B S Yeddyurappa is a chief minister who struck out and created history of sorts recently, something few state chief ministers have managed to do. Working with his counterpart in Tamilnadu, he oversaw the long-pending unveiling of the Tamil poet-saint’s Thiruvalluvar statue in Bengaluru.
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This is not as easy as it may seem. Getting past strained ethnic tensions is fraught with risks anywhere in the world. In 1991 when the statue was originally due for unveiling, protests built up and tensions coincided with riots triggered by the Cauvery dispute. Kannada-Tamil tensions in Bengaluru have always simmered below the otherwise normal-seeming buzz of daily city life. Stoking it has been easy for everyone from unruly mobs to sanghas to political parties.
Even this time, there was steep opposition from some quarters and the threat of violence was real. Yeddyurappa showed statesman-like qualities when he took political parties into confidence early-on to pave the way for the emotion-filled occasion to make the right kind of history.
Still, this was not the cornerstone of Yeddyurappa’s campaign when the BJP rode to power in 2008. It was not a promise he made, and yet it has become a major political milestone. On the other hand, a political promise that Yeddyurappa made and continues to make is to ‘develop’ Bangalore. He constituted the Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development (ABIDe) task force. A key part of ABIDe’s work has been long-pending political reforms for the city’s government: a metropolitan planning committee and ward committees with elected members for direct citizen participation. This is already in a draft legislation, and if passed it will bring the city partly in line with the mother of all promises ever made: the 74th Constitutional amendment.
Yet, Yeddyurappa does not seem to have accepted even one of these key political reform proposals. With council elections imminent, the proposals ought to have made it through his cabinet by now and, equally, he ought to have tested consensus across various political parties.
This is the unbelievable contrast. Is it really easier to make progress on Kannada-Tamil relations — where much blood has been spilt — than for the citizens of Bengaluru to have a more democratic self-government setup? It seems so. ⊕