Tag Archives: Wikileaks

Cash for votes a way of political life; legal spending limit “a joke” (MP) – Wikileaks

This is the complete memo sent from the Chennai Consulate to the US State Department on 2009-05-13 , as per the doucuments published by Wikileaks.org, which reminds us of our political and electoral system.

SUBJECT: BHARAT BALLOT O9: CASH FOR VOTES IN SOUTH INDIA

1. Summary: Bribes from political parties to voters, in the form of cash, goods, or services, are a regular feature of elections in South India. Poor voters expect bribes from political candidates, and candidates find various ways to satisfy voter expectations. From paying to dig a community well to slipping cash into an envelope delivered inside the morning newspaper, politicians and their operatives admitted to violating election rules to influence voters. The money to pay the bribes comes from the proceeds of fundraising, which often crosses into political corruption. Although the precise impact of bribery on voter behavior is hard to measure, it no doubt swings at least some elections, especially the close races. End summary.

2. The subject of politicians bribing voters, with either cash or gifts, was a recurring theme in the course of covering the 2009 election campaigns in South India. Wherever we went, journalists, politicians, and voters spoke of the bribes as a commonly accepted fact of the election process. Political insiders, and in some instances candidates themselves, admitted to us that candidates regularly violate India’s election rules in the course of campaigning for office. This cable examines methods by which political parties bribe voters and how those bribes affect elections in India.

Poor voters expect cash
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3. (SBU) In visits to slums in Chennai and Hyderabad we learned that poor urban voters expect political parties to pay come election time. A DMK political strategist told us slums are critical to a campaign because their population density and poverty allows them to be more “”easily mobilized”” by bribes. Representatives of an NGO that works in Chennai’s slums told us that the two main political parties in Tamil Nadu — the DMK and AIADMK – regularly bribe voters. They described a sophisticated operation used to distribute the cash. According to an NGO representative, in the weeks before the elections, “”agents of the parties come to the neighborhood with cash carried in rice sacks. They have copies of the voter lists and they distribute the money based on who is on the list.”” The agents come in the middle of the night, “”between two and four in the morning, when the Election Commission is asleep.”” A neighborhood resident confirmed this version of events, noting that in the 2004 election each family got 500 rupees for their vote. (Note: The residents of this slum reported that they earned around 4000 rupees a month working as day laborers. End note.) In a Hyderabad slum voters we talked with three weeks before voting told us that they were expecting candidates’ representatives to pay them a visit soon. “”We’ll see what they offer, and then we’ll decide,”” said one man who spoke for the group.

4. Rural voters also expect candidates to deliver goods in exchange for votes. Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s son, Karti Chidambaram, who is managing his father’s campaign for the Lok Sabha seat from Sivaganga, Tamil Nadu, told us that “”every village leader asks for two things: some money for the local temple and a community hall.”” Chidambaram went on to say that it is impossible to fulfill every such request, but that he does give “”a few sops”” to villages that might be on the fence about supporting his father. He specifically denied paying cash for votes, but not because of any moral objection to doing so. According to Chidambaram, he does not pay cash for votes in his rural constituency because it is impossible to distribute the money effectively when the villages are spread so far apart. But the President of the Tamil Nadu Youth Congress told us that he had just visited Chidambaram and said, “”Karti is doing a good job in Sivaganga. He is distributing some money to the people, which his father won’t do.””

Member of Parliament admits to bribing constituents
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5. Assaduddin Owaisi, a sitting Member of Parliament and leader of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) party, was surprisingly candid. Owaisi explained to us the ins-and-outs of campaigning over a late dinner after spending a long day on the trail. He said that during the campaign he tries to cover every street in his urban constituency in Hyderabad’s Old City, visiting people at their homes and businesses. As he walks the neighborhood, he said, people regularly appeal to him for small favors. One community’s leaders asked Owaisi that day to dig them a well. “”So I sent one of my party men back later in the day,”” he explained, “”to give them 25,000 rupees (approximately 500 USD).”” Owaisi emphasized that he does not give cash directly to voters, but rather funds worthy requests: “”If they want a well, I give them the money, but make sure they use it for the well.”” On the same day, he also told us that he had paid 35,000 rupees (700 USD) to pay for the marriage of an orphaned girl. Owaisi contrasted his practice of funding projects for the community’s benefit with the Congress and Telugu Desam parties, which Owaisi said pay money to individual voters.

6. We asked Owaisi point blank whether it was against the law for him to pay for the well and the marriage. Owaisi laughed and said, “”Of course, but that’s the great thing about democracy.”” He went on to describe the legal spending limit of 2.5 million rupees (50,000 USD) as “”a joke,”” noting that he would spend 2.5 million rupees on “”polling day alone.””

