With BJPs unbridled electoral march, post Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh the battle seems to be far from over. Two states that seem to be an uphill task for BJP are that of Karnataka and Kerala. While there is time for Kerala elections, Karnataka goes to poll in 2018. Politically, the two southern states have many things common. Both are ruled by non-BJP/NDA dispensations, Congress in Karnataka and the CPI(M) led LDF in Kerala and both the state governments are knee-deep in corruption and mal-governance.
The National Media is generally apathetic towards the plight of the southern states and the coverage it gets stands at a bare minimum. With corruption, minority appeasement and political goondaism rampant in the region, BJP and its allies have already started mounting quite the battle. The CPI(M) led Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government has completely failed to maintain the law and order in the state and anti-social social elements are given a free hand to politically intimidate the voices which are exposing the corruption of the Government and its ministers.
One prominent politician who has been fighting an uphill battle against the political dispensations in Kerala and Karnataka, is Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrasekhar and the recent attack of a resort by the members of CPI(M)’s youth wing is an example of how they government there tried to intimidate MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar by targeting companies linked to him.
It first began by targeting and threatening a news channel which is known for its coverage of corruption and mal-governance of the ruling CPI(M) Government. Later when they realized that the intimidation attempt has failed, they targeted a company which is linked to MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar.
It is said that this attack was a deliberate effort to distract public attention from the recent embarrassment faced by the Government due to the alleged encroachment of public land by a sitting minister. Further, CM Pinarayi Vijayan Government’s track record on corruption and Governance has led to the resignation of 3 ministers in a span of less than 2 years. The Kerala government is allegedly complicit in violations of environmental laws with other private encroachers in Munnar which is part of ecologically sensitive Western Ghats. MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the land grabbing.
In Karnataka too, Mr. Rajeev Chandrasekhar has espoused some of the larger causes pertaining to transparency in governance. He has been in the forefront of the agitation against the non-transparent methodologies adopted by the present State government in the form of issuing contracts pertaining to the mega 6.9 km Steel Flyover project between Basaveshwara Circle and Hebbal. Mr. Chandrasekhar’s efforts in litigating against such environmental disaster and non-transparent methodology, led to the National Green Tribunal restraining the government from proceeding with the project, which ultimately led to loss of face for the government and the project was called off.
Mr. Chandrasekhar has also been in the forefront of public interest litigations for recovering public lands (revenue and forest) from the clutches of the powerful land grabbers. These litigations led to, more than 1.5 lakh acres of public lands being recovered from the powerful individuals including politicians.
His public interest litigations also led to successfully preventing the present Congress government from regularizing unauthorized constructions by errant developers, through the mechanism of Akrama-Sakrama. He has steadfastly fought for transparency in governance, which has not been palatable to those in power in the State.
While in Kerala his property was vandalised, in Karnataka, the opposition has mounted a fierce disinformation campaign against him. In fact, recently a veiled threat of sorts was also issued against Mr. Chandrasekhar.
I spoke to him to get a sense of politics in the two states and his role in the slow but steady rise of NDA.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s views on the recent caste politics that is being propagated by Congress and what might its implications be in the state of Karnataka.
He said he had predicted this many months ago that in the absence of any aspirational plans for the people of the country and even states, they (the Congress party) will dig deep into their own history and come up with the same plan that they have been propagating for so long, “which is divide, divide, divide”, and Siddharamaiah is a master of that. His entire politics is predicated on dividing the people.
Whether Siddharamaiah giving 31,000 laptops to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes is a precursor to how he plans to fashion his campaign around caste.
Chandrashekhar said that all along, Mr. Siddharamaiah’s politics has been this. He thinks that the OBCs, SCs, STs, Christians and Muslims are his vote bank, and as long as he keeps pandering to the vote bank, his political victory is ensured. He also added that it’s not like this is a novel idea that Karnataka CM has come up with, but this is basically what the Congress party has been doing for the past 6 decades. They play on people’s insecurities, amplify that insecurity, and then pretend like they are the messiah who will protect them from that insecurity. This is unfortunately what the minorities and many other communities have fallen prey to. They create a narrative that makes people paranoid, and then they step into that vacuum and claim that they are the ones who will protect the very people whose insecurities they amplified.
