage the fiscal policy and help revive the economy.

But now another question sticks out, does the government have any money left to do fiscal policy changes?

Where’s all the money gone? Why has GST failed? I guess that’s another blog.

The Fall of Trust

Somewhere in financial history, the word ‘trust’ got replaced by the word ‘credit’ which divided the economic chronology into After Credit and Before Credit. Even though credit was present from before agrarian economies, it was used in an organised manner by Europeans from the 15th century which in turn fueled their scientific as well as political conquests.

Credit which is trust in future boomed when the trust was kept or got fulfilled by advancement in economies, which in return again fueled credit growth. This cyclical growth excited man and he made the cycle circle faster at each turn by lending, spending and printing too much. Obviously this made the Europeans champions of the world and hence the first to go bankrupt.

In the 21st century their credit cycle broke all of a sudden, and they found themselves staring at negative returns on the credit facilities. This meant the number of trusted parties who can avail credit had declined, resulting in the need to shell out in order to find parties willing to accept credit. This happens because the trust factor in future has declined as the number of defaulting accounts rapidly balloon and even lead to sovereign countries defaulting on credit.

Italy was in crown position of having world’s highest ratio of bad debts. This crown position was challenged by a country in South East Asia where everything happens prematurely. That’s India. Even though India saw organised credit surge and became the economy’s backbone very late only in the 20th century, we are staring at huge bad debts which is around 9.5% of the total advances, where in Italy the bad debts are at 8.5% currently down from 17% in 2015. We are facing this high ratio of broken promises for last few years and we planned many things.

Now in 2019, the bad debts have changed their status from the ‘result’ to ‘cause’. We were talking about why it happened for last few years but now we are discussing what it will result from now on. The CEO of NITI Ayog, Amitabh Kant said that trust is missing in the economy which, as we’ve seen really means credit is missing from the economy. So where did the trust go? Since 2005, we saw boom years for trust where we saw credit was flowing seamlessly and investments were soaring. We added capacity in infrastructure like power plants, airports, ports and roadways. We invested heavily in industries and we created immense capacities. This was all made possible by the basic emotion of credit or trust in tomorrow, that tomorrow will be better than today. Indians were also sure that our more than enough population itself will provide the required demand and hence the cycle of trust will be safe. Alas it wasn’t.

The lack of reforms in the Banking and Finance Industry and the policy paralysis in the second term for the UPA government started the cracks in our cycle of trust.

In the first half of the 2010s, PSB asset books were ripe with more than 10% NPA’s, this led to a fall in their lending and their share in lending was taken over by NBFCs which got their boom years from the beginning of this decade. This boom bank rolled the initial years of NDA govt where no one knows actual growth rates. Introduction of fresh initiatives by NDA such as IBC brought fresh life to the trust in future. But just like as GST, the IBC was also introduced half baked, and as of now, number of cases pending more than 270 days which was the defined deadline to be decisioned is 400. It became another Judicial system of India.

Then came the ILFS balloon burst. This took away the single engine on which the economy was running – the NBFCs. Funds became costlier or rare for the NBFCs and hence for the end users. Now we are celebrating one year of NBFC crisis and economy shows the effects. As nobody is there to fund, the demand worsened and the auto sector’s fall was first omens of impending doom. All sectors started cost cutting and the already worse unemployment hit another spike which again affected aggregate demand. This eroded the trust in tomorrow. Only trust eroded, not the money with banks. As trust in the economy eroded people are less likely to invest in the market and hence this money will go to less risky fixed deposits.

Obviously for a less trusted tomorrow, credit is not favorable and hence needs the rate cuts to encourage people who can afford a credit at this time to come on board.

Making all this worse is the attitude of the government of the day. The government is either ignorant, lazy or just in plain denial about the crisis. The actions of the government are nothing less than blunders. Perhaps that will make the cut to the second episode of this series.