Karunanidhi’s son runs for parliament
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7. On a recent trip to Madurai in southern Tamil Nadu virtually every conversation centered on the parliamentary candidacy of M.K. Azhagiri, son of the M.K. Karunanidhi, Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister and head of the DMK party. Azhagiri’s control of the DMK’s south Tamil Nadu operation has earned him a reputation for political thuggery. He was recently acquitted in the case of the 2003 murder of one of his political rivals, though critics argued that the trial, held in Tamil Nadu, could not be impartial with Azhagiri’s father as the state’s Chief Minister. In 2007, Azhagiri’s supporters burned down a newspaper office in Madurai, killing three people, after the paper published a poll that Azhagiri was a distant second choice to his brother among DMK supporters as successor to Karunanidhi (ref B).

By-election sets the stage
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8. After long relying on political muscle to enforce his will in Madurai, Azhagiri has added money to his arsenal and is using it to a degree previously unseen in Tamil Nadu. Azhagiri’s approach debuted in the January assembly by-election held in Thirumangalam near Madurai, which he managed for the DMK. This race was marked by unprecedented bribes to voters (ref A). M. Patturajan, the former Mayor of Madurai and a confidant of Azhagiri, told us that “”it is no secret at all, Azhagiri paid 5,000 rupees (approximately USD 100) per voter in Thirumangalam.”” S. Kannan, a mid-level Congress party official in Madurai, told us “”the 5,000 rupees per voter in Thirumangalam changed everything,”” noting that previous bribes to voters had topped out at 500 rupees. S. Annamalai, Madurai editor of The Hindu, also confirmed the 5,000 rupee figure, telling us that all of his employees who live in Thirumangalam received the money.

Can I get another morning paper?
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9. The Thirumangalam campaign that Azhagiri ran for the DMK was notable for how the money was distributed, in addition to the amount distributed. Rather than using the traditional practice of handing cash to voters in the middle of the night, in Thirumangalam the DMK distributed money to every person on the voting roll in envelopes inserted in their morning newspapers. In addition to the money, the envelopes contained the DMK “”voting slip”” which instructed the recipient for whom they should vote. Annamalai pointed out that distributing the money with the newspapers forced everyone to receive the bribe. “”This way makes it impossible to refuse the money,”” Annamalai noted. Patturajan confirmed the newspaper distribution, but questioned its efficiency. He pointed out that giving bribes to every voter wasted money on committed anti-DMK voters, but conceded that it was an effective way to ensure the bribes reached every potential persuadable voter.

Applying Thirumangalam to a parliamentary race
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10. Patturajan and others pointed out that the larger size of a parliamentary constituency makes it difficult to apply the Thirumangalam approach. The Thirumangalam contest concerned a single assembly seat, which is about one-seventh the size of a parliamentary district. A journalist for Thuglak, a Tamil weekly, confirmed that the Madurai parliamentary constituency has approximately one million voters. It would cost Azhagiri $100 million USD to replicate the Thirumangalam payment of $100 USD to each voter in the Madurai constituency, which is “”impossible”” according to Patturajan. As a result, Azhagiri has been forced to ratchet the payment back down to more typical levels, but he still plans on giving it to every voter through the newspaper distribution method. The journalist said that he had personally seen some of the one million envelopes that the DMK had prepared for the Madurai race, each of which contained a 500 rupee (10 USD) note. The journalist told us that Azhagiri wanted to double the amount to 1000 rupees (20 USD) per voter, but the DMK leadership was reluctant to commit 20 million USD to one parliamentary race. A week after we met with the journalist, newspapers reported that DMK officials were handing out envelopes with 500 rupees to voters.

Does vote-buying work?
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11. Although our interlocutors agreed that paying cash influences voter behavior, they disagreed on the extent to which it did. We consistently probed why parties trust people to cast their vote for the candidate who pays them in light of the fact that there is no way to confirm that an individual voter actually “”honors the deal.”” Patturajan of the DMK said voters who take money feel “”honor bound”” to vote for the candidate. Kannan, the Congress official from Madurai, agreed that cultural norms ensure that poor voters in particular will feel obligated to vote for the candidate from whom they accept money. He said candidates play to religious sentiments and traditional beliefs to ensure bribed voters hold up their end of the bargain.

12. Annamalai of The Hindu argued that many voters “”will still vote their conscience.”” He said voters find the bribes “”insulting,”” and they vote against the candidate even though they are forced to take the money as it is left on their doorstep. He cited his own staff as an example, noting that the ones who received money during the Thirumangalam by-election pooled it together to donate to a scholarship fund for a poor student but largely voted against the DMK candidate. Annamalai’s view, however, is likely limited to the largely middle- and upper-class readership of his English-language newspaper.

13. Karti Chidambaram said that bribes are useful but not necessary to political success. He said that bribes are one factor among many, along with the quality of the candidate, the strength of the party, and the issues. But he cautioned that bribes alone will not prevail: “”Anil Ambani (an Indian billionaire who is one of the world’s richest men) can’t win an election just by paying people off. It doesn’t work that way.”” Chidambaram said that candidates need a strong party apparatus in order to win elections, but that “”bribes can help put you over the top”” in a close race.

