Friday, December 11, 2009

A giant crashes, the neighbourhood rumbles

The political turmoil in Andhra Pradesh hasn't ceased since YSR's chopper crashed in early September. The central leadership of the Congress Party began the churn by making K. Rosaiah the caretaker CM of the state, and later made his appointment more permanent. Odd choice, it seemed to many. It wasn't. YSR was a mixed blessing for the CWC. Although he had delivered impossible political gains to the Centre, he was too large a persona and too much in control in the state. Quite unlike the garden variety Congress CM of today. That's just one reason why the Centre chose a practically unknown and mild - almost unwilling - Rosaiah. There were other reasons as well. Rosaiah was a YSR loyalist which meant that any dissidents who showed up will eventually fall in line. Besides, the man showed no desire to wear Destiny's shoes. Perfect.

Having made their choice, the strong central leadership of the Congress implemented it with an iron hand. YSR's son Jaganmohan Reddy was none too pleased. His supporters created storms in a few afternoon teacups. He was, therefore, summoned to Delhi where he was retold that Rahul baba wanted him at the Centre. He must join the elite club of Congress scions and await his time. Perhaps - and I'm speculating here - he received some empathy from Scindia Jr and Pilot Jr. At any rate, Reddy Jr returned from Delhi much more sober and willing to linger over the stalemate.

Within weeks, Rosaiah seemed more visibly determined. He made a few surprise moves, including a visit to Bangalore and a photo-op with B.S. Yeddyurappa. Now. Did the Congress top guns plan this? If they did, then hats off to them. What a move!
For those who came in late, here is what was happening: on the surface, a newly crowned Congress CM of one Indian state was paying a courtesy call to the BJP CM of a neighbouring state. This in itself is unusual. On top of that, Rosaiah arrived with a pleasing ringtone for Yeddy:
Cut the Bellary Reddys down to size,
You are the king, claim your prize

You see, the mining barons of Bellary - the Bellary Reddys - were underwear friends with YSR. Significant if you know where to place Bellary on the Indian map. You guessed it! Right on the Karnataka-AP border. The Bellary Reddys had their business stakes distributed between the two states. So during the YSR era, the Reddys had a super-close CM to take care of their interests in AP. At the same time, they virtually controlled the BJP government in Karnataka. One might say that they had their bread buttered on both sides. That would be incorrect. They had their butter breaded on all sides.
One can imagine the mining excesses that happened in the recent past. 'Mine, mine, mine,' they said. Rather refreshing when you consider that most people say, 'Me, me, me!'
So. They mined with impunity and nobody minded. But then a chopper came crashing down and, as we've already discovered, a Mr. Rosaiah left his calling card at the Vidhana Soudha.
Not surprisingly, B. S. Yeddyurappa - such a clean guy when you consider the company he keeps - went on an overdrive to rein in the Bellary Redddys. He transferred errant officials, imposed a new levy on mining trucks and publicly hinted at inappropriate business practices in Bellary.
We all know the public drama that followed. For weeks, the state machinery in Karnataka lay paralyzed, awaiting an end to the Yeddy versus Reddys battle. We all know that the flood-affected populace faded from public and media memory. They did not get the relief and support they deserved, but Rosaiah - the darkest horse in our political landscape today - has delivered some relief and support to Yeddy. He asked for a CBI inquiry into the illegal mining activities of the Reddys. At the same time, the Supreme Court of India has passed a stronger indictment: Guilty. The SC also recommended a complete halt to mining activities by the Reddys and seconded Rosaiah's demand for a CBI inquiry.

This has led the Yeddy-likers to hope that the Bellary Reddys might fall after all. Of course, we have a long and glorious history of punishing the powerful for their sins. So we can expect justice to be delivered. Soon.
Actually, despite my deep cynicism, I hope that something resembling justice is delivered in this instance. Why? Take a trip through Bellary, (nearby) Hospet and then further north in Karnataka - through towns like Bidar. See what mining and miners are doing to an already impoverished land. How and why does India's mango man (aam aadmi) accept this? That's the eternal riddle.

There's another - almost Shakespearean - reason why the Bellary Reddys must fall. Because YSR - who was felled by the Gods of Nature and Technology - was standing on the cusp of political immortality. He was a giant. So his fall must precipitate the fall of others.

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