Empathy Upgrade

Exhibit A

On 5th December 2017, just a little less than 2 years ago, a young woman killed herself. August Ames was 23 when she hung herself from the ceiling fan and asphyxiated to her death. August was a Canada born pornographic actress who had gotten herself into a twitter controversy.

August tweeted on December 3rd that she had turned down a job offer to work with a male artist who had earlier worked on gay porn and had not got himself tested adequately before offering to work with her in a boy-girl scene. She made the tweet less than subtle in expressing her disapproval and disappointment over the lack of ethics in the agents of the industry.

The LGBTQ community wouldn’t take this kindly and lashed out at August for the next 48 hours without rest or respite. She was massively criticized and was called Homophobic and discriminatory. Although a few pornstars and people from the industry backed her freedom to make choices of her costars, the LGBTQ community wouldn’t give her a break.

The bullying took to a fever pitch in just 2 days. Gay porn star Jaxton Wheeler wrote on Twitter: “The world is awaiting your apology, or for you to swallow a cyanide pill. Either or, we’ll take it.”

Finally on the 5th of December, she made one last tweet and killed herself.

Friends and near ones emphatically complained that August was a victim of cyberbullying. An autopsy conducted post her death also revealed that her body contained traces of cocaine, marijuana, Zoloft and Xanax.


Exhibit B

Incels are members of not so underground online forums. These online forums are mostly men, generally young heterosexuals who are incapable of finding sexual or romantic partners despite having the desire to socialize and form such bonds.

The group is explicitly violent in their ideology and openly endorses and encourages suicides. Discussions in incel forums are often characterized by resentment, misanthropy, self-pity, self-loathing, misogyny, racism, a sense of entitlement to sex, and the endorsement of violence against sexually active people.

Mass murderers in North America have either openly called themselves incels or have been adjudicated as incels based on their character traits. The first confirmed mass murder by an incel happened in 2014 when Elliot Rodger killed 6 people and injured 14 others in the Isla Vista of California. He made a Youtube video about his pursuit of extracting revenge over the womankind for rejecting him and other sexually successful men for making it hard for him to find women. Elliot has since been hailed as a hero in the incel forums in the dark holes of the internet.

Inceldom or being an incel by itself is not a mental or psychological disorder. People who identify themselves as incels may suffer from physical and metaphysical disorders. The inability to socialise with women and insecurity over one’s appearance makes one push themselves to believe the world is conspiring against them in indulging in sexual and romantic relationships.

The lack of success in the romantic or sexual front is not uncommon, and neither is it a danger to the society. The problem arose when incels rose from amongst us and turned against the society.


The two stories of Exhibit A and B are stories of empathy; one a real life incident and the other about the existence of real world cult. Now you might think, how are these stories about empathy? they’re so not empathy, they are the exact opposite of empathy. While Exhibit A talks about how a group of people ganged up against a young lady and Exhibit B is about a group of sociopathic misogynists out there to spread hate and violence.

Empathy from the earliest times has been held as a virtue. To be able to hear another’s heart beat; to put your feet in another’s shoe. To understand, to hear to feel one another’s emotions had been praised as the biggest virtue one can have. So yes, the definition of empathy is amply clear, but how does it relate to our exhibits?

What’s happened today is we are trying to empathise, but with whom? empathy is really about understanding others. But what we’ve made it today is understanding others with whom we can relate to. This is the biggest misinterpretation of empathy.

To take an easier example, if floods hit my native state, I feel a stronger urge to donate for relief causes. If the floods hit a neighboring state, I might feel less strongly for the need to donate. Now the act of donating itself is about feeling for others. So I am being empathic towards the victims, but why do I feel strongly for one set of victims and not so strongly for another?
we’ve somehow misunderstood the meaning or misinterpreted it as empathy.

What happened in Exhibit A is that the LGBTQ community, which is generally about acceptance and anti bullying turned up the heat against someone who they thought was against them. So evidently, it boils down to the fact that the LGBTQ are open to acceptance of life choices and being liberal about it only when it comes to the people of the community and not anyone outside. If August wanted to work or not work with any artist, isn’t it her choice? why would the LGBTQ community lashout at her? can’t they empathise with her? or is that privilege reserved only to those with whom they can relate to?

