Here's a Quiz question to the reader. Do you know who Dharam Singh is? Let's now proceed to discuss this :)
Some old posts on this blog will give you a detailed background on the "nataka" in Karnataka. There are just way too many crises surrounding this government that it is just difficult to summarize them all in a short post. Basically, Yedyurappa government had to endure a couple of revolts from within the party; then had to endure a very very partisan governor; and then had to endure allegations of unfair allocation of land to yedyurappa's sons; and now finally the Lokayukta report on illegal mining in the state. The latest crisis that led to Yedyurappa's resignation is the report submitted by the Lokayukta of Karnataka, Justice Santosh Hegde.
As is always the case, portions of the report were leaked to the "national" media. And quite conveniently, these leaked portions were about how the Lokayukta has "indicted" BJP's first CM in a South Indian state. The actual report was released about a week later, but during the entire week, the english TV media went gaga over how BJP can claim moral high ground over corruption when it doesn't act on it's own CM on corruption charges; on how the party can go along defending the indefensible blah blah. The BJP said that they will only comment after reading the report. The Congress (and the english TV media) predictably called for Yeddyurappa's resignation.
The Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde also went on almost all TV channels - confirming that he has named the CM in his report. He also mentioned that there are a lot of other politicians named too. Fellow blogger Naveen, has captured and discussed these actions of Santosh Hegde in a detailed manner here - so no need to further discuss on how Santosh Hegde was all over TV.
The need for a better debate
Chief Minister Yedyurappa finally submitted his resignation today.
So far, an unassuming reader/viewer would assume that the illegal mining, massive corruption, and incompetent governance has been the trend in Karnataka since Yedyurappa took over. What most of the news channels won't concentrate on (mind you, they will mention it but not harp on it) is this - the Lokayukta report also names about 500 officials, ministers past and present, and pegs the loss from 2006 as Rs. 16,000 crore. The Lokayukta report mentions that iron ore mined is transported illegally through trucks. These fake permits for the trucks originate in Andhra Pradesh and not in Karnataka. Anybody talking about illegal mining in Karnataka without mentioning the valuable role played by Congress CM, YSR is either naive or has an agenda.
Current External Affairs minister of India, S.M.Krishna granted 36 licenses when he was the CM. Guess what, the Karnataka High Court quashed all those licenses. Yes, all of them. (thanks to fellow blogger Kiran K.S. for digging this info). (Update on August 1) --- Fellow tweeter avinashbhat alerted me to this important piece of info - SM Krishna denotified 11,000 acres of forest land for mining!
Rediff correspondent Vicky Nanjappa details here, the whole mining process. He tells us how a license is obtained. Congress Chief Minister Dharam Singh recommended 43 licenses and 33 were granted by the central government (UPA). Later, H.D.Kumaraswamy (s/o humble farmer and ex-PM, H.D.Deve Gowda) recommended 47 and 22 were granted (by UPA). During President's rule in the state (which means the state was controlled by the UPA government at the center) 14 licenses were granted. Yedyurappa recommended 22 and 2 (yes, just two) licenses were granted.
A systemic method, that encouraged the prevailing illegality was introduced and cemented by successive governments in Karnataka. Politicians from all parties have been involved neck-deep in this massive mining scam - but just how fair is it that we persecute the last man at the helm for not stopping something that has been introduced by his predecessors, for decades! Here are a few questions that I think are relevant, and are not being debated at all.
- When will our debate turn to discuss the reforms needed?
- Have you come across a single debate that discussed what can be done to curb this illegal activity?
- So now that Yeddyurappa has resigned, all is well?
- What about the ministers named? Will they be inducted into the new BJP cabinet? There is no problem with that?
- What about Dharam Singh, under whose regime the maximum number of licenses were recommended and granted?
- What about S.M.Krishna (who is now our External Affairs Minister)?
- What about H.D.Kumaraswamy? If in the future, he wins elections, will he be allowed to be sworn in as CM?
- What about the 500 odd officers named? Will they be allowed to continue in service?
- What about the UPA government that granted all these mining licenses?
- What about the conniving AP government?
- Why this fetish to just change the Chief Minister and pretend that all is well from now on?
Now english media will go on patting itself on its back saying that it effected this change. Opposition parties will pat themselves on their backs too. BJP is now as confused as it can get. By sending Rajnath Singh as one of the observers, the party has taken another step backwards. UPA government will claim victory over corruption (yes, they will do it and english TV media will tom-tom it too). And when the next scam breaks, we will again banally debate "Are we a corrupt society?".
Quite frankly, the english TV media is doing a lot of damage by carrying out totally loud and un-informed debates. Sadly, they are just in no mood to learn. And BJP is equally responsible for not insisting on a informed, timely debate (not just on this issue). Wonder when the party will wake up to see the damage that's being caused. They might have gained in Karnataka, but surely have given away way too much scoring points for the "All politicians are bad" brigade. And this brigade will win 2014 for UPA, if the trend continues.
Since UPA is anyway sleeping, the opposition must give a call for better public discourse on reforms need. Otherwise, it is just a matter of time before we banally discuss "Are we a corrupt society" again. That's all, your honour!