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Economy chugs on despite Karnataka political impasse

By V.S. Karnic, IANS

Bangalore : Karnataka’s political soap opera has everyone in its grip. The administration is at a standstill and the man on the street in the IT capital asks for the latest twist in the drama that shows no sign of early resolution. But the economy chugs on, though the investment climate may be vitiated.

The usually buzzing corridors of the stately ‘Vidhana Soudha’ (state secretariat) are nearly deserted, officials switch on TV channels or their cell phones rather than attend to their files.

“Thank god! The economy is largely insulated from politics,” exclaim industrialists belonging to the Confederation of Indian Industry.

“The investment climate is getting badly affected. No work goes on in the state secretariat,” say other industrialists.

The booming IT and IT related sectors say their expectations from the rulers are limited to basic needs in the IT hub — decent roads and uninterrupted quality power supply.

“Arrey! I told you long back that JD-S (Janata Dal-Secular) will not give up chief ministership to BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) at the end of 20 months,” says the man on the street.

People, whether industrialists, IT honchos, traders or petty shop keepers, are not surprised over the political drama following Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s reluctance to give up his post to the BJP, despite agreeing to do so in February 2006.

The widespread feeling when the JD-S-BJP coalition took office after toppling the Congress-JD-S government last year was that H.D. Deve Gowda’s party would not stick to the understanding.

This was reflected in local media comments, letters in dailies and periodicals, and in interviews over the electronic media.

Hence the surprise element is missing.

“Everything has come to a standstill in the government, There is no activity at all in the Vidhana Soudha,” says S.S. Patil, president of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry, affiliated to the national Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

“Foreign investors have begun to feel that the climate in the state is not conducive for investment.

“The political developments are not good for the image of Karnataka,” Patil told IANS.

“The impasse must end at the earliest. Stability is needed. But nobody cares,” he said.

Leading state industrialists who are members of the CII were reluctant to comment, saying it was the policy of CII not to do so.

However, many referred to the dialogue the CII had held with the politicians some years back in New Delhi where the refrain was that economy should be insulated from politics.

“To a large extent this has been achieved. The economy is moving ahead. The growth percentage shows it,” an office bearer of the CII Karnataka chapter said.

IT leaders too excused themselves from commenting, but noted that their sector would not be affected by the political impasse.

“Yes. The image of Karnataka, where political horse trading does not exist to the extent as in other states, has taken a severe drubbing,” an IT leader said.

“Bangalore’s infrastructure in terms of roads has been in a pathetic state for a long time now.

“There was some hope when Kumaraswamy promised improvement as soon as he took over. But nothing has happened for the better,” a senior management official of a leading software company said requesting anonymity.

“Nothing is moving. It is total standstill as far as the administration is concerned,” said M.C.R. Shetty, president of the Karnataka small-scale industrialists association (Kassia).

“We are badly affected as policy matters are pending. We had sought certain concessions and decisions to help the small-scale sector. All these are on hold now,” he said.

“Well, state BJP president D.V. Sadananda Gowda has himself described the now-on, now-off power transfer saga as tax-free entertainment for the people. It’s continuing,” said S. Sham, a designer with a periodical.

“In the past, polls were the answer. But now we are not sure whether early polls will give any party in Karnataka a clear majority,” said R. Shamnukhappa, a final year degree student.

“A spell of president’s rule is better to get over these sad and bitter days,” said K. Susheela, a medical doctor.

That may become inevitable unless the JD-S wins over Congress president Sonia Gandhi to prop up the Kumaraswamy government.

The JD-S has refused to abide by a power sharing agreement with the BJP when the coalition came to power 20 months ago. According to the agreement, the JD-S was to hand over chief ministership to the BJP on Oct 3 for the remaining term.The JD-S has decided to hold an assembly session Oct 18 in what appears to be a challenge to the BJP to press for early elections.