S.S. KARNADSHA writes from Bangalore: It’s not even the middle of November and the TV channels are already into their annual ritual of soliciting votes for the Indian Of The Year. But Karnataka, after all the political tamasha it has seen in recent weeks, should consider voting for the Mahaan Elastic Buddhijeevi Of The Year.
I am no leftwing limpet to suggest the predictable, but let me throw up one extremely over-qualified “secular” name for the crown: U.R. Anantha Murthy. Once, “One of the 50 most important people in the country,” according to the now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India; now one of the 500 most self-important people in Dollar Colony.
Reason One: Because like Deve Gowda we cannot believe anything he says any longer
Only the other day we saw URA march with his secular siblings (Girish Karnad, Devanur Mahadeva et al) to meet the Governor Rameshwar Thakur; to urge His Excellency not to allow the “unholy re-marriage” to take place between the BJP and JDS. He said, among many other things, that the “lust of power” had made people disinterested in democracy. That this was a “shameless and immoral” coalition. Etc.
URA wanted the Assembly dissolved. He used even more lethal terms on live television, but this should suffice to build my case.
The “chamchameleon” changed colours just 24 hours before B.S. Yediyurappa took oath as the first BJP CM in the South. Suddenly, URA started counselling the government on what to do and what not to do. The politically correct inanities that he has been spouting are inconsequential here.
My simple question is: if this is an “immmoral” and “shameless” coalition why should he even waste his time advising it? What has forced him to quickly, quietly and inexplicably alter his stance?
The secret agenda of the BJP and RSS is well known. Shouldn’t we ask URA what his secret agenda is?
“Cheddyurappa” says he wants ‘rajarishis’ around to guide him. Is URA aiming to become one?
What’s the point if our buddhijeevis like our pudharis, seem to think that, like in politics, there are no permanent enemies or permanent friends in the intellectual space?
Reason Two: Because he outrages our very sense of morality with his words and deeds
Some research scholar should study all the statements URA has been making in the media, say, since circa 2000. My choice of year is not an arbitrary one; that’s around the time the NDA government was getting its feet wet in Delhi. And it provides some perspective on his current posturing on the BJP coming to power in Karnataka.
URA, as everyone and his uncle knows, has a great knack of cosying up to people in power, regardless of their past and ideological colour. Nothing wrong, maybe. But one expects a writer to treat words sacredly and to weigh them before use. However with the books long dried up, the only use he seems to have for words is to pimp them to procure proximity to power.
Sans any conviction, he has perfected the art of using words to massage egos across the ideological spectrum sans any compunction.
When the Janata Dal was on the ascendant, he chavi maroed Ramakrishna Hegde into becoming vice-chancellor of the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam. When S.M. Krishna was in charge, he flagged off his Cauvery pada yatra. When Dharam Singh came in, he managed to get Bangalore’s name twisted to weasel out of the classical language tangle he had got into with D. Javare Gowda.
He speaks of Ram Manohar Lohia and Gopala Gowda when it suits him; he praises the champion of Ayodhya, Vishwesha Teertha Swamiji, when it serves him; and he goes with a begging bowl to Sonia Gandhi and H.D. Deve Gowda when he wants his political ambitions satisfied.
So, true to form, in circa 2000, under the BJP-led NDA regime and under the ministership of the lady who later wanted to tonsure her head if Sonia had become PM, URA accepted the chairmanship of the Film and Television Institute of India in Poona, although he had no particular expertise in films or television.
So, if he could grab a crumb of office thrown by the BJP-led NDA, what is so objectionable about a BJP-led JDS coalition?
We cannot question his desire or ability to make friends across the political spectrum, of course. And maybe in some people’s books, that may be an admirable quality. But do traits like integrity, self-respect, dignity not count for anything in the insatiable quest for whatever it is that URA is seeking?
Reason Three: Because he finds it so easy and convenient to forget when it suits him
If you are still not convinced about URA’s intellectual elasticity, let me present to you his article on the op-ed page of Vijaya Karnataka (13 November 2007).
First the choice of media vehicle: Not Praja Vani or Udayavani or Samyukta Karnataka or Kannada Prabha, but VK, the paper published by The Times of India whose translated Kannada edition he had called “enjillu patrike“, and the paper that had launched a rabid tirade against him when he spoke against S.L. Bhyrappa‘s Aavarana, and shamed him through the columns of Pratap Simha.
