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Karnataka' irony: politics offsets achievements
Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bangalore : Karnataka seems to have become a jinxed state - its reputation as IT hub, an attractive destination for investment and an excellent launching pad for new products somehow surviving amid growing corruption scandals.

A relief to the people of the state is that some of its spectacular achievements have come even as natural calamities ravaged the state and the administration took a beating from the corruption scandals and political instability.

This has been the tale of the southern Indian state since 1999.

The five-year period between 1999 and 2004 saw Bangalore zoom to become the glowing symbol of new economy led by information technology.

It was also the time of one of the worst droughts in the state with the then Congress government led by S. M. Krishna, now foreign minister, getting lambasted as being Bangalore-centric and concerned only about industries and not agriculture and the plight of farmers.

Since 2004, the state has seen political instability all the way, with two coalition governments - Congress-Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) in 2004-2006 and JDS-Bharatiya Janata Party in 2006-08 - collapsing in four years.

The BJP formed its first government in the state and southern India in 2008 promising stability, good governance and corruption-free administration to the harried people of the state.

It started on a positive note, organising two Global Investors Meet where billions of rupees investments were promised, scores of projects identified and preliminary agreements signed.

All came to naught, virtually, as the government headed by B.S. Yeddyurappa was caught in surviving three rebellions within the so-called disciplined party "with a difference".

Then the scandals began, one by one - from a minister, Haratalu Halappa, forced to quit over rape charges to land grab charges involving the chief minister himself. Now Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani, himself an industrialist owning sugar mills and a cement factory, is under the police scanner for land grab.

The probe against him comes just over a month ahead of another global investors meet in Bangalore - this time exclusively for the agriculture and food processing sector.

The state is promising that this sector has the potential to absorb more than Rs.50,000 crore (USD 10 bn) investment as it covers not just agriculture but horticulture, dairy, animal husbandry, fisheries, sericulture, apiculture and food processing.
The government led by D. V. Sadananda Gowda, which succeeded the Yeddyurappa ministry that went out July 31, has launched a publicity blitz and roadshows to make it a success - like the earlier two GIMs - at least in terms of promises of investment.

This will be the first such meet after Gowda assumed office Aug 4. The "Global Agribusiness and Food Processing Summit 2011" is scheduled to be held in Bangalore Dec 1 and 2.

Going by the response to the two GIMs, investors may still come in droves, apparently feeling that the scandals involving politicians have become so common in India these days that they are no longer a deterrent to tap business opportunities.

However it will be left to Gowda and the BJP to pull the party out of the morass some of its leaders have landed it in the last three years if they have any wish left to prevent Karnataka from going under further.

They have just around 19 months more to achieve the turnaround for the better as the state assembly polls are due in April-May 2013.

The task is hard as in Karnataka the BJP has come to stand for "Bail, Jail, Probe", and not the party that promised "Su-raj (good governance)". (IANS)


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