On whether his personal approach would revolve around providing solutions and development to the ones who had been, as he put it, fallen prey to Congress’ divisive agenda.
He said his political assessment is that every Indian, belonging to any caste or creed, wants a future which is safe and they want an equitable piece of the growing economic pie. The media keeps talking about growth, development and prosperity, and that is what every individual wants for themselves and their family. So at the end of the day, these silos that political parties put people in, whether it’s the SC silo, or Dalit silo, or Muslim silo, doesn’t guarantee that these silos will get people what they are aspiring for. The only way is to agree to a common set of rules and goals. He gave the example of former judge, KT Thomas who said that after the Constitution, it is the Army and RSS that keep Indians safe. And this is also why he himself started supporting the then Chief Minister and now Prime Minister Modi. He is also spoke of how KT Thomas said minorities have no problems in the country, as far as security and growth is concerned, but there is trouble only when they get more than what they are entitled to.
He said people in Karnataka, and more specifically Bengaluru, people are frustrated about failure of governance and failure in the sense that citizens, who are the primary stakeholders of any city, are completely ignored and a few vested interests are driving the direction in which the city is going. Bengaluru is an old city with an illustrious culture and heritage, and it is not a city that will roll over and say that they are willing to give up their heritage for a few people who would like to make big money by encroaching on land and the likes.
His views about the growing political violence in Kerala and the growing echo that not much is being done about it.
He said when political factions resort to such violence and intimidation, it is always because they don’t have any other alternative and are losing ground. When he was sent to Kerala for the last one year and he has been outing their corruption and violence, their response was essentially to turn up the violence. The politics of the left in Kerala is 65 years old, and NDA has gone from a 7% voteshare to a 15% voteshare. Now, any upswing in NDA’s voteshare, comes from the Left’s existing voteshare, and the left doesn’t have any aspirational propositions for the people, so their violence is aimed at retaining their existing cadre by intimidating them.
In Karnataka, the nexus between the political class and criminal elements should not be underestimated.
In connection with political violence and killing of karyakartas in the states, Mr. Chandrasekhar said that while he is no Mahatma Gandhi, but we have the tool of law with which such violent elements should be relentlessly prosecuted. He said that people must ask why the 6 pending cases are taking so long to reach its logical conclusion. The angst of the people is legitimate and the focus should be asking the state government to prosecute swiftly. He said that it should be our demand that outfits such as DYFI need to be banned.
His views on what NDA’s strategy should be considering that in Gujarat, Congress was the challenger and they adopted the divisive strategy, whereas in Karnataka, BJP is the challenger.
He said the NDA should go to the people with a clear communication strategy and expose the Congress strategy for what it is – divisive and hate mongering. Tell the people that BJP is offering transparency, clean governance, and equitable growth. He said these divisive elements can only thrive if BJP doesn’t go to the people and communicate what BJP stands for, thereby creating a vacuum. The BJP needs to start talking to the first time voters because they are the greatest beneficiaries of “new India”. Per him, there is no difference between the rural youth and urban youth. The aspirations have long been equalised. The world view of a 19 year old is going to be very similar. The rural population might fall for rabble rousing, as they did in Gujarat, is because the BJPs message might not be reaching in areas where elements divisive elements go and do their rabble rousing.
Mr. Rajeev Chandrasekhar said that Karnataka Elections is a do or die the situation for Congress. If they are ousted out of Congress, they will disappear from South India as well. He said if it is believed that Congress pull out dirty tricks in Gujarat, for Karnataka their dirty tricks are going to amplify to the power of ten. Their survival is predicated on this one state and they will do everything they can to win. Their game will be ten times dirtier than Gujarat. The Congress will only stoke caste fires and play their divisive politics till 201
Critics say that this ‘Vikaas’ approach worked in 2014, but now the youth couldn’t see the development in tangible measures.
To this Mr. Chandrashekhar said that there is indeed one mistake that the government has made. In 2015, when he was too low in the pays scale for anyone to pay heed to his words, he had suggested that the government brings out a white paper about the state of the economy. The people of India should have been informed about how low we can slipped and the struggle to climb out of that deep hole has taken us three years. It is only now, in the next few years, can be truly start consolidating and trying to create an upside. He said we can’t come up with a white paper now, but this story is worth repeating. How the country climbed out of the hole, and how it’s now on the path to development.