URA had then run away from the battlefield and made a vow never to participate in public functions. But the fear of oblivion, or even the self-advertised threat of it, makes people do strange things.
Then the content of the opinion itself: In the very opening paragraph, he seems to cleverly suggest that one need not be unduly worried about the BJP-JDS re-alliance because it is only a transfer of the CM’s post; it is not as if the entire government has changed. It is the same government that we have seen and accepted in the last 20 months, he says.
In the third para he argues that he would have had nothing to comment had the “transfer of power” taken place smoothly. And—surprise, surprise—he speaks of the “trickery” of the Congress in Delhi.
This is a classic case of running with the pseudo-secular hares and hunting with the pseudo-national hounds. And this is a URA hallmark—to forget his own views on a subject, even if he had articulated them as recently as a week ago.
And to arrogantly expect people not to remember or to hold him to account for it.
So, like day follows night, around the time of Yediyurappa’s swearing-in on November 12, after all the bad-mouthing, Anantha Murthy was on ETV-Kannada answering questions. What was the dire compulsion to be grandstanding after all the pontificating?
To use dissent and opposition as an instrument to negotiate and share power? To ensure that his recommendation letters don’t reach the dustbin under the new dispensation, irrespective of however long it survives? To work on his Shimoga connection to get close to Yediyurappa?
Reason Four: Because like Deve Gowda he has become a hit and run artist
Most human beings depend on oxygen to survive. At the wise age of 75, Anantha Murthy seems to have discovered that the oxygen of publicity is enough. Is there a subject that he hasn’t weighed in on in recent times?
Somebody please remind me: which is the longest time URA has fought for a particular cause with the same degree of consistency of views?
Granted, the septuagenarian at least has the steel in his frame to stand up and be counted when most buddhijeevis half his age prefer the horizontal position (no, not that one). But there is such a thing as stamina and lasting the course and seeing the issue through (think Medha Patkar) even if it ends in defeat.
URA, however, like a rebel in search of a cause, is happy to flee to the next headline-grabbing issue and flit around till the next headline-grabbing issue comes along.
Perhaps he has to take lessons in steadfast consistency of views from the bhadralok in West Bengal—from Mahashweta Devi, Sumit Sarkar, Aparna Sen, Shanka Ghosh and others—who are fighting the CPM’s tyranny in Nandigram.
Anyway, in the last couple of paras of the aforementioned VK article, URA speaks in the garb of an ordinary citizen, but his sense of self-importance shines through. He is in love with his own voice and turn of phrase.
Why has URA suddenly become so conscious of the mining issue and the plurality question? Have they not been in the headlines long enough for him to launch a movement against them? Is he introducing them in the article only to engineer ‘balance’ and ‘credibility’ to his voice?
You wonder. And, then again, you wonder.
Reason Five: Because he has become as opportunistic as the politicians he despises
In an interview in the Deepavali special issue (9 November 2007) of Vikranta Karnataka, URA waxes eloquent about Mahatma Gandhi. And there are occasions where URA seems to place himself on a par with the Mahatma through the tone he adopts. But that’s just my personal opinion and I may be wrong.
In the interview, he says that his thoughts are now “purer than ever” (an admission of some past guilt?). The pow-wow veers as it must to the what’s in store if the BJP comes to power. The question is about Baba Budangiri and H.N. Ananth Kumar‘s brag that the BJP would turn it into Datta Peeta if voted to power with a majority.
Instead of focussing on the question and all its grave implications, URA responds: “H.D. Kumaraswamy said that it was Ananth Kumar who had prevented Yediyurappa from becoming CM. Besides fighting to save Baba Budangiri, we should fight people like Ananth Kumar who cheat people within their own party.”
What is URA foregrounding here? Why is he feigning to believe Kumaraswamy completely? Why should he be interested in the internal politics of BJP when such a large issue of majority communalism has been raised by the interviewer? Why has he to fight Yediyurappa’s cause?
In the same interview, URA also admits that he had told H.D. Deve Gowda and the Congress before the 2004 general elections to put him up as a joint candidate from Bangalore South against Ananth Kumar. So, clearly between Ananth Kumar and Yediyurappa, his choice is the latter.
How then is URA’s opportunism different from that of any other politician? Different masks for different folks?
Photo courtesy: Outlook