Bangaluru: Is Tirthahall, in danger of being reinvented as Karnataka’s Katra Sahadatganj. That’s the village in Badaun in Uttar Pradesh that gained notoriety when two teenage girls were found strung up from a tree in May this year, after being allegedly gang-raped by men from a rival community. Except, it turned out to to be a ‘dishonour’ killing.
No honour in killing your daughter, is there? As the cries get shriller in Tirthahalli this week over the unexplained circumstances behind the sudden death of the 14 year old schoolgirl, there’s just so many questions that must be asked of all the parties who have chosen to deliberately muddy the political waters.
The first. Why has the chief minister not met Krishnamurthy, the distraught father of the child who has gone public with his doubts, his fears and his accusations? Why, after he clearly named the suspects whom he believed were behind the events that led to his daughter’s death, have they not been questioned? And why, has there been no condolence call by any member of Mr Siddaramaiah’s cabinet, no phone call, no visit to the girl’s home to offer their sympathies, even ten days after the death of the child.
While the Siddaramaiah government comes across as cold and unfeeling, more worried the issue will blow up in their face as it fends off criticism from all quarters, let me also say this to all the BJP stalwarts making a beeline to Tirthahalli to feed off this particular carcass be careful what you bite off, gentlemen. It could be more than you could chew, let alone swallow.
If the Siddaramaiah government is being seen as oblivious to the grief of a father and mother whose child may have literally died of fright when faced with a sexual predator who may have drugged her, a word to the wise men of the BJP is this really the way you want to win Karnataka, feasting off a parents’ tears?
Is this how Narendra Modi’s BJP wants to make a comeback in the state it lost because it did exactly what the UPA did at the centre? Daubed corrupt, it lost its political mojo?
Contrast Mr. Eshwarappa’s puerile fulminations – and of course our home minister Mr. George’s crack to the visual media about playing up rapes to push up TRPs with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s return visit to Benares when he reached out directly to the weavers of this ancient city, a vast thriving community of Muslims, who live alongside the holiest of holies, Ma Ganga, the ghats, the shrines, the evening aratis flaming at dusk. The eponymous Banarasi saris sold by Hindu merchants, on their behalf. Partners, connected by a silken thread.
Modi may have been pilloried for allowing Godhra, and yes, some of his historical and scientific perceptions are definitely odd. But since he moved into 7, Race Course Road, there has been little attempt to polarise society.
In fact, while the decimation of his political opponents – including the iconic Indira Gandhi and her father, Jawaharlal Nehru has been through old-fashioned politicking, the new voters who thronged to his side are drawn by the message of change, of hope, of transformation. A message, that cuts across class, caste, sub-caste, colour and creed.
The army of bureaucrats, plucked from obscurity and brought into the light to do his bidding are picked for their competence, not their connections or their ancestry or their ideological leanings.
Modi wants India to reactivate the nation’s industrial base, free it from the labour laws that strangulate it, and bring in investment that will generate employment for the hundreds and thousands of young people graduating from our colleges and looking for gainful employment.
Farm to market. Indians all. And that’s the message that our chief minister Siddaramaiah must crunch into his strategic calculus – if he has one – if the Congress does not want to lose the only state – apart from Kerala – where it has some residual political standing.
The unseemly tussle over who should be appointed to the boards and corporations, and who should be rewarded with plum ministries smacks of a government that wants to green signal the rape of the state.
Skim the top off the grants and the welfare programmes that run into thousands of crores, safe in the knowledge that no-one will complain when it has an SC-ST cover or is an allocation for the purchase of cattle or a dowry for the impoverished girl child.
This government’s emphasis on agriculture while letting plans for IT parks and industrial zones rot by the wayside is at variance with what the Congress originally advocated the Five year plans, the green revolution. As the world changed, we were left on the sidelines, a socialist state that couldn’t lift its millions out of poverty.
But, if there is one industry that is a ticket to a better life, it is IT. Can we not see how it has turned the pensioner’s paradise we grew up in, into this bustling new boomtown?
If the chief minister’s reluctance to take the path trodden by his remarkable predecessor S.M. Krishna is stopping him from supporting the IT industry, he should think again.
The IT industry may have been given a number of tax breaks, become a magnet for the outsider, but it also enriched the community that already existed here, and that must rank as a plus.
That’s no excuse for Siddaramaiah’s Congress to borrow from the blinkered canon of the Shiv Sena, with its insular Mumbai for Mumbaikars, Maharashtra for Maharashtrians cry.
Bengaluru only for Bengalureans? Karnataka, only for the Kannadiga? Or only for Backwards, OBCs, BTs, and as is whispered in the corridors of power, the tiny coterie that this government considers its own.
If every state chief minister became even half as parochial, what would we do if the doors were shut in the face of Kannadigas seeking their fortune elsewhere, in other states across the country?
The Supreme Court has rightly scotched the government’s plans to conduct a caste census, with insiders saying it was a ploy by the chief minister who wants to cast himself as the next Devaraj Urs, by changing the reservation matrix so that only one caste benefits.
True or not, for an IT giant like Infosys, synonymous with Bengaluru’s hard won status as the IT capital of the country, to threaten to move next door where the country’s savviest chief minister Chandrababu Naidu is back helming Andhra Pradesh, is a huge blot on our door.
Srivatsa Krishna may be the brightest of sparks but as IT secretary, he has done little to shore up the Congress party’s image in this state.
Word is, the Congress is loath to turn Devanahalli into the promised Metropolis, as most of the land, major portions of which are benami is actually in the clutches of BJP stalwarts.
Does it really matter? Isn’t the economic growth of the city, far more important than whether a BJP leader stands to gain or a Congressman? It’s the state that matters, and the hundreds of young people Kannadiga and non-Kannadiga who stand to gain from an IT park, that could see major franchisees opening their doors.
Why is the entire state machinery dragging its feet on every issue of import? Where are the promised two tier cities? Our small airports? Our garbage treatment plants? Our 24 hour power supply?
The Tirthahalli tragedy, in fact, symptomatic of a government, safe in the knowledge that the Congress in Delhi will do nothing to touch its only government in the south – yes, yes, not including Kerala.
Siddaramaiah’s government. Unmoved, indifferent. As Dennis Prager rightly said, “The larger the state, the more callous it becomes… the colder its heart…”