In just a matter of one day Deve Gowda flip-flopped, like only a politician can. Narayana Murthy, despite years of growing up in India, has not understood the wily games the politicians play.
Bangalore is a mess in terms of infrastructure. Not that many other Indian cities are great. They are all shoddy, poorly managed and crumbling day by day. The progress is chaotic. High rise buildings are developed by private developers, while the Government lags in providing clean and good drinking water, sufficient electricity, traffic de-congestion, public safety etc. This is felt more in Bangalore where a bunch of IT companies are working their butts off trying to generate more revenues for the country, themselves, their employees and shareholders.
So Murthy went and met the Congress (I) Chief Minister Dharam Singh and his coalition party Janata Dal (S)'s President Deve Gowda. The meeting seemed to go well based on various newspaper reports. Murthy had organized a presentation - made by Ramesh Ramanathan of Janaagraha on how urban governance has to be decentralised. Murthy and Ramanathan's contention is that "Cities have strong economic energy but poor governance structure. Rural areas have low economic energy but are blessed with a good governance structure."
On 15th October, Gowda said: "The Government is not against solving the problems. The presentation made by Mr. Murthy and Mr. Ramanathan will help to tackle problems." (The Hindu)
On 16th October, Gowda changed his tune: "... new mantra of shifting focus on urban-rural partnership is just old wine in new bottle." (The Hindu)
"At a press conference in Bangalore on Sunday, Mr Gowda was critical of Mr Murthy’s suggestion for shifting the focus in the State to urban governance and setting up urban bodies on the lines of grama sabhas. Mr Gowda remarked that “the views of high-profile and elite personalities are different from ground reality.” Mr Gowda wondered if Mr Murthy knew the problems of rural life." (Deccan Herald)
OK. So after a day of deliberations, Gowda has decided to attack Murthy's ideas as bunkum. But then, it doesn't stop there. Now, in the time honoured true Indian politician's tradition, you have to go for Murthy's jugular. So what do we do? Dig his past. Dig Infosys' past. Aha! Government has given some land to Infosys. Infosys is asking for more land from Government. (I am assuming these lands are not given for free? And that some payment - reasonable payment - is made?)
Now, over to Gowda: "He claimed that Infosys had acquired 78 acres of land in Bangalore, 350 acres in Mysore and 311 acres in Mangalore. Further claiming that the company had sought allotment of about 845 acres of land near Sarjapura and Anekal taluk for setting up software development centre and residential township, he cautioned the chief minister on taking a final decision on approval. “This will not only attract public criticism, but also bring discredit to government,” he said." (Deccan Herald)
"Cautioning" the chief minister means only one thing. You dare not give the land to Infosys. I will pull the plug on your govt. Gowda is smart. If Infosys says it has provided great many jobs to people in Karnataka, here comes the immediate reply... "I am sure companies like Wipro, Intel, Accenture, IBM, HP and Honeywell, which have not been allotted government land and functioning mostly in rented buildings, account for more than 85 per cent jobs provided by the IT firms in Bangalore." (Deccan Herald)
And in any case make another issue through other fronts... Infosys probably doesn't employ enough Kannadigas! So Murthy has to rush in with some data - "Infosys had provided over 10,400 jobs to Kannadigas, of its total strength of over 45,000. Five on our Board are Kannadigas. Those levelling allegations against Infosys should get data from us." (Deccan Herald)
But Gowda immediately assures... "the government will not allow any IT company to go away from the State." (Deccan Herald)
Providing rural and urban infrastructure is the job of the Government. Responsible corporate citizens and common citizens have every right to complain about the shoddy services delivered by inept governments and politicians whose only interest is lining their own pockets.
I doubt if Infosys and other similar companies will continue to put up with the likes of Gowda for too long. If he is going to remain in power, the companies will leave. Other states are more than willing to receive them. Gowda cannot stop the exodus.