Diminishing returns due to bribe inflation?
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14. The DMK’s decision to field Azhagiri for the Madurai parliamentary seat has raised voter expectations. Congress’s Kannan said that 110,000 people signed up for voter identification cards after he announced his candidacy, presumably motivated by their desire to get Azhagiri’s bribe by putting their names on the voting rolls. Patturajan said that Azhagiri’s presence on the ballot had “”raised expectations”” with people expecting to get the same 5,000 rupees per vote offered in Thirumangalam. He said that his dhobi (clothes washer) told him, “”I have five votes in my family, so I should get 25,000 which will pay for my daughter’s marriage.”” When Patturajan told the dhobi that the DMK would not be paying 5,000 per voter this time around, the dhobi replied that he would vote for Azhagiri (presumably keeping in mind Patturajan’s relationship with Azhagiri) regardless of the amount offered, but that “”most people will hesitate if the DMK only gives 1,000.”” Patturajan conceded that he was concerned that the DMK could be harmed by its failure to meet the expectations created by the extraordinarily large Thirumangalam bribes. But he remained optimistic, arguing that Azhagiri will still prevail by paying more money to more voters than his opponent, who is from the more law-abiding Communist Party of India.

Where’s the money come from? Corruption and corporates…
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15. The money required to pay bribes comes from a variety of sources, primarily from the proceeds of corruption and from funds the parties raise from businesses. Corruption, according to interlocutors, is a major source of funds for political parties who are in power. “”The DMK can try to buy elections because it has spent years in power in Delhi and Chennai,”” said one journalist. In addition to corruption, backers in the business community regularly fund political parties’ election activities. Ravi Sam, Managing Director of Adwaith Lakshmi Industries, Inc., a major textile manufacturer in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, told us that he had been avoiding visiting Chennai as of late. “”It is the season for the political parties to come looking for donations,”” he said. But, Sam said, “”There is no avoiding it in the end,”” and each party gets its “”package”” depending on its place in the hierarchy. Another entrepreneur echoed Sam’s comments, telling us that even in a one-party town like Azhagiri’s Madurai, business people hedge their bets by contributing to multiple political parties.

Cash for votes a way of political life
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16. Comment: Among the many factors — personalities, alliances, caste, and religion, to name just a few — that play out in Indian elections, the role of money is one of the most difficult to analyze. Observers and participants see bribery as a fact of life in India’s elections. But the methods used and the degree to which they impact voter preferences are, by their very nature, hard to assess, especially for outsiders. That said, our experience in South India suggests that the practice of paying cash for votes is widespread and that it is likely to swing elections, especially close contests, given India’s predominately poor electorate. The influence of the many other factors makes it impossible for a political party to “”buy”” all of the seats in play in any election, but cases like the Thirumangalam by-election and Azhagiri’s run for parliament show that voter bribery will no doubt have an impact on the results of India’s elections when they are announced on May 16. End comment.

If I pay Jayalalithaa, I know my job will get done – Wikileaks

JAYALALITHAA may have to appear in the court in Bengaluru one of these days in a case of alleged disproportionate assets against her. She has a chance to rebuild her image during her present tenure. But any knowledge of her previous tenure would not let us to have that hope. In today’s multi-billion dollar scams she may look like a saint, but she was as (in)famous as today’s corrupt politicians during her previous term and used to be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. This is the complete memo sent from the Chennai Consulate to the US State Department on 2009-03-13 , as per the doucuments published by Wikileaks.org, which provides us a glimpse of her life and her style of governance.

SUBJECT: WOMEN IN INDIA: TAMIL NADU’S IRON LADY J. JAYALALITHAA

1. (SBU) Summary: Movie-star turned politician J. Jayalalithaa’s political career embodies many of the contradictions inherent in the history of successful female politicians in India’s otherwise patriarchical society. A man brought her into politics but she rose to the height of power on her own, breaking new ground for women as she went along. Known as Tamil Nadu’s “Iron Lady,” she is famous for her toughness. Her autocratic style has led to complete domination of her political party, whose followers fawn over her with slavish displays of obedience to her commands. She has succeeded in Tamil Nadu’s male dominated political environment by literally reversing traditional stereotypes: Jayalalithaa is widely seen as the toughest, most muscular political figure in the state. She has leveraged this image of strength into political power, serving multiple terms as Chief Minister of a state of more than 65 million people and demonstrating that India’s women can make a mark on their nation’s politics. End summary.

Brash young movie star follows lover into politics
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2. (SBU) Sixty-one year-old J. Jayalalithaa (DOB 2/24/1948) stormed the Tamil movie scene as a precocious, pathbreaking teen-ager. Despite her staid image today, she started her career as a sharp contrast to the middle-aged, saree-clad archetype of the Tamil heroine. Jayalalithaa was the first Tamil film star to appear on screen in a western-style skirt. She was best known as the leading heroine and mistress of matinee idol M. G. Ramachandran (MGR). MGR, who was considerably older than Jayalalithaa, founded the AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) party in 1972, as a break away from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the grand old Tamil nationalist party that led the Dravidian movement. MGR eventually brought Jayalalithaa into politics, first giving her a position in the AIADMK in 1982 and later nominating her to the Rajya Sabha in 1984.

