Karnataka: A Year Of Flip-Flops
As the year comes to an end, Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa has made a flip-flop - nothing surprising in a year that has seen more than its share of those. It was perhaps even inevitable that Yediyurappa, the ace politician, should do one over compensation to the families of victims of police firing over the fraught CAA protests in communally sensitive Mangaluru.
The flip was when Yediyurappa went against the grain of his own party by showing his displeasure over the police handling of the situation and meeting the families of the victims in Mangaluru. The flop came about with the announcement that this compensation will be given only if the victims were “bystanders” as the families claimed and not part of the protest or the violence: even if this issue itself is debatable.
If the captain is flip-flopping, can his team be far behind? Home minister Basavaraj Bommai has perhaps even one-upped him. He first said Karnataka had the country’s first detention centre for “non-citizens” at Nelamangala on the outskirts of Bengaluru -- this was a few months ago, when the heat was on Yediyurappa from his detractors in Delhi and Bengaluru who have the backing of India’s powers-that-be.
Now, Bommai, perhaps in line with the Delhi bosses’ assurance to Indians, has said the centre is for those who have overstayed in the state (largely from African countries) or who have committed crimes. It is not clear if this is the final stand on the matter.
Other flip-flops in the state have changed a government just 13 months after the state assembly elections in 2018. Those who swore personal loyalty to former chief minister Siddaramaiah of the Congress and the father-son duo of HD Deve Gowda and HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal (Secular) deserted them and jumped onto the BJP bandwagon.
Out of the 15 who tested their political and financial resources with the people, 12 of them were “blessed” by their constituents who evidently wanted a government where partners did not bicker like the leaders of the JDS and the Congress. The voters - even those who supported Congress and JDS - took the mockery of the anti-defection law and subversion of democracy in the re-election of deserters as BJP MLAs, to be merely another chapter in power politics.
As a hardcore loyalist of the BJP said, “You are still looking at it from the prism of what is permissible under the Constitution. This is the era of power politics. Nobody looks at the rules of the game. They set their own rules to get power and remain in power.”
The unity seen among the Lingayats in the by-elections was akin to the coalition of the Hindu caste groups during the May 2019 elections to the Lok Sabha - and a contrast to their stand just a year earlier. The Congress that missed coming back to power in 2018 mainly due to Siddarmaiah’s miscalculation over Lingayat dynamics, was a complete flop show in the Lok Sabha elections with a record low of winning just one of the 28 seats in its old bastion of Karnataka.
Karnataka also faced the loss of the cultural titan Girish Karnad and eminent litterateur LS Seshagiri Rao. It lost entrepreneur VS Siddhartha who provided new hope and showed the way to entrepreneurship to the young people of the coffee growing areas of Chikkamagaluru and Kodagu. He enhanced domestic coffee consumption and made a change in the worklife of people across the country.
The year saw a father being beheaded by his own son who was addicted to the online game of PUBG. This case brought out the fact that online games were not the special domain of only the urban classes but also the rural sector. The number of addicted in the rural sector was around 4 to 5 per week, according to one estimate. Karnataka also saw two young men quit the civil service soon after the state of Jammu and Kashmir was reduced to three union territories.
Still, there were positives. Who can forget 12-year-old Venkatesh running on a flooded bridge to guide an ambulance carrying patients and two dead bodies in Raichur district? And who can forget the latest sensation on social media, Bhagya Narasimhamurthy Priyadarshini, who has taken on the BJP and the RSS during the course of the protests against CAA and NRC. She has come to symbolise the power of the youth.
As 2020 dawns, it could be the year when hope rests in the hands of the young people to protect the Constitution as much as Karnataka will depend upon the political sagacity of a 76-year-old politician in Yediyurappa to prevent it from going the path of an Uttar Pradesh.
Both elements appear to be the positive elements that could guide the state’s future, flip-flops notwithstanding.