It’s Sho­lay all over again

Governance Now - - WHITHER DEMOCRACY? -

While driv­ing down from Ben­galuru to my­suru, you come across a patch of hillocks near ra­mana­gar whose hillocks pro­vided the back­drop for the all-time hit Bol­ly­wood movie, sho­lay. This was where vil­lain gab­bar singh, played by inim­itable Am­jad Khan, de­liv­ered that im­mor­tal di­a­logue, “Kitne aadmi the? (How many peo­ple were they?)” The di­a­logue is bet­ter re­mem­bered for its style of de­liv­ery than con­tent.

As the vot­ing day came closer, this di­a­logue found res­o­nance in the re­gion, as the congress, the BJP and Janata dal (sec­u­lar) des­per­ately tried to keep their flock to­gether and mo­ti­vate their cadre to outdo the oth­ers in the poll cam­paign.

in the core my­suru re­gion, there are 29 as­sem­bly seg­ments which are known to be strongholds of ei­ther the congress or the Jd(s). Former Pm Hd deve gowda be­longs to the re­gion and is known to have con­sid­er­able clout among Vokkali­gas of the area. His son and former cm Hd Ku­maraswamy was seen as a po­ten­tial king­maker in case of a hung ver­dict – pro­vided he him­self re­tained his in­flu­ence among vot­ers.

Trav­el­ling across the re­gion, it was quite ev­i­dent that the congress and the Jd(s) were the dom­i­nant po­lit­i­cal forces. For his­tor­i­cal rea­sons, the congress was still a party that can claim to have a sig­nif­i­cant fol­low­ing across caste groups. For older gen­er­a­tions, indira gandhi is still an un­for­get­table icon and debt to whom is weigh­ing heav­ily in their mind. And sid­dara­ma­iah de­spite his fail­ing as cm was not a pushover.

un­like his pre­de­ces­sors like sm Kr­ishna, sid­dara­ma­iah is a full-time politi­cian deeply en­grossed into his vo­ca­tion in his ev­ery ac­tion round the clock. And since the as­cen­dancy of the BJP, he un­der­stood the ne­ces­si­ties of ce­ment­ing his so­cial base by play­ing in­her­ent con­tra­dic­tions in the so­ci­ety. That was why he de­cided to de­clare the lin­gay­ats as dis­tinct reli­gion other than Hindu.

since Kar­nataka’s so­cial econ­omy re­volves around thou­sands of maths (re­li­gious seats) that com­mand over­ween­ing in­flu­ence on different castes, sid­dara­ma­iah des­per­ately tried to win over maths and caste groups in or­der to con­sol­i­date his po­lit­i­cal sup­port base and sub­sume Hin­dutva. in so­ci­o­log­i­cal terms, he at­tempted to sub­sume “larger tra­di­tions by lit­tle tra­di­tions” in the state. His move to forge a coali­tion of ‘Ahinda’ (mi­nori­ties, obcs, and dal­its) could be a sound po­lit­i­cal strat­egy that is rem­i­nis­cent of KHAM in gu­jarat or ma­j­gar in ut­tar Pradesh.

com­pared to the congress, the BJP in the re­gion was a much less sig­nif­i­cant force given its in­ter­nal fac­tional feuds. in 2014 and even be­fore, Bs Yed­dyu­rappa, the party’s tallest leader, was marginalised thanks to in­ter­nal bick­er­ing led by fac­tions owing al­le­giance to lk Ad­vani, sushma swaraj, and Ananth Ku­mar. Yed­dyu­rappa floated his own party and re­duced the BJP to a com­pletely mar­ginal force.

of course, the BJP’S strate­gists were sharp enough to ap­pre­ci­ate the po­ten­tial of Yed­dyu­rappa and roped

him in as the chief min­is­te­rial can­di­date for the up­com­ing elec­tion. in posters all across the state, he is given more than ad­e­quate promi­nence along with naren­dra modi and Amit shah to em­pha­sise his nu­mero uno po­si­tion within the party’s state unit. given his back­ground as a for­mi­da­ble leader of farm­ers and his in­flu­ence on the pow­er­ful lin­gay­ats, the BJP was able to put up a stiff re­sis­tance to the congress in nearly a third of the 29 con­stituen­cies in the re­gion.

But the party that seemed to be gripped by the ‘kitne aadmi the’ syn­drome was es­sen­tially the Jd(s). This re­gion has been re­garded as the pocket bor­ough of gowda’s fam­ily. Ku­maraswamy claims that legacy, and has been heav­ily bank­ing on the sup­port of this re­gion to en­able him to as­sume the role of a king­maker. Sig­nif­i­cantly, Ku­maraswamy was rec­on­ciled to the idea of play­ing the role of a leader who will hold the key to power. And to re­alise this po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tion, he would be keen only to re­tain 30-40 seats that can en­able him to see through his plan.

But there is a st­ing in the tail which is again bor­rowed from sho­lay in which the jailer played by As­rani asks his men, “Aadhe id­har jaao, aadhe ud­har jaao, baki mere saath aao (half of you go on this side and half on the other side and the rest come with me)”, with­out re­al­is­ing that he is left with no one. That is the po­ten­tial risk Ku­maraswamy’s strat­egy may en­tail.

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