Decline and fall of socialism
much before Karnataka’s politics degenerated into a den of corruption, the state boasted a legion of political leaders like S Nijalingappa who broke off from the congress and aligned themselves with a new variant of politics that was egalitarian and averse to one-family dominance. nijalingappa mentored ramakrishna Hegde and many others. From the 1960s till the ’90s, political socialism dominated the state before it got mutated into a virulent form of corrupt politics ceding ground to the BJP.
in today’s Karnataka, it would appear to be a tale from a forgotten era to recall that Hegde had resigned twice as chief minister on moral grounds – more so in a scenario where the state is believed to be fighting the most expensive elections in the country. Money has just been flowing like an unending stream of a mighty river – not cauvery which is dried up for want of water. While driving in the state, one regularly comes across ATM booths which do not have cash. But cash is the king in this election.
in such a setting, the discussion about socialism and its old proponents is not only irrelevant but also ridiculously archaic. This is why Bihar chief minister nitish Kumar was the odd man out when he came here to campaign for the eight candidates of his Janata dal (united). While driving down from Bengaluru airport, Kumar turned nostalgic and said, “This place used to be a bastion of the socialist leaders ranging from nijalingappa, Virendra Patil, Hegde and JH Patel to sr Bommai and Hd deve gowda – not to forget the redoubtable george Fernandes.
Why did socialist leaders cede space to parties like the BJP? i asked while prodding him to explain his perspective on the decline of a powerful ideology within a span of three decades. “You see, the problem arose as a large group of socialist leaders could not cohere as a group and also as leaders, though brilliant in their own right, they turned out to be and their own family went against the basic ethos of socialism. “lohia was quite emphatic about respecting people’s sentiment irrespective of their religions and castes. He wrote a beautiful essay on ram, Krishna and shiva, and emphasised their relevance in contemporary context.”
An astute politician that he is, nitish Kumar was quite aware of the limited scope of his appeal in Karnataka amid the din of an election campaign which is punctuated by high-decibel rhetoric on caste and religion, and is infused with cash on an unprecedented scale. on his way back, he recalled the manner in which lohia turned around the country’s politics only two decades after independence, in 1967, by helping to throw out congress regimes in many states. in a political atmosphere that reeks with slush money and subterfuges, such memories alone offer a whiff of fresh air.
These two reports have appeared on FirstPost.com in different versions.
Karnataka was once a lab for socialist experiments. That is no longer true. Campaigning there, Nitish Kumar lamented the end of an era, and the arrival of a political atmosphere reeking of slush money.