First woman to serve full term as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu
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3. (SBU) Although she owed her early political career to her relationship with MGR, Jayalalithaa asserted herself following MGR’s death in 1987. She struggled for three years with his widow for control of the party, finally prevailing in 1990. She soon led the AIADMK to a sweeping victory in the assembly elections of 1991, riding a wave of revulsion against the party’s arch-rival, the DMK, which was seen as indirectly complicit in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi due to its closeness to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). She became Tamil Nadu’s second female Chief Minister (MGR’s widow was the first, serving only 28 days following her husband’s death), and the first woman to serve a full term as Chief Minister of the state from 1991-1996.

4. (SBU) Widespread allegations of corruption marked Jayalalithaa’s first term in office. She was arrested on corruption charges and held in pre-trial detention for 28 days after leaving office. The DMK government that succeeded her filed a dozen corruption cases against her, which led to two convictions in the lower courts. Although the two convictions prevented Jayalalithaa from personally contesting, her AIADMK won a majority in the 2001 state assembly elections. The state’s Governor swore her in as Chief Minister in May 2001, but three months later the Supreme Court of India ruled her appointment as Chief Minister null and void. She stepped down and named a party sidekick to the Chief Minister’s post. Jayalalithaa ruled from behind the throne until the Madras High Court overturned both convictions. She then contested and won a by-election, becoming Chief Minister again in March 2002 until her party’s defeat in 2006.

Tamil Nadu’s “Iron Lady”
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5. (SBU) Jayalalithaa developed a reputation for having an ironhand as Chief Minister, especially on law and order issues. First taking office soon after the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, Jayalalithaa ordered a crackdown on the LTTE, which long had operated openly in the state. A bureaucrat who held a key security portfolio at the time told post that Jayalalithaa ordered him to do “whatever it takes to finish off the LTTE” in Tamil Nadu, even if itrequired extrajudicial killings of LTTE associates in the state. Even her fiercest critics acknowledge Jayalalithaa ‘s aggressive approach went a long way towards pushing the LTTE out of Tamil Nadu. Her tough-on-crime posture was not limited to the LTTE. In 2004, during her second term as Chief Minister, Tamil Nadu police shot and killed the forest bandit Veerappan. Veerappan had defied the authorities for decades, killing more than a hundred people (including policemen and forest rangers) while reigning over vast stretches of the state’s forests.

6. (SBU) Jayalalithaa was hard on the state’s bureaucrats. She regularly punished civil servants who displeased her by suspending or transferring them to unpleasant assignments and locations. For example, she summarily suspended her Home Secretary for supporting bail for an accused in a terrorist bombing case. The Home Secretary had supported the bail plea on humanitarian grounds, as the accussed was physically ill. In 2003 Jayalalithaa dismissed 170,000 striking
government employees; a court reinstated them shortly thereafter. But her decision came back to haunt Jayalalithaa as the ire of the fired employees and their families is believed to have played a significant role in the electoral drubbing the AIADMK took in 2004.

Political party or cult of personality?
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7. (SBU) Jayalalithaa is the consummate autocrat. Her total domination of the AIADMK is legendary. A prominent Congress party official described the Tamil Nadu political parties this way: “The DMK isn’t a party, it’s a social movement. Congress isn’t a party, it’s a mob that comes together for elections. And the AIADMK isn’t a political party, it’s a personality cult.” Jayalalithaa casts a huge and menacing shadow over her party. Even in private meetingsnwith Consulate officers, AIADMK leaders never call her by her name; they call her “Amma” (Tamil for mother), “Madam,” or “our Leader.” Their offices, vehicles, and homes are festooned with multiple pictures of Jayalalithaa. Senior AIADMK leaders, especially men, used to physically prostrate themselves before her to demonstrate their obeisance. Jayalalithaa has since started to discourage the practice after the English language media began to mock it.

8. (SBU) Her party’s devotion to her literally marks Chennai’s visual landscape. Visitors to Tamil Nadu soon take note of the political parties’ liberal use of billboards, flags, and posters. But Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK surpasses the others in using them to demonstrate their political fealty. Gigantic cut-out posters and paintings of the AIADMK leader dot the city, with representations of Jayalalithaa through the ages — from young movie star to today’s more matronly political look. Her supporters’ fervor takes on a religious tone. At a major intersection near the Consulate there is a three-story picture of Jayalalithaa with the words “Amma is God” directly above the AIADMK leader’s head. In the past her supporters have run into trouble with religious groups for depicting her variously as a Hindu goddess and the Virgin Mary.

9. (SBU) Her dominance over the AIADMK extends beyond symbolism. Jayalalithaa is the party’s sole decision-maker; even the most mundane matters require her personal approval. For example, an AIADMK contact told post that he would need Jayalalithaa’s permission in order to participate in a three week IVLP program. She accepts counsel from a very limited circle of advisors, none of whom is allowed to become too powerful on their own.

