Monday, July 9, 2012

Lessons From Sadananda Gowda's Exit

Over the past few days, it became clear to Karnataka people that they would be having their third Chief Minister from BJP, that too in the very first term of the party's first ever government in South India.

"It's him" Gowda pointing to Shettar. {Source: IndianExpress}
We anticipated multiple reactions from all around India. The media portrayed it as more of BS Yeddyurappa's strong arm tactic. Most anti-BJP social media folks agreed with the media and went a step further mocking BJP. Congress party came up with a statement that BJP changes Karnataka CMs like cloths.. Funny that a party that had 14 CM swearing in ceremonies in Maharashtra in the past 30 years (ruling for 25 years), a party that had at least 12 CMs (including rebels) in Goa in 20 years, a party that had many cases of 3 or more CMs per term in Karnataka, AP, Maharashtra, UP, Bihar, Rajasthan etc., had to come up with utterly silly comment :)

In any case.. the focus of my blog entry is not media, not Congress and not those who don't like BJP. I personally believe that since both  Sadananda Gowda and Jagadish Shettar are of similar Sangh background, their administration and viewpoints towards the greater cause of Karnataka and India wouldn't be much different.  But this blog is for those who strongly support Sangh ideology and BJP, but confused over this particular phase of leadership change in Karnataka. It's for those who have had a varied opinion about this change of baton from Sadananda Gowda to Jagadish Shettar. It's for those who are questioning 'internal democracy', 'party with a difference', 'clean admin versus approval for corruption' and other topics, without knowing clearly what really happened with Sadananda Gowda.

I am not going to get into the topic of if this change in CM position is a good thing or bad thing. If you want a recap of what happened during the first BJP CM change in Karnataka from BS Yeddyurappa to Sadananda Gowda, check this out. If you have a bit more time to figure out where the infamous Reddy brothers featured in the whole episode, who were their "true" political business partners, you can check this out. This time, I am mostly focusing on why Sadananda Gowda lost his CM chair. Read on. Feel free to comment later if you have a different opinion.

“Give a man power and you will reveal his true character”, said Abraham Lincoln over 150 years back. We can modify it a bit in the current context. "Give a man CM chair and he will reveal his true colour".

And how did Mr.Gowda reveal his true colour? Here we go:-

1. Cozy up with the Opposition:

If I have to list the first reason why Sadananda Gowda became unpopular within BJP, it is his cozy up with BJP's nemesis in Karnataka, the Deve Gowda family's JDS party. 
DG with SG: {Source: Siliconcitynews}

Sadananda Gowda who was very vocal against Deve Gowda family in 2009, by comparing Deve Gowda to a Lashkar e Toiba Terrorist, was now going overboard to please the JDS party with the appointment Justice Chandrashekaraiah as the Upa Lokayukta. You can read through more on why this particular Justice was not liked by almost everyone else in BJP.

It's OK to have a pragmatic non-confrontational approach to governance, but not going overboard, that too in important nominations such as Upa Lokayukta position going against your own party.

Lesson learnt: Thou Shall Not Cozy Up With Opposition For Personal "Insurance".

2. Clearly going against his mentor and vocal in-party supporter, BS Yeddyurappa:

BSY "crowning" DVS in 2011.{Source: Daijiworld}
Anyone who followed the events of 2011 in Karnataka, would know two things:- a) that Santosh Hegde was very biased against BJP's first CM Yeddyurappa. b) and BSY strongly backed Sadananda Gowda as the next CM, surprising many caste 'observers'. But then came a very monumental event.Karnataka High Court not only provided relief for the targeted Yeddyurappa, but also threw out the entire chapter 22 of Santosh Hedge's mining report, which was the very reason for BSY's resignation in 2011. Understandably Hedge was "disappointed". But for an incumbent BJP CM, this was a huge statement in favour of the party. It essentially junked the entire media-Congress-JDS-Governor-Lokayukta attack on BJP on "illegal mining". But instead of celebrating this historic event when a retired Supreme Court Justice's report was junked at High Court, or at least keeping quiet in a dignified manner, our Sadananda Gowda remarked:   "There are still eight other cases pending against him!!". By any standard, this was a horrible back stab by Gowda to his erstwhile CM. Can you imagine any other party's CM going so overboard against his earlier CM? Sir, YOU touched Yeddyurappa's feet and took up the CM's position, and now went THIS overboard being opportunistic due to the feeling of chair insecurity? Naturally Yeddyurappa decided not want to "embarrass" Gowda and didn't campaign in Udupi Chikkamagaluru Lok Sabha by election. 

