Saturday, January 28, 2006

Remember Bangalore

Remember Bangalore
Development has been on sine die in Karnataka’s capital. Will that change if the regime does?
The Indian Express

It's proving to be a tortured countdown for the Dharam Singh government, as the narrative lurches from sullen family drama to political tug of war. Amid the endgame, with the assembly adjourned sine die, Deve Gowda has demonstrated once again his penchant for the noble farewell, last seen when the ‘humble farmer’ so unexpectedly hit the heroic note in Lok Sabha in the dying moments of a stunningly unremarkable prime ministership. It’s my karma, he breathes now in Bangalore as son Kumaraswamy carries his party, the Janta Dal (Secular), into the BJP’s embrace, I bear moral responsibility for what I could not prevent. Riveting as the performance is, Gowda’s attempt to play the overtaken father with the Dharam Singh government is simply incredible. But let’s not pause too long on the political theatre. As the soundbites about a regime change become more loud than clear, the uppermost concern must be this: will Bangalore finally get the government it deserves, whatever its political composition? A government that works?

Spare a thought for India’s IT hub. Ever since the Congress and JD(S) cobbled up the numbers in Bangalore after the uncertain verdict of 2004, governance has been held hostage to the uneasy relationship and Gowda’s irresponsible attempts to court the rural vote by loudly targeting Bangalore. Gowda unabashedly stoked tensions with the state’s IT industry, brought them to a boil. His brinkmanship led to the open and ugly sparring with N.R. Narayana Murthy, provoking the Infosys doyen to resign as the chairman of the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL). It was Gowda’s politics again and the Congress’s inability to check it — how could the party do so, given its own terrible misreading of the 2004 verdict in terms of a rural-urban rift? — that led to the systematic sabotage of the unique civic governance initiatives undertaken by the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF). The private-public partnership model in governance that might have saved the city’s infrastructure from the kind of collapse that was framed by the heavy rains late last year, was sabotaged by a shaky government flailing about for a political strategy.

Here’s hoping Karnataka won’t see a repeat of recent history. If the BJP gets a shot at power, it will be its first chance to truly spread into the south. For Kumaraswamy’s JD(S), it will be a stint in power it assiduously plotted for. Even with Deve Gowda looming large in the backdrop, the JD (S)-BJP, assuming the arithmetic holds, must ensure that the state has a government that spends its time in improving governance and developing infrastructure, not in stoking spurious divides. The politicians who win Bangalore must remember it.

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