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Capital Grapevine  

Virendra Kapoor

Karnataka `gathbandhan’ is a poor advertisement for nation-wide coalition

Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy knows that his days are numbered. The Congress needs him only till the day of the polling for the Lok Sabha. After that it will throw him aside like a used condom. Perfidy is in the Congress DNA. It has propped up a number of coalitions, both at the Centre and in the States only to pull the plug on them once its objective is realized.

In Karnataka, the objective is two-fold. One, to keep the BJP out, the largest party with 104 MLAs as against Congress’ 79. Two, to market nation-wide its current necessity for a coalition at the Centre in order to defeat Modi. Whatever the outcome of the parliamentary poll, the countdown for Kumaraswamy has already begun.

Of course, Kumaraswamy himself is no babe in the woods. He is fully alive to the Congress threat. That would explain his remarks every other day to suggest his miserable plight, tied hand and foot in the proverbial tail of the senior partner, which controls his every move. From comparing his condition to worse than a government clerk, or to a prisoner who has little or no freedom, Kumaraswamy has painted the Congress as a difficult ally which controls him, the chief minister, constantly.

Even after the recent scare to the coalition which the Congress is desperately trying to quell , with the Congress leadership blaming the BJP for its own internal dissensions and dissonances, Kumaraswamy did not mince words, regretting that he lacks a majority of his own. While insisting that the government is stable, in the same breath he spoke of his misfortune that he heads a coalition government.

Former Chief Minister Sidharamiah, number two in the JD(S) for decades, has no love lost for Kumaraswamy. In fact, Kumaraswamy was the reason why he had to leave the JD(S) since Deve Gowda chose his son over a valued colleague for chief ministership. He is desperate to dislodge Kumaraswamy as soon as he can.

The precarious state of the Karnataka coalition is a poor advertisement for the Congress to sell on the parliamentary stump. Indeed, it endorses the warning already emanating from the BJP quarters about the huge difference between a ~mazboot Sarkar~, like Modi’s, and a ~mazboor Sarkar~, like Kumaraswamy’s. Given the option, voters will have little choice but to go for a ~mazboot~ Sarkar.

Particularly when the record of the Congress-led or supported coalitions is marked by betrayals and scams. Narasimha Rao at the instance of the IMF-World Bank installed a professional economist as finance minister whose specific brief was to open up the economy. ( Manmohan Singh, holder of no strong views on any issue, had earlier as an economic bureaucrat implemented most stringent clamps on growth in the heyday of the license-permit raj.) But who can forget the JMM bribery case for propping up the minority government. Or the Maruti scam involving the transfer of the controlling stake in the auto giant to Suzuki at a fraction of its market price. Again, remember how two Haryana constables were sighted by a nameless factotum in the Gandhi household for Rajiv Gandhi to get his excuse to pull down the Chandra Shekhar government.

Of course, regional parties are alive to the perfidious role of the Congress whenever it finds itself out on a limb and needs external support to bounce back to power. That would explain why the Bua-Bhatija partnership in UP treated the Congress with utter disdain, leaving, on mercy grounds, two seats for the mother and son duo. Other regional chieftains are no less dismissive of the Congress’s claims to lead the much-touted `gathbandhan’ or `mahaghatbandhan.’ Mamata Banerjee pointedly ignored Rahul while calling leaders of various parties to her rally in Kolkata. But so pitiable is the plight of the Congress boss that he nonetheless dispatched an ingratiating message.

The cravenness of the Family in its decline is such that it is desperate for a non-BJP government, any government so long as it is not headed by Modi. Given the serious charges of corruption against the mother-and-son duo, and not to forget that fulltime bodybuilder-turned- tycoon Robert Vadra, nee, Gandhi, and a number of other senior Congress leaders, including P. Chidambaram, missus and the darling son, one does not have to look hard for the reason for visceral hatred of Modi and their desperation to foil his re-election.

Unfortunately, our justice system grinds so slowly, especially when it involves the rich and the famous, that the intervention of a Lok Sabha poll has come as a ray of hope for all the accused. A friendly government at the Centre would bury every case of corruption a million fathoms deep. This is a very good reason to give Modi a second term. And it is not vendetta. No. Unless our political class is made to account for its abuse of power for money-making, there can be little hope of weeding out corruption from the system .

In this context, look at that messiah of honesty Arvind Kejriwal whose ministers and MLAs are up in arms against the Lokayukta for being asked to furnish the list of their assets. Instead of coming clean, they have, true to type, ascribed motives, accusing the Lokayukta, Reva Khetrapal, a former Delhi High Court judge, of vengeful action upon being forced to install the GPS system in her official vehicle.

Given the totality of circumstances, it is more than likely that the voters will reject the regional parties, singly or in coalition. It is notable that the Congress while stating the other day that it would contest all 80 seats in UP on its own, mentioned how it had won 21 in 2009. That argument only bolsters the prospects of Modi in 2019. Why? Without having a charismatic leader like Modi, the Congress won 21 seats on its own because voters did not want a coalition led by either Mulayam or Mayawati. In sharp contrast to the Congress, the BJP is far stronger organizationally and politically. Parliamentary polls have increasingly become presidential, with the voters choosing a prime minister rather than a mere MP. And it is a no-brainer who among all the wannabe prime ministers will eventually walk away with the popular mandate.

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Joblessness, really?

The phrase jobless growth first gained currency during the UPA decade. Economists underlined the point that though crony capitalists were raking in billions, there was little for the common man in the scam-hit Manmohan Singh Government.

Now, the critics of the Modi Government harp on the lack of jobs -- as if everyone before 2014 was gainfully employed. However, there is no credible data on joblessness. Which allows Modi baiters to throw figures of 50 percent or more. However, even as TV anchors spew propaganda left, right and centre, one can commend to everyone interested a perceptive comment in what is decidedly a BJP-unfriendly paper. ~The Hindu~ last Sunday had a column by R. Srinivasan, the editor of the sister business daily, The Hindu Businessline.

And this is what he had to say under the headline, `The perception challenge for the BJP’: “ … Most Indians overestimate the number of those unemployed. Indians think 44 percent are unemployed and looking for jobs. The reality is that the number stands at just four percent… The headache for Modi is that he had promised two crore jobs… in reality the number of jobs created may be even higher, but the perception is the reverse… Asked to guess India’s economic ranking in the world, most guessed that India would rank around 50. The reality is that India is already the seventh largest economy in the world..” Amen.