Today is the 60 years since formation of Mysore state. The state was renamed as Karnataka in 1973.
You have written extensively about India after Independence, and given a score card on how the nation has fared. If you were to do a similar exercise about Karnataka at 60 years, what would you say?
I maintain that this state is blessed by geography, history and culture but cursed by politics. If you take history, it’s been 200 years since there’s been any major violence in Karnataka; since Tipu’s wars. Kerala has seen communal violence. Tamil Nadu has seen the Sri Lankan issue, anti-Hindi riots, and Andhra Pradesh has seen lots of communal and naxal violence. Karnataka is blessed by geography. It’s incredibly beautiful. It has a long coastline, amazing biodiversity. We are blessed culturally, too, because we are a tolerant people. Our literary traditions are so rich. Karnataka has eight Jnanpith award winners. What’s interesting about them is that one of them was Marathi-speaking, another spoke Konkani, one Tamil and so on…
How are we cursed by politics?
I am too young to remember Nijalingappa but in the last 50 years, the only two good chief ministers we have had are Devaraj Urs and Ramakrishna Hegde. If you compare us to other southern states, we are unlucky in the quality of our governance. Kerala has a long history of focus on social reforms, gender equality. In Tamil Nadu, corruption is not absent but systems work much better. Health, education, electricity, infrastructure are better there. It’s difficult to lay blame. There might be historical reasons for it. It could be that Karnataka was formed from four parts; so merging these different administrative systems might have complicated matters. Our culture is still vibrant, diverse. Entrepreneurship is thriving here. But we are truly cursed in terms of governance.
Why do we have this political deficit?
I think that’s mainly because four parts were brought together to form Karnataka. All of Tamil Nadu before Independence was under the British, except for the small state of Pudukottai. So there was continuity from 1947 onwards. K Kamaraj was a very good chief minister. Also, the two-party system was established in Tamil Nadu from the beginning. The whole state had a cohesive administrative structure because they inherited it from the British. In Kerala, the Left/communist movement led to cohesion. In Andhra, there was just Hyderabad and the British districts.
The political deficit applies to most States in India.