Similarly the incens of Exhibit B, the incel forums are by far one of the darkest holes of the internet. They openly endorse suicides, killings, rapes and torture, for what?? because members of the group cant get sex? because I can’t get sex and I can relate to some other 25 year old virgin should I call him names and encourage him to go kill the girl who rejected him when he was 14??

What we saw in these 2 examples is people want to empathise, but we choose to empathise with only those with whom we can relate. So effectively, I’m feeling sorry for myself, or someone who’s more or less like me. Is this even empathy?

We’ve seen massive organisations of people and groups all over the world, on internet and in the real world. They have a common agenda, a feeling of being wronged or misunderstood. I’m not saying all organised groups with agendas are bad; self help groups, support groups, AA meetings, these are also groups of people who empathise with each other – or empathise clones of one another, but these are not bad.

So what makes empathy real? It’s quite simple really. Are you really in another’s shoe thats actually his or are you just wearing another’s shoe that looks just like yours?

The next time you feel like being empathic about someone or some group identifier, just ask yourself, Is it really someone else or am I doing this just to feel sorry for a different flavor of myself?


Take the Loss

It happened again. A third time. A stranger walked up to me and asked for money. This time again, like the previous 3 times I was left feeling guilty and retrospective of the incident.

The first time this happened I was at a McDonald’s in CP of New Delhi minding my own business. A middle aged woman walked up to me and asked if she could sit at my table. I moved my tray and made space. She didn’t have a plate or tray of food. She sat and started talking and I was being courteous, soon enough she said it was her birthday and she had come to the Hanuman temple nearby. I wished her a happy birthday and continued looking uncomfortable. She wouldn’t notice anything and went on talking, she said she’d had a fight with her mother in law and left the house without breakfast. I didn’t notice anything, nor did I feel sorry for her, it was new to me, where a stranger walks up, makes civilized conversation and suddenly says its my birthday and I haven’t had food.

I reached into my wallet and pulled out a small wad of loose change. There were 10s and 20s amounting to maybe 80 or 100 rupees. I handed it to her and said buy yourself a burger. I was confused by the look on her face. I was worried if she was offended because she did look from a respectable household. She was not. She counted the cash and looked up at me. “Give me 50 more and I can have a non veg meal” she said with a pompous air. Like I was selling something to her and she was bargaining to make a sale. I didn’t know what to say, I took off.

I have no idea if there was any truth in her story. The way she narrated at first made me feel sorry for her, but the way she counted the money and asked for more made me feel sorry for myself. Was she just a con or was she a bad natured and blunt person honestly hurting?

The second time, I was in college. Me and a friend were at the bus stop waiting to catch a bus to Nehru Place to get his laptop fixed. A man approached us and said he was from Muzaffarnagar in UP. He had come with his wife and 10 year old child to Delhi. On his way, they were robbed and all their money and luggage was stolen. He had no money, the child was hungry and they had no way of getting to Old Delhi railway station to catch a train back home. The man was willing to offer his watch, cloths and whatever he had on him if we could help him with some cash.

I didn’t know what to do. My friend was tugging at me and to make matters worse, the bus we were waiting for had to arrive at the next moment. I took the three 10 rupee notes that I had in my pocket as loose change and handed it to him before hurriedly being bundled into the bus.

There was no way of knowing if they were really in trouble or had I been conned. The man’s pleas seemed earnest and the wife and child looked really helpless. Even today when I’m reminded of them sitting at the bus stop with nothing more than the cloths on their back I fill up with guilt. Should I had heard the man out a little longer? Should I have tried to convince my friend to let go of me so that we could listen to what this man was saying?

