Sitting in Bangalore, awaiting our big elections, a friend and I were casually discussing the current “rates” – the more “lucrative” slums in Bengaluru apparently net between Rs 5,000 and Rs 7,000 per vote, depending on the party. Astute voters can thus make a neat Rs 18,000 if they play their (voter identity) cards right. There’s more – the freebie of a bottle of booze.
Long live democracy, hic.
Rally-hopping: PM Narendra Modi has held 21 election rallies in Karnataka. Photo: PTI
The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has found that 391 candidates in the Karnataka elections of 2018 have criminal cases registered against them – 83 are from the BJP while 59 are from the Congress. Records also show there were 13,813 prisoners in Karnataka’s jails in 2012-2013. I feel quite sorry for those convicted. Criminals need to be educated on their right to win elections, after all.
Karnataka is a unique state. It has two major rivers that send their waters to neighbouring regions. It has two cash cows: Bangalore and the illegal mining business in Bellary. Not enough water. Not enough money. What really are the political parties here fighting for?
Apparently, there are no real mudde – issues – though. Instead, the mudde in play are soft raagi balls slurped down as a staple in Karnataka. There is a paucity of food – and there is also a paucity of real issues to fight elections over now. Three-fourths of Karnataka has little to no water, especially for farming. If every farming family did not have a daughter working as a domestic help or an Uber-driver son, Karnataka would beat Maharashtra at farmer suicides.
Not that urban Kannadigas are doing much better. The waters of Bellandur Lake are flammable. Other lakes have vanished or serve as the grounds for housing complexes. Half of the rapidly expanding “paradise city” depends on tankers for water. The good news is that we have prepared for 2032 in terms of our flyovers.
And what may be the most important question in these elections is very simple, really: Are Lingayats Hindus? In what many consider a masterstroke, CM Siddaramaiah accepted the recommendations of the Justice Nagamohandas Committee to declare Lingayats and Veershaiva Lingayats a distinct religion and a religious minority.
CM Siddaramaiah made sure the most important question in these elections would be: Are Lingayats Hindus? Photo: PTI
Lingayats themselves are divided over this declaration. This has also considerably weakened the Hindu vote bank, believed to be the BJP’s domain. Who knows what the outcome of all this will be. I have a feeling though that the divine is not really enthralled.
What else has this election thrown up? Let’s hear it in the words of an erudite gentleman named Sharan Pumpwell (no puns on the surname, please), Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Mangalore. “If a young girl goes to a pub, she will dance and drink there, she will do drugs. …Mangalore is a cultural place, with good sanskriti. That is why the youth want to put an end to such things.” He was referring to the youthful inclination to go into clubs and beat up girls there.
Unlike the US, where only the 19th Amendment to their Constitution gave women voting rights in 1920, Indian women had the right to franchise right from 1947, when our independence was declared. Gender equality is enshrined in our Constitution. In Karnataka, they could certainly use that franchise to beat the goons who want to beat them.
Since we are referring to an often-forgotten document, let us note a few keywords from its Preamble: “…constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC….” Secularism is not to be used as an election ploy or a tool of appeasement. The liberty of faith and worship in the eyes of the state and law is embedded in how our country is constituted. Yet, we are now calculating which way the Vokkaligas will vote and whether the Gowda vote will split between Siddaramaiah and Deve Gowda.
Don’t we deserve the personalities we vote for?
Meanwhile, the fabulously rich Reddy brothers from Bellary are in the fray for the BJP but seem invisible to the BJP delegation from the Centre. PM Shri Narendra Modi has also held 21 election rallies in Karnataka. He has withheld the Varuna ticket from BY Vijayendra, son of the chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa. All these could seem like worried measures, perplexing given that India is seemingly riding a saffron wave now. Perhaps the South is not as easy to please though.
These are but the sidelights of the entire election tamasha in Karnataka. The reality is this – the verdict is likely to be fractured. Both the leading parties are likely to have an equivalent number of votes, the scales tipping slightly to one side over the other. Neither will bring home a clear majority. Horses will thus be traded. Independents will be enticed. At the end of the day, an ex-PM who will never lose his “kingmaker” powers will step in and support one party.
Governments are made of these. Heat and dust in the eyes of the voter and, for a few, laughter all the way to the bank.