Rahul drawing poor crowds, while BJP waits to unleash PM Modi.

 

By all accounts, the contest in Karnataka is still wide open. It can go either way. If in the Assembly poll in Punjab last year, Captain Amarinder Singh had called the shots, virtually marginalising the Congress high command, in Karnataka, Siddaramaiah is in control, with Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders reduced to playing secondary roles. The reversal of roles between the state and Central leadership might make for a healthy inner party democracy, but it also underlines the diminished pulling power of the first family of the Grand Old Party. It no longer occupies the pole position in the polity and might not do so for a long time to come.

In fact, despite Rahul’s energetic forays into Karnataka, what with him paying well-publicised obeisance before one Mutt head or the other, he fails to enthuse the voters. The other day he was in Shimoga, a major city in central Karnataka, drawing such poor crowds that he lost his cool, rebuking the party functionaries for not doing enough to line up the people. Rising summer temperatures was dismissed as a poor excuse, though no party leader had the courage to tell him that he lacked the charisma to attract people.

In sharp contrast to Siddaramaiah, the rival chief ministerial candidate, B.S. Yeddyurappa, is seen to be only the first among equals in the BJP state unit. With Amit Shah and the RSS-BJP election machine in full swing, Yeddyurappa ties up the loose ends, manages ground-level operations, provides valuable inputs about caste and community conformities and contradictions. He undoubtedly remains the chief ministerial candidate, but the poll effort is being led by Shah. And, unlike the Congress’ high command, the BJP has a winning mascot in the Prime Minister. Once Narendra Modi throws himself fulltime into the campaign, the BJP expects to tilt the scales from 50:50 currently to 70:30 in its favour, especially when Rahul cannot bail out Siddaramaiah.

Meanwhile, interesting battles are in store. It seems the former Prime Minister and head of the JDS, H.D. Deve Gowda, the self-confessed humble farmer, might challenge his protégé-turned-turncoat Siddaramaiah, while Yeddyurappa’s son, B.Y. Vijayendra, is likely to contest against Siddaramaiah’s son, Yathindra. An understanding between the BJP and the JDS to humiliate Siddaramaiah cannot be ruled out, though elsewhere it might well be a three-cornered fight.

NOT EASY TO CURB FAKE NEWS
If only Smriti Irani had paused to ponder that journalists are not the only ones capable of spreading fake news! Tens of crores of Indians with smartphones can do it as easily as any journo sitting in New Delhi. Why try something which is just not possible, at least not so long as social media continues to be a free platform, available to anyone with an internet connection? Someone sitting in Timbuktu can punch in two lines, triggering panic or celebrations, depending on where you are and who you support. And he does not need to be even accredited to the Press Information Bureau nor, for that matter, does he have to be answerable to any law. Internet allows you to do mischief while protecting your anonymity mostly.

On a subject like this, Irani went ahead without first thinking through the pros and cons, the impossibility of policing the social media, ignoring how they in the US cannot still figure out how to tame the menace flowing in from Putin’s hacks and messing up their electoral process.

LOOK YOURSELVES IN THE MIRROR
Even if you don’t expect Rahul Gandhi to know the difference between a bank loan write-off and a waive-off, at least the Congress Party could have consulted P. Chidambaram before rushing to town with the claim that the Modi government had allowed the loot of bank funds. For, if the loan write-offs were 13% or Rs 2.41 lakh crore between April 2014 and September 2017, these were, Rahul should note, nearly double at 25% in March 2006 to 2011. After Modi closed the freely leaking faucet of bank credit, available to all comers who first serviced a key figure close to a UPA minister, these declined to 18% in March 2015 and to 13% in March 2017. Politicians should look themselves in the mirror before shooting off their mouths to criticise their rivals.

NAUKRI AUR KAAM
Social media can educate you about the difference between jobs and work. As someone pointed out, there is plenty of work available if one is inclined to…well, work. Yes, selling pakodas too is a line of work where you are your own employer. But the problem is everyone wants a job, preferably a government job, because here work is optional, while income is guaranteed.

Anyway, we here take note of a survey which reports that the services sector is once again looking up, returning to the growth path after the recent disruptions caused by demonetisation and GST. The Nikkei India Services Business Activity Index rose from 47.8 in February to 50.3 in March, recording growth both in manufacturing and services sectors. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) was up in the same period from 49.7 in February to 50.8. Should this trend continue and with the forecast of a good monsoon, the economy might be on course to grow at 8% in the election year.

Shouldn’t the Oppositionwallahs devise some new ways to spread doom and gloom now that Parliament is adjourned and they no longer have a platform to showcase their disruptive skills? Even misleading Dalits on the anti-atrocity law seems to have recoiled on the organisers of Bharat Bandh, with the court rebuking them for not caring to read its judgement.

OUR CORRUPT ARE LUCKY
If it is any consolation to the Indian voter, three former heads of government in as many countries are staring at long jail terms for corruption. While former South African President Jacob Zuma has been charged with a Bofors-like scam for taking hefty commissions, the former President of Brazil Lula da Silva has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption. Above all, the former President of South Korea Park Guen-hye has been given 24 years in jail for corruption. Our corrupt leaders, however, go on to found dynasties.

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