The 3rd time. This past Monday near office. It was drizzling outside and I was waiting for my Uber. A man, who didn’t look drunk until he started talking locked eyes and said “Bother, will you do me a favor?” I didn’t talk so he continued, “I fought with my wife, left my phone and everything and came here. Now I don’t have money to get home. Can you help me?” I was repulsed by the stench of liquor, a saw that he was clutching to a tetra pack of apple juice in his right hand. I still hadn’t said a word.

If I try to beg for money, people wouldn’t give me anything. Everything’s right with me. So can you help me out here?” He had the drunk cavalier’s air around him. I didn’t feel like helping him. I walked away from him. I didn’t help him. The reasons could be many, that I didn’t have loose change in my pocket or that it was raining, or that it was getting late and here was a drunkard asking for money. I just walked off.

Parting ways with a little loose change wouldn’t have cost me much, but if he was in genuine trouble my little gesture would’ve really helped him. Perhaps this is what is called yielding to prejudice.

Such incidents happen with all of us, maybe not regularly but it happens when helpless people shed their egos and reach out for help from strangers they’ve never met before. One can even call this begging because they are so out of options that they have nothing else to do but ask for money from others with nothing in return to give. They are basically asking for mercy, for deliverance of some kind. How do we as the conduits of this deliverance react? We have less than 2 minutes to make up our minds. How do we judge characters so fast? How do we fight out prejudices and make a decision? It is so hard.

The easy way however is to take the loss. Parting ways with a small financial loss is a lot easier than living on with the guilt of being indifferent.

5 Things Wrong With the Abrogation of Article 370

First things first, My fellow countrymen! Indians! we are stupid stupid creatures! We’ve ruined everything!! Everything by giving power to a seemingly totalitarian regime!! OK now that the outburst is out of the way, lets get on with the meat of the matter. This post is about the wrongs that were done in order to pass a motion in the parliament to repeal the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

Legality

Let’s recall the contour tread by the BJP to do this.
1. They bring an amendment into Article 368 of the constitution of India that defines how to read Article 370. In this amendment, they say let’s replace the words “Constituent Assembly” with Legislative assembly since the constituent assembly doesn’t exist any more. OK
2. They say, since the state of J&K is under president’s rule, the word of the governor of the state will act as the word of the legislative assembly. The governor is an appointee of the central government and hence its their word.
So basically, if A has become B and B has become C then its perfectly ok to see A as C?
What does this mean? This means, the governor’s rule in J&K which is actually the central govt is advising itself about what to do. It’s like saying, take my word! I’m saying that I’m right!

So where does this leave us? There are 2 counts of shaky legal ground here.

  1. You apply transitive property to advice yourself to change lives and livelihoods of people and pass it yourself. Without consulting those who are affected. This is not entirely wrong as per the form or letters of the law, but definitely lacks moral patronage and is far from the keeping the spirit of the law.
  2. The constitution of India says that the President of India cannot change Article 1 and Article 370, and it also says that what cannot be changed directly can also not be done indirectly. So the maneuvers done are all on shaky ground.

Lies

By August 1st, the central government had ordered 35,000 fresh troops into the state of J&K. This added to the already existing troops going upto 8 Lakh who are placed in the different places along the LOC and otherwise. Along with this, there were notifications to the J&K police to stand guard and perform an assessment of their riot preparedness. Did any one ask why was this massive mobilisation done? Ofcourse, and the answer? Terror threat!

Yes, there was a widespread news circulating that there was an eminent terror threat in Kashmir, the reason for this deduction? A Rifle and a land mine. That’s right. On behest of this, the annual hindu pilgrimage to lord Amarnath was cancelled and the pilgrims asked to return from wherever they were. The next day, on August 3rd, a few photos of dead bodies were shared on whatsapp to all media houses and more panic was created. It was said they were Pakistani army and that a major operation was planned.

Today no one talks of the terror threat and no more rifles and land mines have appeared.

3 days after the passing of the bill, the NSA Ajit Doval, the most important person in the security of the nation is seen in Kashmir and is having food on the street with some supposedly locals. Not sure if this is an operation or the most important man in national security is always like this.