Lesson learnt: Thou Shall Not Back-stab Thy Mentor or Supporter.

3. To project GIM 2012 a success, looked down upon GIM 2010:

Yeddyurappa had worked very hard with his able minister Murugesh Nirani in 2010 to conduct the biggest ever Global Investors Meet (GIM) in the state. He had succeeded in attracting Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) of over Rs.4,00,000,00,00,000. By any standard, that was a huge success. Close to a million jobs were to be created due to the investment promises. But then the illegal mining issue hit the roof. Mining ban was enforced by BSY govt under pressure. Since more than half of the investment proposals were related to steel, iron, mining etc., a lot of these remained promises. But even giving a big discount to that problem, quite a number of projects took off and are still in various stages of execution.

DVS at GIM 2012 with NRNM.{Source:  Hindubusinessonline}
Fast forward to 2012. Sadananda Gowda facing immense internal no-confidence-in-him issues, wanted to project 2012 GIM a much better event. The same Murugesh Nirani was with him this time. And sure they rocked! GIM 2012 attracted a whopping Rs.7,60,000,00,00,000 MoUs in 2 days! That must have been the biggest 2 day investment proposal ever in India, outside of Narendra Modi's Gujarat.

To a neautral observer, both GIMs were effective and in the best interest of the state. But how did Sadananda Gowda sum up "his" GIM in the backdrop of "his earlier CM's" GIM? "Yeddyurappa's GIM was an embarrassment!!". Is it Mr.CM? Your own party's government's GIM just 2 years suddenly became an embarrassment for you?

Lesson learnt: Thou Shall Not Take a Dig at Thy Own Government's Achievements.

4. Losing his own Lok Sabha seat in by election:

Earlier in 2012, BJP lost the Udupi - Chikkamagaluru Lok Sabha by election. It was not a huge defeat, but enough to shake their apple cart wherein they had won 90% of by elections since May of 2008. It may be too harsh to blame Sadananda Gowda for just one major by election loss, but there were two key reasons why this played out against him.

One is his ability to lead from the front. For those unfamiliar with Karnataka geography and caste equations, here is a quick course. Effectively the state is divided into three parts from political angle. The coastal & Malenadu (Western Ghats) region, the north and the south. The caste and other demography characteristics of each region differ drastically. The south for instance is dominated by the Vokkaliga (Gowda) community, who form around 16-18% of the state. You can see in green colour below the districts where the predominantly one caste party, the JDS, won, riding on this Gowda voting bloc during the 2010-11 Panchayat elections. Bengaluru city also falls in the south, and has its own characteristic which is not necessary to elaborate here. The north is dominated by Lingayats (Veera Shaivas). In over 14 districts, their might decides who forms the next government, which is substantial. Lingayats totally account for 1/5th of Karnataka, if not more. Even in the districts in grey colour above, they were almost fully behind BJP. The coast/ghats area is diverse, and a mix of many castes/communities. This is where BJP started its south India wave 25 years back, and since then has been a strong BJP base. The reason this demography was explained is to drive an important point. Without North Karnataka, which is BJP's strongest base today, there is no future for BJP in the state. Compared to North, coast/ghat areas (Gowda is from here) have smaller number of seats. Since BJP is not strong in the south of the state, it has to project a leader who has mass base in the north. Gowda did not stand up to that challenge, when he lost his own seat in the coast!

