Meet Krishnaveni, a widow and a migrant labour from Andhra Pradesh who has been living for the past five years with her mother, two children and a younger brother in Bidar, the border district of Karnataka and a bridge between AP and Maharashtra. Together this family of five have two BPL cards between them (mother and brother have shown themselves as a different family, even though they all live together) and are making roughly 500 rupees every month by selling government subsidized rice and wheat – which forms almost a 6th of their total monthly earnings of about 3000 rupees. Going strictly by planning commission guidelines, Krishnaveni doesn’t actually qualify to be below the poverty line as she is making almost three times the amount prescribed for BPL families! But then, such is the Tughlaq raj of UPA.

The government of Karnataka has started a one rupee rice scheme for BPL families which is in turn sold in the open market for anywhere between 3 to 5 rupees (wheat suffers a similar fate). “The rice is not edible in any case” asserts Krishnaveni, when asked why she sells it off rather than use it to feed her children, “plus the extra cash is quite helpful”, she adds. Every month hundreds of ‘lucky’ families in Bidar district (and the entire northern Karnataka) simply get their cheaper ration from PDS and sell it off immediately for cash. Black marketers have set shop right next to ration shops equipped with scores of trucks, mini vans and other transport vehicles to enable easy selling of ration.

The argument that the government largesse is at least helping the needy (even if in cash) falls flat when we dig a little deeper. Krishnaveni and families like hers are lucky in the first place to possess a ration card while there are thousands of other unlucky ones (especially migrant labours) whose ration cards are in the possession of black marketers who prefer to directly get the ration and pay about 100 rupees to the male members (often drunkards) of these families as a monthly fee.

Huge go-downs and daru-making factories have sprung-up in the last few months in the bordering districts of the neighboring state of Maharashtra to take advantage of the situation. For instance, some 60 miles from Bidar is Umarga Chourasta along Maharashtra border where at least a dozen make-shift units of rice processing plants gave come up in the last 6 months, apart from big new warehouses which are government subsidized! Conservative estimates suggest that this whole business of ration black marketing is worth about 200 to 300 cr in the 6 districts of Hyderabad-Karnataka alone!

This is not the lone achievement of the Siddharamaih led Congress government of Karnataka, for there are many others in that list. In a recent announcement, the state government has started a blatantly communal “Shaadi Bhagya” scheme which donates 50000 rupees to women for their marriage, but there is a caveat, the women have to be Muslim (or of minority persuasion). This “Shaadi Bhagya” scheme has a particular tendency to create social pressures among the poorer sections of the backward region of northern Karnataka to convert to minority religions in order to avail 50000 rupees largesse from the state.

In fact there are already reports from Gulbarga district that Qazis are willing to temporarily marry young Hindu women to Muslim men and proclaim the women to belong to Islam for a consideration fee of 10 to 15 thousand rupees! “This is nothing but state sponsored love-Jihad (sic)” says one long term RSS functionary of Afzalpur in Gulbarga district.

This competitive communalism is a disease that Congressmen are all suffering from, not just the CM or his cabinet. Recently the state Congress unit chief openly asked state owned banks to give large and generous loans to Muslims and then went on to urge the Muslim community not to repay these loans. His contention was that utilization of taxpayers’ money in such a manner amounts to social justice for the deprived minority community!

These Tughlaq state government schemes, policies and announcements are fast turning into every day jokes in the state. There are also allegations of large scale corruption, especially in the recent transfer orders of a huge number of state government employees. No, the accusations haven’t come from the opposition parties, but from within the Congress party! A group of dissident Congress MLAs have complained to the party high-command about Siddaramaiah’s erstwhile Janata coterie making crores of rupees in the transfer business and not sharing the loot with original Congressmen!

Meanwhile governance in the state is on a holiday; many infrastructure projects of the previous government have slowed down to snail’s pace. For instance, the Tadadi port development and logistics park project proposed by the previous government, which had the potential to almost double the port capacity of the state is now lying in doldrums, because Karnataka’s very own Mr. 15%, Baburao Chinchansoor, the minister of textiles and ports is too busy looking for better commission from developers. Even the execution of the metro rail project in Bangalore has slowed down considerably in the last few months, especially in the central underground stretches.

In under six months, people in towns and villages of the state are already talking fondly about the Yeddyurappa years and his social-welfare schemes like Bhagya Lakshmi, which had helped millions of women and girls without any discrimination along religion or caste lines. It is almost as if this Siddaramaiah government is in a tearing hurry to break the record of his counterpart Akhilesh Yadav, by becoming unpopular at a faster pace. Even about 2-3 months ago many political observers, including this author, were predicting a sweep by Congress in the upcoming LS election of May 2014. Now the situation is changing drastically and there are some real reasons for such a change;

  • This Siddarmaiah government is bottom heavy – composed of Kurubas and other lower castes and Muslims, but with very little real representation to powerful middle castes of Lingayats and Vokkaligas. For instance, even in the villages and towns all the lucrative government contracts are going to erstwhile Janata pariwar workers of particular castes and denominations which has agitated the powerful and numerically larger middle castes, especially in northern Karnataka
  • Even powerful Lingayat and Vokkaliga Congress leaders have been either left out of the Siddaramaiah government or assigned minor jobs which has created an atmosphere wherein most of these ‘original’ Congress powerhouses are just biding their time and waiting for an opportunity to strike back at the ‘Janata gang‘. The LS elections would be a great chance for many of these dissidents to take their revenge
  • In just under 6 months corruption has become a major issue for this government because of its blatant mishandling of transfers. When large scale government employees’ transfer take place with money exchanging hands, the perception of corruption percolates down to the grass-root level
  • The blatantly communal pronouncements and policies of Siddharamaiah and co every day is becoming revulsive even to the Congress voters

Despite these anti-government undercurrents, Congress is still sitting smug because the main opposition, BJP, is still in deep coma in the state. BJP seems to be still reeling under the May defeat of the party. How else does one explain a party that talks of Hindutva ideology sitting mesmerizingly silent on the blatant communal outreach of the Congress government? So much so that Yeddyurappa is waging a lone battle against the Shaadi Bhagya scheme of the government, while BJP leaders are either sleeping or are busy cutting each other to size.

It is in such an atmosphere that Narendra Modi is visiting the state capital on Sunday, November the 17th. Apart from addressing a public rally and talking directly to the people of the state, he has to give a loud wake-up call to the state unit of the BJP and wake it up from deep slumber. This is the time to reorganize the local unit and bring in some fresh new ideas and faces. This is also the time to reach out respectfully to your one mass leader in the state, for no matter how popular the Modi wave is, converting that wave into votes and seats is a job that only a Yeddyurappa can do. The party and Narendra Bhai has to also try and show courage for once to kick out the one man who is hell bent on destroying the party in Karnataka – it would be easy to discover him in the crowd, for he should get the loudest booing from the crowd in palace grounds. Ignore those boo’s, Modi ji, and you shall get the gifts in the month of May next year, from EVM machines of Bangalore with a vote for the “Khooni Panja!”

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Praveen Patil

Praveen Patil

Analyst of Indian electoral politics and associated economics with a right-of-centre perspective.