Lock Down

By far the worst thing that can happen in a democracy. Massive mobilization of para military forces was followed by the unprecedented cutting short of the Amarnath Yatra. The next day, on Aug 3rd the governor’s office issues advisories to stop the annual pilgrims to Machail mata. This act of curtailing pilgrims from the annual pilgrimage had never happened in history. Even at the heights of communal distress in Kashmir, peaceful pilgrims were welcomed and looked after by the natives.

The lock down was escalated by the house arrest of prominent leaders of J&K Farooq Abdullah , Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. It was later revealed that there were over 800 small and big politicians and leaders were held under such and other forms of arrests. All this while the state was under complete clamp down with a virtual curfew enforced. Mobile phones, internet and broadband facilities, cable TVs and even land line phones were shut off. There was absolutely no way to communicate with each other, leave alone the outside world. Tourists from other parts of the country were asked to leave, and even students from outside the state were asked to clear out from their hostels and dormitories. Is this a way a consultative democracy works?

While first of all they navigated away from consulting the state government, putting elected leaders in house arrest and putting a complete lock down on the state leaves no room for anyone to express themselves.

The Downgrade

The home minister, along with the revoking of special status of the state brought in another presidential order – this was to bifurcate the state into two union territories. Firstly, the president needs to consult the state legislation and a resolution needs to be passed in the state assembly whose boundary needs to be redrawn. Since the state was under president’s rule, this became easy, he just had to ask himself if he was ok with what he intended to do. I’m guessing it wasn’t too hard to disagree with himself.

Let’s forget the legality of the matter, the whole episode of revoking of the special status is a punch in the gut to the people of kashmiris. Though the article 370 has been eroded over time and now is nothing but a shell, it still holds some pride and emotional connection with the natives of the state. So revoking the special status under Article 370 was a big blow. To make it worse, the central govt decided to down grade the state to a union territory. This is like saying to your flatmate that he doesn’t get his own room and has to sleep in the hall from now, and to add more insults, you say that he doesn’t get to keep his own key to the apartment.

Was adding insult to injury part of the master plan?

Mass Disillusionment

With the news breaking that the legislation was passed in the houses of the parliament, the whole country emerged in euphoria. The media showed clips of people dancing on the streets and distributing sweets to each other. There were people bursting crackers and telling each other they can now buy land in J&K and marry girls from the state. I mean seriously?? this is the level of celebration we’ve reached to? People were even celebrating the fact that there wont be a J&K flag anymore. Is this something to celebrate? Karnataka has a flag of its own and we in our state are proud of our flag even though the constitution has nothing to do with it. The constitution of India explicitly mentions it doesn’t recognize any flags of states or organisations as official flags of the nation, but its left to the sentiments of the region or state or organisation to have their own flag. Couldn’t we control ourselves over this?

Through the week, people celebrated and paraded over the fact that Kashmir is finally integrated with India. Seriously? was it not a part of India all this while? Or did you not have the ability to see it as a part of India with the special status? Point of information: 10 other states in the country have special status and the newly formed Andhra is fighting for special status.


The fact of the matter is that the special status of J&K has been hollowed over the years and now was merely an emotional or a symbolic tool of pride and autonomy to the natives of the state. There was minimal real life significant difference the special status made to anyone. By picking a fight that was not needed to be picked, the central government just ripped a bandage in one swift move before the skin over the wounds had completely regrown. It remains to be seen how far reaching are the consequences of this obsession of the BJP with article 370.

Doing the right things the wrong way is not right, it is just a sign of weakness.


The Strong and The Weak

Reflection-from-Mirror

The emotions they feel,
The dreamers, they dream,
The world doesn’t care, but,
In captivity, they breed.

The once expressing eyes,
Doesn’t wet, in good-byes,
Lost is the grin,
When the vibes are genuine.

Peeping in the subconscious,
Their manifestation, subtle,
Pushed back deliberately,
In the morning, eloquently.

The more they are repressed,
The better, it’s addressed,
The world needs the strong,
For the weak, always wrong.

