More things change, more they remain the same

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As Raja Trivikrama started carrying the Bethala on his back and started the long walk, the ghost felt pity for the king who had made endless trips only to start all over again.


“I feel you are the best king that ever ruled on earth. I will tell you a story and you have to answer my questions. If you know the answer and yet refuse to answer, I can assure you will be dead in a flash. So listen carefully.”

The Election Commission is ready to announce the date for the election in Karnataka. Hordes of fixers, carpetbaggers and sidekicks have landed in the State forgetting it was only few months back they had indulged in treachery, and skuddlegurry of the worst kind. They had let down and backstabbed the people of the State while mouthing shamelessly that they were there ‘serving’ them all the time.

“How are these parties lined up? Listen to me.”

To start with, the Congress. At the best of times a confused party, it has confounded further by naming four committees to help fight the elections. Small wonder, an ‘Yes’ in S.M. Krishna‘s mind, means “No” in Dharam Singh‘s, and a “Maybe” in Siddaramaiah‘s. It was much easier pulling the Nanjanagud chariot during the annual function than the Congress wheel which set off in as many directions as the spokes in the wheel. Repeated phone calls from Sonia Gandhi made sure the Congress chariot wouldn’t run aground yet.

Rahul Gandhi who was sent to discover himself and the country, aped H.D. Kumaraswamy’s village ‘home-stays’, had to flee the villages as he was hounded by hordes of prospective fathers-in-law and local bed bugs. This left Krishna wondering whether he made a mistake in leaving comforts of Bombay’s Raj Bhavan’s cultural shows and chilled beer at Mahalakshmi Races.

“I hope you are listening carefully’ asked the Bethala for which the answer was a nod.”

The Bethala continued:

The father-sons party has fared no better. Having usurped power twice mostly by unfair means they are ready for resort politics. As the first attack on their own party men, they fumigated their own party office all night, in the name of puja, to get the political rats, cockroaches and bandicoots out. No wonder they didn’t catch even one as all of them from top to bottom were already outside! Every god/goddess in the State was cajoled, warned to see that their party, er, their family came out as winners in the election, with a warning ‘Do it or else! The father-son trio drove away popular and loyal supporters and are now busy sowing for new crop of loyalists who would keep their tails wagging even when kicked.

The BJP had cried the loudest as the plate of power was yanked even before it could smell the goodies. Their hunger/ struggle for power is a saga much in the same lines as Mahabharatha or Iliad. Though dressed in simple white pant and half shirt, their leader B.S. Yediyurappa drove night after night criss-crossing towns, villages and rivers spilling his principles along the way for the imaginary gaddi. The shortest tenure as a chief minister, he may yet break his own record in times to come. His motto became ‘Bitten many times–but why be shy’? The dog-fight between aspirants for power within the parivar became the talk of talkathons. The senior warriors camouflaging as sages themselves were waging a cold war with one another, and hence were of little use.”

“I hope you are still with me although I, as a Bethala, am confused as to what is happening in Karnataka, and continued without waiting for an answer.”

And there are the independents who are pastmasters in skinning anything and make the sun shine so that they can have their hay.

“At the end of the long walk the Bethala aid, “I think we have covered a long distance and I am nearing the end of my story too. Now tell me who will win the election? And how will they rule? What will become of the people of Karnataka? You know what will happen to you if your answer is not correct.”

Thrivikrama smiled and answered: “I will answer your last question first. The great State is no more a kobbari-kallusakkkare Karnataka. It has become a kalaberake Karnataka. Whosoever wins the elections, the fate of Karnataka people will not change. The rulers—whosoever comes to power—will care very little for the people, busy as they will be, with looting prime lands, awarding prime contracts to their kith and kin, and making sure their family and friends prosper. They will have least concern for people. In fact they will gradually drive people to become Bethalas like you!

As Raja Thrivikrama finished his answers, an astonished Bethala got off his back and climbed back to the top of the tree.