An unusual relationship, extreme corruption
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10. (SBU) The unmarried Jayalalithaa has long been associated with Sasikala Natarajan. Sasikala, as she is widely known, is variously referred to as Jayalalithaa’s “confidante,” “companion,” and “associate.” Their relationship is widely assumed to be a sexual one, but this is never been openly acknowledged by them or expressed in the state’s mainstream media. The 1995 marriage of Sasikala’s nephew V.N. Sudhakaran saw the intersection of their uniquenrelationship and the corruption allegations that have long hounded Jayalalithaa. Then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa formally adopted Sudhakaran as her son prior to the marriage. She hosted the wedding, making liberal use of public facilities, workers, and funds in the process. According to media reports, the wedding was performed before 100,000 guests in a thirty acre tent which had been designed by movie art directors. The lavishness of the wedding made national and international news, and is widely credited with leading to her 1996 defeat at the polls. A senior member of The Hindu’s editorial staff told post that although Indian voters expect some corruption from their political leaders, Jayalalithaa’s “ostentatiousness went too far” for the electorate. He added that Sudhakaran’s wedding was “the final straw.”

Business-friendly and efficient
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11. (SBU) Jayalalithaa, who took office just as India began to open its economy, has been described by business executives and AIADMK sources as a “pro-business” politician who is “friendly” to multinational corporations. She worked to bring foreign investors to Tamil Nadu, laying the groundwork for big-ticket projects by Ford, DuPont, and Hyundai. Many Indian business leaders have told post that although the AIADMK and DMK are both corrupt, they prefer Jayalalithaa because her AIADMK is more efficient at delivering once paid. Centralization of power in the AIADMK means that things move quickly once Jayalalithaa gets her cut: her subordinates snap to attention when she approves a project. “If I pay her, I know my job will get done,” one contact told post, “but with the DMK you can pay Karunanidhi and another ten guys will still come asking for more.” International businesspeople also appreciate Jayalalithaa’s excellent convent-educated English speaking ability, which stands in stark contrast to the majority of Tamil Nadu politicians who have very limited English skills.

A tough woman succeeding a man’s world
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12. (SBU) Comment: Jayalalithaa stands alone in Tamil Nadu’s male dominated political world. Although a man helped her into politics, she climbed to the peaks of power on her own drive, intellect, and political acumen. She did so by going toe-to-toe with the DMK party and its collection of hyper-masculine leaders, many of whom (Chief Minister Karunanidhi included) publicly maintain “second wives.” Her ruthlessness — including her willingness to sanction violence in pursuit of her goals — eventually reversed the traditional view of gender roles, leading the public to see Jayalalithaa as the toughest person in Tamil Nadu politics. Like the old joke that Indira Gandhi was the only man in her cabinet, people frequently say that Jayalalithaa is the only man in the AIADMK. Also like Indira Gandhi, Jayalalithaa has tapped into the traditional Indian veneration of the power of goddesses, going so far as to depict
herself as one.

13. (SBU) Comment continued: Caste and gender considerations also fueled Jayalalithaa’s rise to power. She shrewdly countered the DMK’s other backward caste (OBC) support base by pulling together a coalition primarily based on the highest caste, (Brahmins like herself), the lowest caste, (the Dalits), along with one OBC group, the Thevars. Jayalalithaa won a substantial percentage of the important female vote, which is prized for its reliably high turnout. She did so by appealing to women in ways both subtle and overt. She subtly portrayed herself as a woman bucking the entrenched power of the historically masculine DMK party. She overtly played for women’s votes with programs directly aimed at them, including offering free bicycles to young girls and providing support to women’s self-help groups. Jayalalithaa’s multiple terms as Chief Minister, ruling over a state of more than 65 million people, remain a testament to the ability of women in India to make their mark on politics. End comment.

(Courtesy: wikileaks.org)

Smoke rising from vehicle set ablaze during the riots around the viewing of Rajkumar.

Rajkumar’s fans were mostly Bangalore’s underclass – Wikileaks

This is what Chennai Consulate of United States thought and reported to their bosses in the US when Rajkumar died and violence errupted in Bangalore:

SUBJECT: VIOLENCE IN BANGALORE FOLLOWS FILM STAR’S DEATH

1. (U) SUMMARY: Street violence rocked Bangalore on April 12 and 13, following the death of Kannada language film superstar Rajkumar. Widespread street riots left eight persons dead and more than 150 injured. The city’s famed information technology industry was forced to shut down operations and now fears a loss of customer confidence.
END SUMMARY

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ACTOR’S DEATH SPARKS VIOLENCE
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2. (U) Kannada movie star Rajkumar, aged 77, died at 1:50 PM on April 12, 2006 following a cardiac arrest. The actor, who had appeared in over 200 Kannada movies and was known as a champion of the Kannada language, had a fan following drawn mostly from Bangalore’s underclass. As news of Rajkumar’s death spread, his emotional fans hit the streets, forcing shops and business establishments to draw their shutters. As the afternoon progressed, the mourners became more emotional and began stoning state-owned Bangalore Municipal Transport Corporation buses as well as private cars and some shops and office buildings. City police adopted a low profile which encouraged the violence that left scores injured. The state government closed schools and announced a two day mourning period. Bangalore’s famed information technology industry shut down operations early on April 12 and declared April 13, 2006 a holiday.