Though the night, dark and long,
Stand still and stand strong,
For the weak always wrong,
Away from the weak, follow the strong.

Politics of Karnataka

The July of 2019 saw the politics of Karnataka reach one of its lowest points. The Congress-JDS alliance government was about to fall – only that it wouldn’t.

With the resignations of the nearly 18 MLAs, the government had gone into a minority in the house and was legally ineligible to run the government of the state. The build up to this situation was also an embarrassment. Horse trading has become a word used too often in the political scenario of Karnataka. Politicians have a price at which they would switch sides and help form or falter governments. Its shameful – but not new.

The coalition had been sworn into governance just 14 months ago and was deemed an unhappy marriage. The ministers in the cabinet had descended to a bunch of squabbling pirates trying to seize power from one another. Greed was so obvious that ministers were changed within months and a visible policy paralysis in the state with barely any representation at the national level. The general election of 2019 made the point clearer when both JDS and Congress were reduced to a solitary seat out of the 27 contesting seats from the state.

All that being said, the BJP which by far had the best numbers – 105 of the 224 seats in the Karnataka assembly was about to succeed finally to form the government. BJP had by hook and crook managed to get the MLAs to resign – ofcourse there is no actual proof that BJP did this, but that’s not the question. The point of concern is, even after the JDS-Congress alliance government went into minority they stalled the proceedings of the house and when the time came to seek the trust vote, the Chief Minister and the parties in government took up almost 3 days – 3 working days and almost 7 non work days to bring on the trust vote. It was just shameful. The whole country was covering the news. Karnataka politics had sunk to a new low, and there was nothing we could do, the public was just a dead rubber duck in a stale tub of dirty bath water.

Finally the government fell on the 23rd of July and made way for the new government to be sworn in. It is at this point that my brother in law sent me a link to a Times of India article which read “Only 3 CMs have successfully completed their term in the history of Karnataka”

I clicked it.

It said, Nijalingappa, Devaraj Urs and Siddaramaiah were the only chief ministers who completed a full term. Ofcourse, it’s just Times of India, so you can expect them to be a little hyperbole. Firstly there were 2 other CMs who completed full terms, Ramakrishna Hegde and SM Krishna. Inside the article it does specify that they are only talking of Congress CM’s but still SM krishna was a congress CM and they conveniently overlooked him.

Leaving the factual error aside, it’s still an eyebrow raising point that of the 15 state assemblies, the state has had 22 Chief ministers, and only 5 of them have stayed the CM for the full term. Why is this?

The people of Karnataka always pride themselves as being different from the rest of the country. Even though there is no lack of patriotism towards the nation, we’ve always been different. Rather we’ve been somewhere in the middle. Unlike Kerala or Tamil nadu or Bengal who have traditionally had their own way of thinking and their own rule, Karnataka politics has interwoven itself into the national politics at many places and also maintains long blank spaces of disconnect.

While there are places where we want conformity with the center, we’ve also struggled to find our own autonomy. The BJP of Karnataka doesn’t speak the language spoken by the BJP of the hindi belt of country, nor does the congress indulge in excessive sycophancy to the Gandhi family; and finally unlike Tamil Nadu, we don’t have a strong regional push for autonomy. Like all humans, the state of Karnataka has always been struggling to find a middle ground and the perfect blend of moderation. So what do the politicians of Karnataka hold dear? Values? where do they get their values from? Are they as confused as any regular citizen of the state?

Nijalingappa and Devaraj Urs are hailed as the greatest leaders that the state has seen. Some even term Ramakrishna Hegde, a prodigi of Nijalingappa, as a big name too, but he was a little too well connected with the underground and mired in scams, so lets not give him a pass for now.

Now speaking of Nijalingappa, he was obviously the most powerful and incorruptible leaders of the states, he came to the position because of his initiatives and movements towards the unification of Karnataka. It was his moves that made Tamil Nadu and Kerala move resolutions in their states for letting go of Kannada territories.