The second reason is kind of entwined in the above paragraph. When North Karnataka's Lingayats are 3 to 4 times more important for BJP's survival, compared to south, there is no way BJP can antagonize that voting bloc by continuing with a not-so-strong mass leader, who lost his own seat. If you already gathered it from the second point of this blog, you would have noticed that it was S Gowda's stupid utterance after Hegde report quashing at HC, that probably cost BJP this Udupi seat. These things play out big within the party and the high command would have noticed it too.

Lesson learnt: Thou Shall Not Lose Thy Own Seat. Winning Elections is a Must. 

5. Proclaiming that (Only) Vokkaligas made me a CM:

This by far was the most stupid game played by Sadananda Gowda.BJP's R Ashoka, himself a Vokkaliga, pulled out a massive 'Guru Vandana' program of Gowda community political leaders after nearly 16-18 years. Putting Congress, JDS and BJP's Gowda community leaders on the same stage, handling all ego clashes, was not easy at all. 

DVS facilitating Balagangadhara Swami. {Source: Pics4News}
Going to a meet organized by his own community/caste is not a big deal. All politicians do. Taking care of the community's Guru is always a good thing for a leader. But what Sadananda Gowda did was horrible. To either overcome his own insecurity within the party when the powerful Lingayats are going against him, or to cement a much stronger bond with his caste audience in the case of danger to his seat, he played stupid caste politics.

In front of a huge gathering, he said that he got the opportunity to become the CM only due to the efforts and blessings of the community. That irresponsible "credit" given to one caste, openly, probably sealed his exit right there.

Lesson learnt: Thou Shall Not Play Caste Appeasement Politics for Personal Survival.
6. Not hitting hard on SM Krishna, Dharam Singh and HD Kumaraswamy, when he had a chance:

Golden rule of politics. You hit hard when you have the power and the opposition is in the back foot. Did Gowda follow that when he had the power? It doesn't seem like.

Dharam, Krishna & HDK. {Source: OneIndia}
When the Supreme Court (SC) appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) came to Sadananda Gowda for details of illegal mining by the former three CMs of Karnataka, Gowda reportedly gave very casual response with dilute details. For any observer in Karnataka, it was obvious that illegal mining did NOT start in 2008 when BJP came to power. There was a long list of irregularities right from 2000 when SM Krishna of Congress was the CM. The same irregularities became worse during Congress' Dharam Singh's CM tenure and JDS' HD Kumaraswamy's tenure. For details, refer to many reports from 2000-2008 period, which includes nearly one year of President's rule by Sonia Gandhi & Manmohan Singh, via Governor Rameshwar Thakur. Every regime gave dubious licenses and every regime has tons of allegations.

When BJP, which is slammed by all these parties for "illegal mining", had its best chance to nail the former CMs, that too when a SC appointed team is knocking on its door for hard details, it was shocking that DVS went very mild and slow. In fact, this angered so many activists that one screamed "DVS is shielding Krishna, HDK, as they belong to his community!"   

Lesson learnt: Thou Shall Not Lose An Opportunity To Hit Thy Real Political Opponents .

So in summary:- 

I believe that Sadananda Gowda scripted himself an exit before completing even one year. He definitely was a clean administrator. A smiling nice gentleman in most cases. A person who did work hard to clear any 'corruption' image stuck to BJP's first ever south Indian government. But he made crucial mistakes, some of which are listed above.  My guess is that he felt insecure that he might lose his CM seat, and also got greedy to secure himself a longer run, when the party script was not exactly that. He had a clear role to play when his former leader got into trouble, but he tried too hard to script a change to that role, without taking party and MLAs into confidence.

These are some crucial lessons for Jagadish Shettar and any future Chief Minister in India, on how not to lose CM chair by playing your cards too quickly, and too erratically.

Your comments are welcome.All viewpoints are encouraged, when expressed in non-abusive lingo.