The Karnataka crisis – opportunities and perils for the people

A serious crisis in the state of Karnataka has resulted in the sanctioning of prosecution of the Chief Minister Shri B. S. Yeddyurappa by the Governor Shri H. R. Bhardwaj in the case of allotment of prime land in and around Bangalore to his close relatives. The BJP has gone on the war path calling for a statewide bandh and accusing the Governor of being a Congress agent. They claim that his single point agenda is to eliminate the BJP Government and prepare conditions for a Congress Government.

It is worth recalling that the BJP Government has been embroiled in a controversy for some years, with a perpetual campaign to destabilise the Government by the chief rivals in the state, namely the Congress as well as the JD(S). The BJP came to power in 2008 drawing on the support of some independent MLA’s after elections were called following the collapse of its alliance with the JD(S), with whom they had agreed on a power sharing arrangement. After the 2004 elections the JD(S) first had a coalition with the Congress and later with the BJP during the term of that assembly. During the present regime, an attempt to pull down the Government was manifested in ugly scenes some months ago, in which security forces prevented rebel MLAs from entering the hall in which Mr. Yeddyurappa was facing a confidence motion and the vote was being taken.

Thus, the enmity between the three main political parties has been sharpening over the years leading to this state of affairs. The case in hand is one of corruption, a subject on which the BJP has been traditionally claiming the moral high ground. It is now caught red handed in a case of blatant corruption involving the Chief Minister.

The JD(S) led by H. D. Dewe Gowda, former Chief Minister of Karnataka and Prime Minister of India, and his son H. D. Kumaraswamy claim to be championing the interests of the rural sector. They came to the fore after the defeat of the S. M. Krishna-led Congress Government in 2004, which was seen to be favouring only the cities and neglecting the agricultural sector, while the BJP is led by interests which are not the traditional constituency of the Congress Party.

The growth of capitalism in agriculture and the rise of the city of Bangalore as an IT world hub, has led to acute contradictions and cut-throat competition over land and resources. For instance, the portfolio for mining has become a prized one and the mining lobby is playing an important role in shaping policy. It is therefore no surprise that many of the scandals taking place in Karnataka have been over the control of land and real estate, the prices of which are notoriously spiraling upwards. Far from being peaceful, the capitalist development in Karnataka has been rife with controversy and tragedy, right from the NICE infrastructure corridor; and farmer suicides have become a daily feature.

The present scandal in which the CM is finding himself embroiled is precisely one of this kind, namely, it has to do with the grabbing of prime land for his near and dear. The issue came to the forefront some weeks ago when the Radia tapes scandal erupted at the Centre drowning out the noise in Karnataka. However, as the Radia tapes scandal has begun to fade, the Karnataka case has again come to the fore. It is clear that the two main parties behind the present crisis are indeed the Congress and the BJP which are both involved in brinkmanship, with accusations and counter accusations being leveled, with JD(S) fishing in troubled waters.

The present case presents both opportunities as well as perils for the people of India. On the one hand, all the political parties and their paymasters stand exposed thoroughly in the eyes of the people. There has been a rising demand to make all those in public office accountable to the people. The entire capitalist class stands exposed as a band of rapacious plunderers and the political parties are seen as mere purveyors of their policies. On the other hand, the present case also creates the illusion that the system has an inbuilt mechanism of checks and balances, and that it can bring wrong doers to book. There is much hype and confusion spread about, for instance, what the Lok Ayukta will achieve through his investigations or whether the order for prosecution is premature or not. Thus the debate has been turned into one where one may ask whether the Governor has exceeded his constitutional bounds, or whether he is justified in what he has done, which obscures the real issues at hand.

By clearly identifying the causes and method by which the system functions it can be readily demonstrated that no solution can and will be found to the problem of corruption. The entire scheme is one of this or that faction of capitalists backing this or that political party to get its work done. Corruption is the essential grease of this machine. Thus, whether the BJP can continue to claim the moral high ground, or whether the Governor has exceeded his bounds, is not the central issue. The issue is that under the present system the people are completely marginalised and disempowered. By first giving the call for a bandh and creating confusion and inconvenience for the people, and then by eventually bringing back an atmosphere of `normalcy’, the main causes for these phenomena can be pushed to the back burner. The struggle has to be sharpened to take the movement ahead, to show that the capitalist system and its representative democracy with bourgeois parties can neither erase corruption nor does it have the power to bring the guilty to book. One must not be lured into taking sides with this or that party in their internecine struggle.

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scandals    corruption    Feb 1-15 2011    Political-Economy    Political Process     Economy    

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