Urs had a lot of achievements to his name, he was the one who changed the name of the state from Mysore to Karnataka, and he was the one who approved the creation of the electronic city in Bangalore. It is also known that his next of kin were also involved in the underground of Bangalore, but that never smeared his image as an efficient administrator and visionary of Karnataka.

Even after the big three, Karnataka saw a spell of stable government when SM Krishna was sworn in as 16th CM of Karnataka in 1999. His vision for Bangalore is also hailed even today in urban legends of Bangalore. However, SM Krishna’s term ended in 2004 and hence started the turbulent times in the politics of Karnataka – a trend that has been going on since then.

Since 2004, in the 15 years there have been 4 assemblies constituted out of which one was dissolved; 10 swearings of the CM, and 2 stints of President’s rule in the state. How did it all go down so fast?

It all started in 2004 HD Kumaraswamy first engineered a defection in 2006 to leave the Congress-JDS coalition to join hands with the BJP with an added incentive of becoming the CM of the state. The Congress-JDS government in the first place had a rocky relationship because of multiple factors, prominent among them being the unassertiveness of CM Dharam Singh. Kumaraswamy’s actions didn’t stop with the first defection, after he held the CM’s post for nearly 20 months he was to transfer power to the BJP based on a power sharing agreement that they had while engineering the defections of 2006. But Kumarswamy didn’t come through, he refused to transfer power and hence the state was put under president’s rule. After 2 months, in the November of 2017, Kumaraswamy again extended support to the BJP and BS Yeddyurappa was sworn in as the CM of the state; but when it came to proving majority, Kumaraswamy again backed away due to disagreements in sharing ministerial positions.

The assembly was hence dissolved after 191 days of president’s rule and the fresh elections where announced. By now the people of the state had lost respect for the JDS and the BJP had gained public sympathy. The BJP came to power on its own by way of a historic victory for the BJP in the south of India. But does that mean this story has a happy ending? No.

The BJP was mired in corruption charges and Yeddyurappa was named in a mining scam chargesheet. The opposition and BJP central leadership demanded Yeddyurappa to step down from the CM’s post, but he wouldn’t. Amids massive public outrage doctored by the opposition, Yeddyurappa remained adamant and maintained that he was innocent and his conscious was clear. Eventually his prosecution in the mining scam reached a fever pitch and he was even pronounced to be held in police custody. BSY was now out of options and had to quit the CM’s post in the July for 2011, about 3 years after he had assumed office. He was so disappointed and disgusted by the lack of support from the central leadership that he even quit and party and joined a regional party called Karnataka Janata Party – he came in at the top as the party president. After this bitter turn of events, the BJP appointed 2 other CMs for the remaining 2 years of the assembly.

In the assembly elections of 2013, though the country was reeling under policy paralysis and sever corruption charges on the central government, the state voted in favour of the congress giving it a clear majority to form the government on its own. The main reasons for this being the split in the BJP and the general sentiment to stay away from corrupt politicians.

This government remained in power for the entire term of 5 years without many hiccups. Although not much was achieved in the term, there was nothing visibly wrong and the opposition just didn’t have enough opportunities to usurp. Point to note – Siddaramaiah, the CM who held the post for the full term is also a defector – in fact he has been in 5 different parties. The biggest episode being his exit from the JDS in 2005.

Then came the assembly elections of 2018. An eventless term of the congress was about to end. There was not much to show and tell for the congress. The BJP stuck to its idea of being one with the nation and trying to breathe a breath of fresh air in the politics of the state. All indications depicted that it was going to be a hung assembly and a story of 2004 to repeat all over again. That’s what we saw in the drama that unfolded in 2018-19.

Now that we know all the facts, the question to be asked is, why? why are these men after power and why do they openly and easily defect? and why is defection so acceptable? is there no place for loyalty and integrity? Most importantly, can we as public do nothing about it? because no matter whom we vote for, they all have their own agenda to push for and they wouldn’t mind switching sides without a second thought about their voters.

I guess this is a riddle for students of political theory?