news Sunday, August 17, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute Editorial| August 17, 2014| 10.00 am IST Imagine if you had wanted to be a pilot all through your life. That was your life’s purpose. Be a pilot. All through childhood, all through adolescence you worked for it and dreamt about it. And then suddenly one day you do become a pilot. What then? Would you be goal-less? Does being a good pilot automatically become a part of your goal (in which case, it is likely you’ll continue to work hard to keep your reputation)? Or, now that your life’s purpose is met, would you then want to sit back, let the auto-pilot do its job, and enjoy the perks of pilot-hood? Siddaramaiah seems to have met his life’s goal. For the last ten-plus years, he has dreamt that one day he will become chief minister. On the last day of his campaign of the 2013 Assembly elections, in his Varuna constituency, Siddaramaiah was taking out a road-show. “In a democracy, not every politician can dream about becoming a chief minister. But this time, I think I will get the opportunity…. This time, there’s a good chance… and if I become a chief minister, it’s as if you all become chief ministers,” he told an assorted gathering of awestruck masses. It was no secret that if the Congress won the majority in the Assembly, Siddaramaiah stood a high chance of being chosen the party’s leader. And he had said many times that this time, the voters will not be disappointed. That this time, there would be equal priority to socio-economic needs of the poor, as there would be for sectors like IT. He has long felt betrayed by his earlier party, the JDS. When he quit the JDS nearly ten years back, he once addressed his supporters with this laconic statement: “Deve Gowda used to say often he wants to see his boys in the third floor of the Vidhan Souda (the CM’s office is in the third floor). We all felt motivated. It was only later we realised he was talking only about his own two boys, not the rest of us in the JDS.” At the time, Siddaramaiah had just been sacked by the JDS almost overnight in HD Kumaraswamy’s hunger for the CM’s post. Siddaramaiah was deputy chief minister, with his sight set on the CM’s gaddi too. Hurt, haunted, vengeful, he was biding his time ever since he joined the Congress – and after the debacle that the BJP-JDS attempts at governance were, was sure he was in the right place at the right time to get the top post. He was right too. He became CM. But somewhere along the line, a few populist announcements later, he seems to have lost the plot. He is seen quiet when other Congress MLAs plot, strategise, stumble, or even mess up. He is seen unperturbed by stories of rape, of crumbling law and order, of party MLAs showing their muscle power. He is seen sleeping too – often. He is unmoved by the jibes that by the media, the Opposition, the aam janata and the social media make when they see him sleeping yet again – in public meetings, in the Legislative Assembly, in party meetings, even in the august presence of Rahul Gandhi and Digvijay Singh. Perhaps the only whiff of the decision-maker in Siddaramaiah came last week – when the cabinet announced it would scrap the 2011 exams of the Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC), which had been probed by the state CID. Three months after the CID report said the mode of selection was filled with irregularities, the CM and his cabinet decided to do away with it and hold exams afresh. The decision has run into huge controversy, provoked protests and tears, but considering that the CM has so far struck his ground, at least shows his spine. Maybe, it’s a string of coincidences. He had to face by-elections, elections to the Lok Sabha, Council elections and Rajya Sabha over the last year. So he didn’t want to do anything that could antagonise the voting public. But now, ahead of another by-election next week, murmurs of another internal rebellion to thrown him out and ‘replace’ him are gaining ground. The reason: he is a below-average performer. Once upon a time, says a senior journalist, Siddaramaiah as a young Minister had gone on an inspection of a poultry farm. When he came back to Bangalore, he realised that a director in the farm had sent back chickens in the car’s boot as a sort of ‘thanksgiving’ to appease his minister whom he knew to be fond of chicken. Legend has it that Siddaramaiah called up the official (those were days of snail-mails and landlines), summoned him to the Bangalore office, warned him that any further attempts to bribe ministers would lead to his dismissal, and sent him back with the chickens. And then there was a time, when Siddaramaiah had set a high target of revenues through certain kinds of taxes. A journalist taunted him, that the target was unreasonable and unachievable. Siddu didn’t respond. In his next budget, the numbers spoke for themselves – he had met his target 180 per cent. Eighty per cent more of his targeted revenues had been mopped up, and his critics were shut up. Gone is that Siddaramaiah who would, as a wounded lion rises when taunted, throw back a challenge that shows him more powerful. He seems to have become a man who has met his life’s purpose. He has already announced he won’t contest the next election. So he probably doesn’t need to account to his voters. Perhaps he thinks he is making his mark in history by just becoming chief minister. But that’s a mark in his history. If he wants to make a mark in Karnataka’s history, he sure needs to do something that will be more memorable than that image of a man in whites, sleeping. He still has four years.