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FUNERAL PROCESSION LEAVES DESTRUCTION IN ITS WAKE
——————————————— —-

3. (SBU) Violence continued following the actor’s funeral procession on April 13 as fans attempted to get close to the cortege. Unlike on the previous day, police reacted aggressively. “We opened fire on 12 occasions,” Mr. Subash Bharani, Additional Director General of Police Law and Order, told Post. A total of eight persons including a training constable died in the violence and 47 police officers received injuries that required hospitalization. In addition, 10 police vehicles were destroyed. Bharani estimated that beyond the injured police officers, 120 members of the general public sustained injuries.

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VIOLENCE DENTS BANGALORE’S IMAGE
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4. (U) The overall cost to Bangalore of the violence is estimated at $160 million, according to newspaper reports. None of Bangalore’s information technology companies reported any physical damage but all were forced to shut down their operations during the violence. Infosys CFO T.V. Mohandas Pai estimated that the city’s software firms lost $40 million in revenues during the shutdown as well as some of the luster from their image. “Bangalore’s image took a beating,” Mr. Ashok Soota, CEO, MindTree Consulting and former President of the Confederation of Indian Industry told Post. He believes that customers may begin asking companies to have backup establishments in other locations, a requirement that would hurt profitability.

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NEW CHIEF MINISTER WAS SLOW TO ACT
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5. (SBU) New Karnataka Chief Minister Kumarasamy’s administration, caught on the wrong foot by the violence, responded belatedly to the crisis and appears not to have communicated effectively with the police leaders. “There clearly was a breakdown in communication between the police and the political executive,” R.V. Deshpande, Congress leader and former state Industries Minister, told Post.

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IMPACT ON BANGALORE”S FUTURE?
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6. (SBU) COMMENT: Already beset by infrastructure growing pains which are causing some companies to think twice about expansion in the city, Bangalore now faces another blow to its image. How the state government and industry leaders react will be important determiners of Bangalore’s future as India’s information technology capital. END COMMENT

(Courtesy: wikileaks.org)

Shobha Karandlaje, Yeddyurappa’s girlfriend, brought government to the brink – Wikileaks

When Yeddyurappa survived the open rebellion in his party when his government was 18 months old, the Chennai Consulate of the United States thought of his tenure as of  ‘few accomplishments other than its continued existence’, according to wikileaks. This is the complete memo sent from the Chennai Consulate to their bosses on 2009-11-12 07:57, as per the doucuments published by Wikileaks.org.

SUBJECT: SOUTH INDIA’S FIRST BJP GOVERNMENT MUDDLES THROUGH A CRISIS

1. (SBU) Summary: South India’s first state government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) teetered on the verge of collapse for nearly two weeks as Karnataka’s Chief Minister fought off attempts by the Tourism Minister to unseat him. National-level BJP authorities brokered a truce on November 9, but several observers have told us that the peace is tenuous, and expect that it will be difficult for the government to rule effectively. Members of minority religious communities have said that they fear the lack of stability may create an environment that encourages tension among religious communities. End Summary.

Girlfriend brings the government to the brink
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2. (SBU) B.S. Yeddyurappa, the first BJP Chief Minister in South India, appears poised to continue to head Karnataka’s government, despite Janaradhana Reddy’s (the state’s Tourism Minister) bitter attempt to unseat him. National BJP officials enforced a truce on November 9, ending the insurrection, at least for now. Publicly, Reddy maintained that the main reason for his demand that Yeddyurappa resign as Chief Minister was the favoritism shown to Shobha Karandlaje, the Minister for Rural Development and the only woman in the cabinet, who doubles as Yeddyurappa’s girlfriend. (Yeddyurappa is a widower.)

Mining’s millions the real culprit
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3. (SBU) Others have told us, however that the real reason for the insurrection was Reddy’s desire to protect his core business, iron-ore mining. Reddy and his brother, Karunakara Reddy, Karnataka’s Infrastructure Minister, have grown rich from allegedly illegal mining operations in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. They used their fortunes to fund the rise of the BJP in the state, and have long been irritated because they feel that they were given largely peripheral posts in the government when the BJP assumed power in May 2008.

4. (SBU) The editor of a local-language newspaper told us Yeddyurappa’s office, increasingly embarrassed by the attention attracted by the Reddys’ shady mining interests, had decided clip their political wings, a plot the brothers sniffed out and wanted to avenge by seeking the Chief Minister’s ouster. The editor said that the immediate cause of the Reddys’ rebellion was the state’s decision to impose a fee of INR 1000 (about USD 21) tax on all trucks transporting iron ore in the state, levied to raise funds to assist the victims of October’s flooding in northern Karnataka. In addition, the state’s Department of Forestry began investigations into the Reddys’ mining activities, looking for possible legal violations.

National leadership instills peace, for now
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5. (U) While the BJP’s national leadership ensured Yeddyurappa retained his post, the Reddys got their pound of flesh, succeeding in securing the removal of both the Chief Minister’s girlfriend/Minister for Rural Development and his aide reportedly responsible for targeting the Reddys’ interests. The BJP leadership also created a “core committee” of faction leaders in the state party to vet major political decisions in the state.

