Unhappy, upset or angry: Karnataka’s winter of discontent (Letter from Bangalore)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

BANGALORE - A casual visitor to Bangalore these days will be left baffled. The first impression will be that everyone appears to be either upset or unhappy or angry, with nothing seemingly going right.

From the governor, the constitutional head of Karnataka, to the chief minister, from politicians to ‘aam admi’, from bureaucrats to techies and from housemaid to housewives, all have a grouse or two to narrate.

Food prices, particularly of vegetables and fruits, are relentlessly marching upwards, the Metro is nowhere near meeting its December 2010 launch, newly flyovers and toll roads have worsened traffic snarls, power cuts continue at the height of winter….

You name an issue, and there will be a litany of complaints.

In the midst of all this, the youth that dominate the IT workplace, who particularly look forward to some spirited New Year revelry to wish away a bad year and hope for better times, has additional worry to boot.

It is busy looking over its shoulders to election officials and police to know whether the last day of the year will be a ‘dry’ day, as elections to district bodies in several parts of Karnataka will held Dec 31.

In a month, from mid-November to mid-December, vegetable prices have shot up.

A kg of brinjal that cost Rs.18 now comes for Rs.37, tomato has risen from Rs.12 to Rs.31, onion from Rs.48 to Rs.51, capsicum from Rs.15 to Rs.60, apple (kg) from Rs.66 to Rs.72, seer fish from Rs.220 to Rs.270, mutton from Rs.280 to Rs.300, and chicken from Rs.50 to Rs.55.

Electricity rates would have gone up by about Rs.30 paise per unit but for the Dec 26-31 polls to 176 taluq and 30 zilla panchayats (district councils).

The government has put on hold the recommendation of the electricity regulatory commission that recommended on Dec 7 an immediate hike in the tariff.

But there is plenty to cheer if one has a wacky sense of humour.

Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa threatens taluq and zilla panchayat voters that he will not visit their place if his Bharatiya Janata Party is not voted to power in their panchayats.

He clarifies it was a remark made in jest.

His predecessor and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) state president H.D. Kumaraswamy tells the same voters: “Give us vote or give me poison.”

Nearly the whole of November went in the Congress and JD-S, particularly the latter, releasing documents after documents to show Yeddyurappa favoured his kin with prime land in and around Bangalore.

The chief minister’s defence was classic - my predecessors did the same, he proclaimed, and ordered a probe into land scams since 1995 till Nov 22, 2010.

Karnataka has had six chief ministers in these 15 years.

When the Lok Ayukta (ombudsman) said setting up the panel was not legal as he was probing several land scams, he was accused of acting like an opposition leader by none other than BJP president Nitin Gadkari.

The ruling BJP considerse the governor its “real opposition” and not the Congress, to which the governor belonged, and JD-S.

Governor H.R. Bhardwaj, a former central law minister, is soft-spoken but aggressive in taking on the Yeddyurappa government.

Bhardwaj rarely misses an opportunity to question in public the actions, or lack of it, of the Yeddyurappa ministry.

Yeddyurappa does not attack the governor or Lok Ayukta. He has left it to his party unit president K.S. Eshwarappa and the party spokesmen.

They are always calling Bhardwaj a “Congress agent”.

With campaigning for the taluq and zilla panchayats gaining momentum, the slew of charges against each other by the three political parties, with occasional potshots from the governor against the government, should help distract people’s worry from rising prices — and other problems.

Filed under: Politics

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