Karnataka State Election: A Key Test

    The 224-member Karnataka assembly will go to polls on May 5 and counting of votes will take place on May 8. Undoubtedly, this will set the tone for the 2014 general elections and will have significant impact on the political parties as to how they would conduct themselves in the realignment process. It is well known that the state of Karnataka has been beset with corruption, nepotism, ineptitude, public squabbling and internal rivalries and to simply put it, very bad governance. The BJP regime has also become known for its religious intolerance of the minorities and moral policing.

    In nutshell, BJP in their years as a ruling party saw Karnataka take a beating in terms of development as well as suffering a setback to the progressive image of such a vibrant state. I do believe the Kannada people deserve better governance. It was a state that created a Silicone Valley for India through its dynamism and energy under various Congress Governments. Non-Resident Indians working with entrepreneurs in India played a vital role in transforming the Karnataka State especially the city of Bangalore into a world class metropolis. US president Barack Obama has mentioned Bangalore in many of his speeches including once when he exhorted American students ‘to toil harder at school, saying their success would determine the country’s leadership in a world where children in Bangalore and Beijing were raring to race ahead’.

    Successive Congress Governments in Karnataka played key roles in making this a reality. It was the Congress governments under Veerappa Moily and S.M. Krishna who have ushered Karnataka into the modern age recognizing the potential of the Information Technology and Biomedical research and laid the foundation for their growth. In addition, the land reform act, major irrigation projects, establishments of several Universities including the University for Medical Studies and the prestigious Law School of India University were all part of those notable achievements. Moreover, four lakh houses were constructed during the last Congress Karnataka Government under “Rajiv Gandhi rural housing program.

    Since 1980 Karnataka leads the nation in GDP and per capita GDP as compared to other states in India and it should also be noted that with the initiatives undertaken during the Congress Government, Karnataka became home of largest biotechnology with 50% of large firms in Bangalore.” Sonia Gandhi in a major address pepping up the Congress cadres in Karnataka said “we all know corruption is a disease, a cancer. Who does it affect the most, it is the poor. No other party has done what UPA has done to fight corruption. We brought RTA (Right to Information Act) because we genuinely want to fight corruption”. She went on to say that the UPA government wanted to pass the Lokpal bill but BJP has indeed obstructed the initiative. There is no doubt that corruption is endemic and it is a national problem that transcends all boundaries. However, it is clear to those keen political observers who take an objective look at the issue that UPA Government has done a whole lot more to fight corruption than any one other party.

    Anyone who is directly accused of corruption has either resigned from the Government, or sent to jail or under active investigation and facing possible trial. The RTI itself has become the catalyst in unearthing numerous cases of corruption and has become a very effective tool in the hands of the civil society. In addition, the UPA Government has introduced a number of bills in the Parliament to combat corruption in public places that include The Public Procurement Bill, 2012, Grievances Redresser Bill, Foreign Bribery Bill, Judicial Accountability Bill as well as the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill. What happened to Karnataka under the stewardship of Yeddyurappa is out there for the record. He is accused of massive corruption, with 15 cases including him and his family members and was subsequently jailed. This is the first Chief Minister who has been jailed because of corruption.

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    It has been reported in the media that “All restraint appears to have been thrown to the winds during the reign of Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa when the Reddy brothers, ministers in his Bharatiya Janata Party government who had allegedly bankrolled the party’s campaign, were given free rein and the illegal mining spilled into adjoining Andhra Pradesh” A former BJP leader and a junior central minister Mr. V. Dhananjaya Kumar has even alleged that one of the national leaders of BJP was on the take from the Yeddyurappa Government in this web of corruption and the misguided governance. BJP also tried to turn Karnataka into a mini Gujarat with fanning of the flame of communalism across the state.

    There were cases of people getting killed, worship places of minorities attacked and their leaders jailed for exercising their right to religious freedom under the Constitution. Once again the objective of the BJP Government was to divide the people along caste and religious lines. Sonia Gandhi while visiting the Mangalore city said, “We have to see the forces of communalism are defeated… We must stand up and fight these forces. We must fight communalism regardless of where it originates from”. The UPA Government under the capable leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh has shown the way for economic growth and prosperity for all its citizens by leading India as an important player in the global arena while keeping the integrity of the nation and providing inclusive growth opportunity to everyone. The Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Act alone has given much needed relief for the so many unskilled laborers across the country.

    The reforms in the economic arena including granting of FDI to multinationals are not only to benefit the consumer but are also expected to bring technology and jobs along with. Undoubtedly, the NRIs in United States especially from the proud state of Karnataka with a long history and tradition would like to see their State continue to be a beacon of hope for freedom, liberty and Justice for all. The cosmopolitan city of Bangalore that has become a magnet for those with a vision, dynamism and energy has to be sustained and to be protected.

    The NRIs indeed have a stake in the outcome of this very important election. Therefore, the time is ripe for the people of Karnataka to speak out on the Election Day with their ballots. They can reclaim their state by electing clean candidates who are committed to good governance. I am certain that people of Karnataka will deliver their answer on May 5th. (The author is the President of the Indian National Overseas Congress (I) which is the recognized entity in USA by the All India Congress Committee and has various chapters that include a Karnataka Chapter headed by Dr. Dayan Naik)

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