Politics in modern India has always been contentious and pathetic. Bribery, horse trading and cash for votes are terms frequently associated with this awful profession. The squabble over the selection of a minister of Information Technology in Karnataka is not even close to colossal scams the voter has witnessed over the past. However, “war of words” between two prominent citizen of the state and the anointed minister is a funny testimony to how little respect the politicians have come to command.
For those who aren’t clued in: The state elections which recently concluded in Karnataka saw the decisive victory of the Congress party. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, a self proclaimed atheist, took the oath and begun distributing portfolios to elected representatives. S R Patil, a senior Congress leader was appointed as the minister for IT & BT, two industries in Karnataka which clock combined revenues of about $25 billion yearly.
The choice, of a 65 year old politician, didn’t go well with Kiran Majumdar Shaw, the Chairman and Managing Director of Biocon and T V Mohandas Pai, former Infosys director and the Vice Chairman of the Manipal Education Group. Both Pai and Shaw, active citizens, endorsed the view that a younger minister must be chosen to oversee an industry in which the average age of a worker is 27 years. They even suggested that young Krishna Byregowda or Dinesh Gundu Rao be given the portfolio.
Here’s what Pai had to say on Twitter
Reportedly furious, the minister shot back saying that the duo had no business “lobbying” for favorable candidates. S M Krishna, who is given credit for much of Karnataka’s IT boom, was 71 when he was the Chief Minister of the state, he contends.
Soon after, the two went into a “damage control mode,” as described by a newspaper.
“Our comments were in reaction to queries posed by the media. He (Patil) is a well-regarded politician, and we hope to work with him to build and take the sectors — IT-BT — to the next level. We welcome anybody who’s appointed,” they said. [Source]
Note that both Shaw and Pai are founders of the Bangalore Political Action Committee, which endorsed Congress candidates Dinesh Gundu Rao and Krishna Byregowda during the elections. The endorsement includes Rs 5 lakh in donations to the election campaign of the candidate.
One can also point out other biases. For the sake of argument, one could say where were these voices when the previous government appointed Katta Subramanya Naidu, whose murky land deals got him into jail, as the minister for Information Technology? Then of course there is the age old debate of youth vs experience.
Anyway, when all is forgotten and new friends are made, the underlying issue will remain. We have little respect remaining for politicians. We have no more faith in the government we elect. We can not tolerate fools in office.
The minister’s open challenge? “Let them comment when I under perform.”
Surely, there are many things to do in office. Like turning Bangalore into Silicon Valley. Or implementing a trade policy that helps startups. Before it turns ugly, we hope, that the minister surprises us all with his stellar performance in office and our failing faith in democracy is restored.