Observers skeptical about the future
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6. (SBU) Our contacts are unsure whether this arrangement will last, or even allow for the government to function properly. A Bangalore-based political correspondent for one of India’s major English-language dailies told us that the core committee would sit uneasily with Yeddyurappa’s leadership style, which involves “a minimum of consultation.” He also added that the committee consisted of people with “diametrically opposite views,” making it difficult for them to formulate a coherent administrative strategy. A high-level state bureaucrat agreed, saying that he feared the state’s administration would be pulled in many different directions. He also said he believed that the Reddys were the winner in the brouhaha, and that the mining lobby in the state will now ensure that the state’s administration serves that lobby’s interests.

7. (U) The “peace deal” however, is seen as a big loss for the Chief Minister. Apart from his girlfriend and aide’s removal, he has also been forced to rescind the transfer of key officials who were suspected to have helped build the Reddy brothers business empire. The “core committee” established is headed by the Chief Minister’s opponent Ananth Kumar. Another of the Chief Minister’s rivals, state assembly speaker Jagdish Shettar, is likely to be inducted into the cabinet -something that the Chief Minister desperately tried to avoid. The deal also reflects the growing Nagpur-Delhi struggle between the RSS and the Advani BJP camp. The Chief Minister’s girlfriend is also a staunch RSS loyalist. The Reddy brothers are close to senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, an Advani loyalist, who together within another Advani man, Venkaiah Naidu, brokered the peace deal and then forced the Chief Minister to accept it when he balked.

Minority leaders fear attacks by Hindu extremists
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8. (SBU) Meanwhile, leaders of minority religious communities, already nervous about religiously-tinged, episodic violence in the state, worry that the current scenario might create an environment that encourages tension among religious communities. A Muslim member of the state’s legislative assembly told us that the economic slowdown has ensured that there are a number of angry young men in all religious communities who could be easily incited to violence. A prominent Christian leader told us the same, noting that he fears attacks on churches similar to those in September 2008 at Mangalore. He opined that those attacks occurred when the BJP government was attempting to attract political support and reckoned that the current situation may also encourage extremists. Thus far, however, there is no evidence of an upswing in religious violence in Karnataka.

Comment
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9. (SBU) Yeddyurappa’s government can point to few accomplishments in its 18 months in office other than its continued existence, and the spectacle the state has witnessed over the past several weeks does little to inspire confidence that his government will accomplish anything major in the near future. This is unfortunate in a state in desperate need of a firm hand at the wheel to direct the many infrastructure projects in the works. 

(Courtesy: wikileaks.org)

Photo courtesy : Wikipedia and shobhakarandlaje.com

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Sangliana refuses money game, BJP spending freely – Wikileaks

The Chennai Consulate of the United States thought of Sangliana as an honest politician and followed him on the campaign trail during 2009 parliamentary elections, according to wikileaks. This is the complete memo sent from the Chennai Consulate to their bosses on 2009-04-30 07:16, as per and published by Wikileaks.org.


SUBJECT: HONEST POLITICIAN FACES UPHILL FIGHT IN BANGALORE ELECTIONS

1. (SBU) Summary: During a recent trip to the south Indian state Karnataka, we followed a Congress party candidate as he campaigned through the streets of Bangalore. The candidate’s campaign events were modest in size and the reception he received varied based on the location’s political leanings. The candidate, a Christian, focused his campaign message on the importance of harmony between India’s various religious communities. The constituency is a favorable one for the Congress party, as it contains a high percentage of Christians and Muslims, two groups that historically have supported the party. Political analysts and Congress party insiders, however, believe that the candidate’s unwillingness to offer financial and material inducements to voters may doom his chances, especially in light of the profligate spending of candidates from the rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). End summary.

Lukewarm reception for Congress candidate on BJP turf
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2. (SBU) We recently followed H.T. Sangliana, the Congress party candidate for one of Bangalore’s four parliamentary seats, on the campaign trail. Sangliana, a former police chief, has a reputation for moral rectitude. A practicing Christian, Sangliana attended the 2009 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington on February 5. At his first stop, fire

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crackers, drums, and the chanting of Congress party workers announced the candidate’s arrival. Though Sangliana’s campaign team tried hard to drum up local support in the BJP-friendly neighborhood the candidate was visiting, less than a dozen people turned out to greet the former police chief. Sangliana was undeterred; he stood tall on the back of a jeep, waving at onlookers and community members who appeared uninterested and unimpressed by the procession. One voter’s rush to destroy and discard a flyer which she had just received from one of Sangliana’s workers exemplified the BJP-heavy neighborhood’s lack of support for the Congress party candidate.

