An open letter to S.M. Krishna, the Congress man who dreams of being Rashtrapati, at 85

Regional politicians somewhat fluent in the English language, who know how to throw a good party, send a nice Diwali gift and make the odd phone call, have generally enjoyed greater brand equity at the hands of the English media.

S.M Krishna, the former chief minister of Karnataka, is squarely in that category.

The darling of the IT crowd, who presided over “Brand Bangalore” and put the “c” in crony capitalism, repeatedly (and successfully) managed to charm the pants out of the press in Bangalore and Delhi till he read Portuguese’s speech at the United Nations as India’s foreign minister.

His resignation from the Congress recently elicited a searing comment from the veteran Kannada journalist T.K. Thyagaraj on his Facebook page, which has been reprinted on the editorial page of the respected Kannada daily, Praja Vani.

Loosely translated here for the benefit of those blinded by the lights.

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Dear Shri Krishnaravare

How are you doing? I ask this question not to indicate any proximity to you, or that I may be someone whose name rings a bell in your mind. I am but a journalist who has observed your political trajectory over the years like so many others.

I was one of those astounded when news came in that you had tendered your resignation from the primary membership of the Congress party.

When some Kannada TV channels flashed the news earlier that you had announced your “retirement” from active politics, I was happy. You are 85 years old. I thought the break would allow you to dip into books, music, films and plays.

I thought your “retirement” would be a role model to old politicians who are blocking the way for the younger generation.

But at the press conference, you clarified that you weren’t retiring from politics once and for all, and that you were only resigning from the Congress.

From the way you put it, it seemed that the primary cause for your resignation was your being denied a Rajya Sabha seat. That’s why you said: “The party has sidelined experience. A party that sidelines experience has no future.”

If you have no future in a party, does that party not have a future?

**

Almost every post and position that you have occupied in your long career has come courtesy of the Congress.

The grand old party was the reason you became an MLA, an MLC, a state minister, a Lok Sabha MP, a Rajya Sabha MP, Karnataka Congress president, Assembly speaker, deputy chief minister, Chief Minister, minister of state at the Centre for industries and finance, Governor, Union external affairs minister.

For a man who has enjoyed all this, to express dejection at not being named to Parliament again, makes me laugh.

If dejection for such a reason is the benchmark, then how should C.K. Jaffer Sharief, one of the tallest leaders the Congress has had in the state, have reacted when he was denied the chief ministership of Karnataka for the sole reason that he was a Muslim?

How should Mallikarjun Kharge, the current leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, have reacted when he was denied the chief ministership of Karnataka for the sole reason that he was a Dalit?

Does it behove a politician of your stature to suggest all is well in the Congress only when all is well for you? I say this only because previously too you have raised the banner of revolt in the party when the power you sought was out of your reach.

Since the Congress was then stronger than other parties, you stuck around and used your tactics to achieve what you were aiming for. Now that you feel that the Congress is weakened, you have taken the decision to resign from the party.

**

You now say, “I did not just represent the Vokkaliga community; I united and took along every community.”

But when Veerappa Moily, who belongs to a microscopic and backward community, became CM, you revolted and joined hands with the Lingayat leader, M. Rajashekhar Murthy, who, like you, was dreaming of the chief ministership and felt aggrieved, and started dissident activities.

When Janardhana Poojary became the KPCC president, you made your dissatisfaction known and managed to wangle the post of publicity chief. But instead of operating from the Congress headquarters, you set up your office near Shivananda Circle, thus creating a parallel centre of power.

You say you have been sidelined by the party, but you forget how you sidelined Lingayat leaders as chief minister because of your fear that it might lead to dissidence against you.

Be that as it may, you led a few journalists astray, gave them “G” category sites to build homes and turned them into lapdogs . This is the reason why so many of them, obliged to you for life, still sing paeans in your praise even today.

**

That said, let us return to the issue at hand: what really is the need for you, at this advanced age, to so hungrily hanker after power?

Whatever field it may be, new faces, new leaders, and new thinking are the signs of life. Just as night follows day, the old gives way to the new.

As the calendar turns, yesterday becomes history.

Only the Prophet, the Buddha, Mahaveera, Basavanna, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Gandhi, Ambedkar and Mandela, who opened the eyes of world at various times, can aspire to live on in our memories forever.

The same cannot be said of politicians.

They are like you: power hungry.

Only because he treats the Janata Dal (Secular) as his personal property, H.D. Deve Gowda remains relevant.

If Jyoti Basu was chief minister of Bengal for 25 years we can conclude he was pro-poor in his mindset all the 25 years. Manik Sarkar has been in charge in Tripura since 1998 because of his honest and simple lifestyle.

On the other hand, when you were christened “India’s No.1 CM” by India Today magazine, the joke was of which “India”?

In any case, you could not bring the Congress back to power in 2004. Not just that, after you smelt defeat in your own pocket borough, Maddur, you shifted your constituency to Chikpet, but made it appear to be a major accomplishment.

**

You claim you have not resigned from the primary membership of the Congress with an eye on the Presidentship of the country, but by a happy coincidence Pranab Mukherjee’s lease of Rashtrapati Bhavan ends in four months’ time.

When you were chief minister, it was said that more than Congress leaders, the recommendations of BJP leader Ananth Kumar carried greater weight with you. I do not believe your friendship with Ananth Kumar will land you on top of Raisina Hill but I only wish to remind you that your friendship with BJP leaders is not new.

BJP has commenced poaching old and disgruntled Congress leaders as evidenced by the defection of N.D. Tiwari. The oddity is that L.K. Advani himself stands relegated in his own party. Will Narendra Modi allow Advani to become President?

Leaving a party that has given you everything merely because it did not give you the one thing you desired is both selfish and low. In every political party, leaders of different communities, classes, and persuasions must find space and flower.

The greedy mindset that you and you alone must enjoy power at all times is not a healthy one.

Certainly not at this age.

Use this moment of solitude to find peace, solace and happiness. Let your blessings and wishes be on the new generation.

With best regards

T.K. Thyagaraj