Sunday, July 31, 2005

Karnataka's Kingmaker or Bangalore-buster?

Karnataka's Kingmaker or Bangalore-buster?
Business Today

Fomer PM HD Deve Gowda is the man who calls the shots in Bangalore

Bangalore's descent into darkness has been well chronicled. Half-built flyovers, potholed roads, frequent power cuts, water shortages, choked lanes and by-ways, and unplanned growth are only some of its obvious manifestations. But an airport that is yet to take off 20 years after it was originally mooted, a highway connecting two major cities of Bangalore and Mysore in the works for more than a decade, and a mass transport rail system that has been in suspended animation for 17 years are all symptoms of a deeper malaise made worse by a government that has been ranked the fourth-most corrupt in India by Transparency International.

To be fair, most of the problems were inherited by the Dharam Singh government. But what Bangaloreans find inexplicable is that while the previous Congress government, led by SM Krishna, seemed willing to address these problems, the present coalition between Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) seems indifferent to the city's plight. And increasingly, Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former Prime Minister Haradanahalli Doddegowda Deve Gowda is seen as the man driving Karnataka's rural bias - at the cost of urban development.

It's easy to see why the self-proclaimed "son of the soil" has his heart in rural Karnataka. His regional party, which was written off until early last year, made a surprisingly strong comeback in last year's elections, winning 58 of the 224 seats, mainly with support from the rural electorate. Gowda, shrewd enough to see a clear message in Krishna's election loss, came in third in a hung assembly, and joined hands with the Congress to form the Government. Incidentally, Gowda's party failed to win even one seat in Bangalore and only recently did it score a victory in the bye-election.

With his party power base set in rural Karnataka, Deve Gowda sees no reason to pay attention to Bangalore. Only after years of tortorous negotiations has work on the Bangalore International Airport finally begun. "We managed to recover 400 acres of excess land given to the airport and cut the state government's monetary outgo by Rs. 30 crore. Isn't that an achievement? What if its leads to a bit of delay?", asks a combative Gowda.

Query him on the stalled Bangalore-Mysore expressway that has been mired in litigation, and the former PM comes in with all his guns blazing. "How much has the private company brought in as equity investment from their part? Rs. 70, that's all. The previous state government headed by the "best CM" gave them 2000 acres of excess land for a lease of Rs. 10, which the company has pledged with ICICI and raised Rs. 150 crore and now say it is their investment. Deve Gowda is the only one trying to safeguard the interests of the poor and for that, if I am blamed as stalling the progress of Bangalore, so be it", he says rhetorically.

What about the choked roads, half-built flyovers and threats by IT players, that they will move elsewhere if Bangalore's problems are not solved? "Let them go", is his nonchalant answer. "Why was one company (read: Infosys) alone favoured with so much land? All the visiting dignitaries go only there. Isn't WIPRO doing well?" asks Gowda. Land is a recurring theme in all coversations of Gowda. "Land is a scarce commodity and some of these companies have been enhancing their assets by grabbing real estate," he fumes.

Yet, Gowda says he is not against Bangalore's development. It's just that "Bangalore has only 7 million of Karnataka's 55 million people. My attention is towards serving those poor people". At 72, age has not dimmed Gowda's combativeness or his ability to bounce back from setbacks. Bangalore, however, may never recover from the setbacks its now facing.


At Monday, August 1, 2005 at 7:53:00 PM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who the F**k is Deve Lowda to decide who should stay in bangalore. if he is so fond of villages, he should be the first one to leave... fu_*&er stays in a posh bungalow in bangalore and keeps harping about villages...bas*&^rd also runs innumerable businesses in Bangalore.... why doesnt he dedicate all of them to the villages...
this ch_th should be castrated in public and his balls must be hung at the entrance of the vidhan soudha...


Post a Comment

<< Home