Congress fans enthused by talk of religious harmony, secularism
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3. (SBU) Fortunately for Sangliana, his next stop was a mixed-income neighborhood known for its pro-Congress stance. The motorcade twisted and turned down roads lined with contrasting rows of modern high rise apartment buildings interspersed with makeshift shanties. Sangliana stopped in front of a building where a crowd of approximately sixty to seventy supporters gathered. Though the crowd was still quite small by Indian standards, the group of mostly lower income residents appeared quite receptive to the politician. Loudspeakers blared slogans like “Vote for Congress” and “Remember number four” (the four refers to the number assigned to Sangliana in the poll booths). Sangliana’s campaign workers mimicked the Congress party’s trademark electoral symbol – the palm of a hand — by raising the palms of their own hands in a sign of loyalty to the party. Members of the crowd reciprocated with their own palms, as young Congress party workers clambered onto Sangliana’s open jeep to garland him and take advantage of the photo-op.

4. (SBU) After the garlanding, Sangliana addressed the crowd in the Kannada language. Voters cheered Sangliana’s vision of universal access to water and fewer traffic bottlenecks in the neighborhood. But Sangliana focused less on local issues than a broader message of religious unity and secularism in his impromptu speech. Sangliana, a Christian himself, emphasized the need for religious tolerance among India’s Christian, Hindu and Muslim communities by alluding to a popular old Bollywood movie which centered on three brothers, each of whom ended up adopting a different religion. He pointed to attacks on religious minorities in Mangalore (ref C) as evidence of the ruling BJP’s inability to unify Karnataka and said that Congress, as a secular party, is the only one capable of unifying Karnataka and India as a wole.

5. (SBU) Sangliana’s campaign swing conclued with a public meeting in Muslim dominated neihborhood, where over two hundred party workers and supporters gathered to hear various Congress part officials speak. A local wrestler kicked off the event by saying that the attacks on minoritiesin Mangalore illustrate the effect of having the BJP in power (refs B and C). He added that the situation would be aggravated should the BJP win in the national elections. Fear that the BJP would prevail if the Muslim vote split between Sangliana and JDS candidate Ahmed Zameer reverberated throughout all of the speeches. According to local contacts, Congress and the JDS have entered into a tacit understanding with Zameer appearing to have ceded to Sangliana. But Congress members fear that Zameer’s supporters, many of whom are still actively campaigning on his behalf, could negatively impact Sangliana’s chances (ref A). The Congress speakers used the forum adress this problem by emphasizing the importance of Muslim unity.

Too honest to win?
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6. (SBU) While Sangliana’s message of uniy and economic development seemed to resonate among his base, political observers in Karnataka do not rate Sangliana’s chances of winning very high. A local journalist said that Sangliana’s lack of financial resources, and his unwillingness to expand his financial network, would affect him negatively at the polls. According to another political analyst, Sangliana’s honesty is the biggest stumbling block to his campaign. He noted that political parties spend large sums of money to buy favors, such as food, clothing, and alcohol, as incentives to voters for their support (ref C). He said that in the absence of the necessary funds to buy such gifts, Sangliana could lose a considerable number of votes, even from his core constituency of Congress party supporters. Congress leader Roshen Baig said that BJP will capitalize on Sangliana’s failure to provide the expected incentives. He said that the BJP was already paying Christian voters in the constituency, a group that has historically backed Congress, in exchange for their support. Loss of a substantial number of Christian voters would doom Sangliana’s chances to win the seat.

7. (SBU) Sangliana’s lack of financial resources limits his capacity to reach the maximum amount of voters, says Baig. While Baig refused to admit to buying votes himself, he did say that even the most righteous politicians must sometimes go against their principles in order to win. He stated that Sangliana’s unwillingness to understand this reality will hurt his prospects, as he simply cannot compete with the exorbitant sums of money that the BJP is infusing into its campaign. Baig pointed to the three million dollars in cash recently found in a BJP supporter’s residence and later seized by election commission officials, as evidence of the BJP’s financial edge (ref C). He added that he had tried to help Sangliana by putting him in touch with some of his contacts but Sangliana’s “rigid stand” on campaign finance made it difficult for him to raise funds on his behalf.

8. (SBU) The BJP has a strong incentive to defeat Sangliana. He rose to BJP fame in 2004, while a BJP member, as a “giant killer” for winning a Lok Sabha seat by upsetting senior Congress party leader and former Railways Minister C.K. Jaffer Sharief. Sangliana voted in favor of U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation in August 2008, defying the party leadership, and the BJP expelled him. Shortly thereafter, Sangliana switched over to the rival Congress party, which put him up to contest for the Bangalore seat.

Religion and money in Indian politics: Sangliana has one on his side, but not the other
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9. (SBU) Comment: Sangliana’s campaign for the Bangalore Central constituency is an example of how different factors compete in Indian politics. In the case of Sangliana’s constituency, religion and money are driving the contest. Religion makes the constituency hospitable turf for Sangliana; Christians and Muslims, which have historically been key Congress supporters, make up over forty percent of the electorate. But Sangliana refuses to play the money game, while his BJP opponent is spending freely on the incentives voters expect to see from their politicians. It remains to be seen whether money trumps religion, but things are not looking up for Sangliana’s efforts to win in this Congress-leaning constituency. End comment.

(Courtesy: wikileaks.org)